“A Crucible for Humanism: Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’”

George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Laureate, reluctant Oscar winner, was one of the greatest writers of the English language and one of the most fabled playwrights of all time. Of his many plays, none has captured more popular attention than Pygmalion, which went on to spawn My Fair Lady. Of course, this is even more timely, as Bartlett Sher’s production of My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center is just beginning previews in March!

Embedded in this play is a provocative, still utterly salient, radical and quite ecumenical view of human potential: what constrains it, what liberates it, how social roles congeal, that razor’s edge between empty rebellion and meaningful freedom. All this in what Shaw wryly calls “a romance.” And in exploring this play, our sense of “romance” gets enlarged and emancipated as well.

Shaw’s play throws down a gauntlet, challenging trite conceptions of human relations, as well as our sense of self and growth. It deserves to be “rediscovered” as a multi-faceted provocation, for shining a light on how we can engage with each other, for exploring different facets of “loving” with integrity — even how at times as paradigms get unsettled and expanded, we may have to “wince” our way to wisdom.

Omar Khan, an avid New Yorker now, was born in Egypt, of Pakistani heritage, grew up in NYC, lived also in the UK, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Founder of a consulting firm, Sensei International, which helps organizations engage human performance to deliver business results. Founder of The International Business and Wine Society, which offers “Symposia” and “Convivia” as the Greeks and Romans essentially intended. Long-time devotee, gadfly and benefactor of the Shaw Festival in Canada, the only Festival devoted to the work and ideas of George Bernard Shaw. Spoke previously at The Philadelphia Ethical Society on this topic as well on Kantian Ethics and Humanism, a topic on which he wrote a thesis at Oxford University. Mr. Khan is writing a book to be published in concert with the Festival, with editorial input from the Adviser to the Shaw Estate, Leonard Connolly, entitled The Quintessence of Shavianism.

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