Today in Theatre History: MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION RULED DECENT ENOUGH FOR NEW YORK–July 7, 1906

Mary Shaw in her 1918 revival of Mrs. Warren's Profession.

Mary Shaw in her 1918 revival of Mrs. Warren’s Profession.  While she may have been “unpleasant,” at least she wasn’t “indecent.”

After being closed down by police for obscenity and the actors arrested on opening night at Broadway’s Garrick Theatre in October of 1905, the New York premiere of  George Bernard Shaw‘s comic masterpiece, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, was allowed to resume performances on this day in theatre history.  It was on July 7, 1906, that The New York Times reported the findings from the city’s Court of Special Sessions, released the day before.  Hinging on a two-to-one decision, Mr. Shaw’s play, while judged unpleasant “and fraught with shock producers and repellent things…, was not indecent in the eyes of the law… and may become a medium of much needed social reforms,” according to the opinion handed down by the Honorable Willard H. Olmsted, chief justice of the court.  Justice McAvey, no fan of Shaw’s work it seems, was the lone dissenting vote.  Unfortunately, the production’s male lead, Arnold Daly, had by then moved on to other projects and was unavailable; so the original production folded.  A revival was finally staged in March of 1907 at the Manhattan Theatre with Mary Shaw reprising her role as Mrs. Warren, but the production closed after only 25 performances.  Nonetheless, the play–which has become one of Shaw’s most famous and celebrated social comedies–has been successfully revived on Broadway four more times since, most recently in 2010 with the very decent Cherry Jones in the lead.

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