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philosophy plays at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

CHRISTOPHER’S TALENT SUPPORTS THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF BURNS

American 14-year-old to appear with The Radicals at Festival Fringe

A talented American teenage pianist is to make appearances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to provide the accompaniment for a play written by his grandfather. This year he is supporting the Sangstream Choir in providing the music before and after its contributions during the World Premiere. He is launching an event to help celebrate Homecoming Scotland.

Indiana State Gold Medallist Christopher Boerger (14) has arrived from Indianapolis to play the piano and accompany the cast and audience at this year’s production of Robert Burns – Scotland’s Radically Enlightened Poet.

The play has been written by his grandfather, American born retired teacher of philosophy and religion at Stewart’s Melville College, Dr Wallace Shaw. It will be performed by The Radicals (The Radical Enlightenmentarians) – an inclusive theatrical group with a mission which Dr Shaw helped found. It is the recipient of a Scotland Unlimited Millennium Award for its work with the differently abled.

Previous Radical productions at the Fringe have looked at the life and teachings of David Hume, Adam Smith, Socrates, and Jeremy Bentham. “Through its productions the company is seeking to bring back the insights of the Scottish Enlightenment, and aspects of its heritage and legacy, towards meeting today’s social, economic and international needs,” said Dr Shaw.

“This year’s production coincides with Homecoming Scotland and with the credit crunch,” added Dr Shaw. “It re-examines the Bard’s life and times, his family and well-known friends, to uncover the significance of his poetry for us and for today’s world. We are very fortunate this year in having a major contribution by the Sangstream Choir.

“The uniqueness of this production is in showing how Burns was affected by the writings of David Hume and Adam Smith in his childhood. Their influence on his poetry is seldom acknowledged. While this is the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Burns, it is also the 250th Anniversary of the publishing of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith wrote this foundation book and lectured for thirteen years on Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University before he wrote The Wealth of Nations. Burns grew up with Moral Sentiments and its idea of an Independent Spectator. It is acknowledged that he applied it in his To a Mouse. Burns did not interpret The Wealth of Nations as a textbook on how to justify greed, as is so often done today. From his own situation of poverty, Burns appropriately understood it in terms of Smith’s earlier book: the wealth of nations can only be achieved by bringing an end to poverty and placing the quantity of money within the context of improving the quality of life for all. Like the poor today (and those becoming poor), Burns experienced Scotland going through a deep recession. Even the bank in his Ayrshire homeland collapsed affecting the already impoverished Burness family and his father lost the tenancy of his farm. On top of that Britain was at war with America and then was almost invaded by the French.”

At a very young age Christopher Boerger was introduced to the piano by his American born, Scottish raised mother Alison – keeping up a family tradition that has spanned several generations. At the 2005 Fringe he played the 11-year old Mozart who had performed for David Hume when he was Secretary to the British Embassy in Paris. Last year Christopher set the atmosphere for Adam Smith by providing 18th Century music. This year, although he is only able to play the piano at the first performance (he must return to Indianapolis for his schooling), his grandmother, Scottish born Lesley Shaw, is at the piano to cover for him in the last three performances when the Sangstream Choir will continue to perform.

Added Dr Shaw: “This production is the essential Burns provided in song and dramatised recitation within a documentary play reading. This is the Robert Burns Story with his romantic poetry and songs placed within the context of his provocative Enlightenment thinking which too often is overlooked. A narrator will help the international audience to understand the Scottish words. And there will be a printed supplement in the programme to help those who may require further assistance with the Scots. Our docu-dramas in the past have had a commentator to help ponder the urgency for taking a social and international perspective towards brotherhood to meet our needs and that of today’s world. But with Burns this was felt unnecessary because of the timely relevance of his words at this time of an economic crunch, exploitation, and world strife.

“The trinitarian content of “Good Faith, Pith o’ Sense & Pride o’ Worth” is shown to fall naturally under the Enlightenment banner of the four words on the Scottish Parliament’s mace: Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity. The production will close with a voice-over at the beginning of each verse of For all That an’ all That, asking the questions which Burns then answers with the Sangstream Choir leading the audience in singing the words to this great song of hope for our world. And then the cast will join the audience as the Choir leads all in the singing of Auld Lang Syne as the United Nations flag is unfurled alongside the Scottish Saltire. The pianist will continue to play Burn’s music as the audience leaves, being given a farewell by a piper on the steps of the venue. I don’t believe I’ve given too much away. We want to show Burns to be thought provoking and enlightening as well as entertaining and inspiring.”

ENDS

Our Philosophy Lessons and Plays on the Philosophy of Robert Burns

We have had great feedback on our philosophy plays as an aid to learn philosophy either by yourself or as part of a study group. We also have favourable reviews of these plays when we performed them during the 5 years of performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including our play on the Philosophy of Robert Burns

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