Monday, July 6, 2015

Fictional Biography at Stratford Festival in 2016

By Richard Joyrich

As part of the coming hoopla surrounding the purported 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario has arranged for the North American premiere of a play version of the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love as part of the upcoming 2016 season.

The play, adapted by Lee Hall, from the 1998 screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, opened in July, 2014 in London’s West End and closed last April. Declan Donneley, who directed the play in London, will be directing the play again for the Stratford Festival.

The 1998 film, of course, presents a completely fictional look at William Shakespeare and some of the people involved in the Elizabethan Theater. It got great critical acclaim and won several Academy Awards. I am unaware of any theater awards the 2014 play version has received.

Of course, the 1998 film was completely historically inaccurate, perhaps deliberately so. One memorable “gaffe” occurs during the opening moments of the film when Joseph Fiennes, as William Shakespeare, is practicing writing his name (none of his signatures contains the second “e” of “Shakespeare” by the way) and the camera pans up to show a souvenir mug from the gift shop at Stratford-Upon-Avon!

It is therefore interesting that there was no “hue and cry” from Shakespeare scholars about all the historic inaccuracy in the film, as there was when the movie Anonymous came out in 2011.

Of course, this is because that movie took as its premise that the plays of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere. The Stratfordian “establishment” couldn’t have that! No way! Oh, but the film is historically inaccurate. Well, that’s all right then.

But, Shakespeare in Love? Well, it shows the “correct” playwright, so we can ignore the historical inaccuracy, say the “scholars”.

As has been reported widely, including in the Oberon blog, Roland Emmerich was not trying to do a documentary when he directed Anonymous. He was doing what Shakespeare himself did: historical drama.  It was not intended to be completely historically accurate.

Yet, in my opinion (and laying aside for now the question of who actually wrote the plays) Anonymous was more historically accurate in its portrayal of Elizabeth London and its theater than was Shakespeare in Love.

I think one of the most telling things is that, when Paul Edmonson and Stanley Wells decided to “put an end” to all this nonsense (as they saw it) of who wrote Shakespeare’s plays in their 2011 book Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy, they (or maybe their publishers) decided to put a picture of Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare from Shakespeare in Love on the cover of the book. Is Shakespeare REALLY “beyond doubt”? Time will tell.

All of this just shows how scholars (and people in general) want SO much to be able to find anything, ANYTHING AT ALL, in the biography of Shakespeare to match with what we find in the plays, that they are forced to “make it up”. We just can’t stand a total blank. We have to have a “flesh and blood author”.

As readers of this blog will of course know, this problem of matching the author’s biography with his works can be made simple by just realizing who the author really was, but that is not allowed in “traditional” circles.

So, we resort to “fictional biography”. This is very easy, since there is ABSOLUTELY NO REAL LITERARY BIOGRAPHY AT ALL for the Stratford man, so that anything said can “very well be true”. We don’t have any evidence that it isn’t true, so we have no problem is saying it.

So, by all means, come to Stratford, Ontario in 2016 and see Shakespeare in Love (the play) and get your “flesh and blood author”. MAYBE!

This isn’t the first time that the Stratford Festival has put on plays with the idea of “learning who Shakespeare was”. In 2007 and (in revival in 2011) there was Shakespeare’s Will, by Vern Thiessen, where Seana McKenna did a great acting job as Anne Hathaway, reminiscing about her life with her husband William Shakespeare (and wondering about that “second best bed” thing). Completely fictional throughout, of course, but satisfying.

(By the way, I wrote a letter to the Festival complaining about how they made no effort to say in the theater program that this play was fictional. How many theatergoers, I wonder, came away thinking that they now knew William Shakespeare better?)

In 2000, there was Elizabeth Rex, by Timothy Findley. Although this play is more about gender relations and identities, it does show a fictional meeting of Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare on the evening before the execution of the Earl of Essex after his rebellion as Elizabeth agonizes over whether to sign the final death warrant. Powerful stuff, to be sure, but a way to understand the “real” Shakespeare? Sadly, no.

Perhaps, someday, the Stratford Festival could put on a play that would allow the audience to get an accurate picture of who Shakespeare was.

Oh, wait, they have already been doing that for 63 years. It’s called the Shakespeare Canon. It is in these plays that the “true” Shakespeare can be found.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wally and Maria visit Michigan

Walter Hurst of Louisburg College, SC, addressed the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group
 at Bloomfield Township Public Library on June 26, 2015.

by Linda Theil

Walter and Maria Hurst of Louisburg, NC joined the Oberons for lunch at Beau's yesterday, on their way to the American Association of Community Theatre AACT Fest 2015 in Grand Rapids, MI, where Hurst was scheduled to speak today. After lunch, Hurst gave us a fascinating preview of his topic of "Surprise! Shakespeare Got Italy Right” at a special Oberon meeting at the Bloomfield Twp. Public Library.

Hurst holds a master of arts degree in Shakespeare authorship studies from Brunel University, London, England. He is director of drama and theatre studies at Louisburg College, director of the Louisburg College Norris Theatre, and member of the American Association of Community Theatre. Hurst gave his AACT Fest 2015 audience of actors, directors, producers, playwrights, and dramaturges a new tool for their Shakespearean workboxs -- a reality-based Shakespeare revealed in the work of Ernesto Grillo, Richard Paul Roe, Noemi Negri, and other experts on the topic of Shakespeare and Italy.

Hurst said:
Perhaps some of you will write, direct, play better when you know there’s a secret Italy hidden in the plays of William Shakespeare. It is exact; it is detailed; and it is brilliant. It is important for us to know that world is real and to make that reality a part of our acting and directing decisions.
Oberons attending yesterday's special event were SOF vice-president and Oberon chair Richard Joyrich MD, Robert Stefanovich, Robin Browne, Rey Perez, Terri Shaw, Rosey Hunter, Linda Theil, Mara Radzvickas, and Sharon Hunter who joined us for lunch at Beau’s.

Honorary Oberons Maria and Wally Hurst at Beau's in Bloomfield Twp. MI June 26, 2015

Rosey Hunter and Richard Joyrich at Beau's in Bloomfield Twp. MI June 26, 2015

Mara Radzvickas and Rey Perez at Beau's in Bloomfield Twp. MI June 26, 2015

Robin Browne and Rob Stefanovich at Beau's in Bloomfield Twp. MI June 26, 2015

Thank you, Wally! Come back soon to Michigan!

Mark your calendar!
Hurst is scheduled to speak at the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship conference at Ashland OR on the topic "Pericles, Prince of Tyre: Its Authorship, The Question of Collaboration, and its Place in the Shakespearean Canon" on September 27, 2015. For more information about the conference see: "Mark Anderson will keynote Ashland conference" on the SOF website.

Note: A bibliography of Walter Hurst's Shakespeare and Italy presentation is available here. For more information about his presentation, contact Walter Hurst at <>


Monday, June 22, 2015

SOF trustee Wally Hurst will visit Oberons June 26, 2015

Walter Hurst is shown speaking on the topic "Sabbioneta, Italy – An Intersection of Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Edward de Vere?" at the October, 2014 Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship authorship conference
in Madison, Wisconsin where Hurst was elected to the SOF board of trustees. Photo credit Linda Theil

by Linda Theil

Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship board secretary and Louisburg College (NC) instructor Walter Hurst will address the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group at a special meeting to be held from 2-5:30 p.m. Friday, June 26, 2015 at the Bloomfield Twp. Library, 1099 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Township, MI 48302.

Hurst holds a master of arts degree in Shakespeare authorship studies from Brunel University, London, England. He is director of drama and theatre studies at Louisburg College, director of the Louisburg College Norris Theatre, and a member of the American Association of Community Theatre — an organization that is holding its national festival this week in Grand Rapids, MI. On June 27, Hurst is scheduled to deliver a paper at AACTFest 2015 titled, "Surprise! Shakespeare Got Italy Right”

Oberon chair and SOF board member Richard Joyrich, MD said:
Since Wally will be passing near the Detroit area on his way to Grand Rapids, we have invited him to come to meet with Oberon and give us the presentation he will be later making in Grand Rapids. He has given great presentations in the past at SOF conferences and has also published in our newsletters. Don't miss this opportunity to meet Wally — whom I am proposing as an honorary member of Oberon.
To experience Hurst’s enlightened and engaging persona on YouTube, readers may view his speech titled “What’s your authority for that statement?” presented at the SOS/SF Shakespeare authorship conference in Toronto, Canada. Also, see an Oberon report on Hurst’s 2013 presentation at “What’s your authority for that statement?”, an Oct. 26, 2013 entry on the Oberon weblog. View the abstract for Hurst's 2014 " . . . Sabbionetta" paper on the SOF website.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Shakespeare un-birthday 2015

Pam Verlone and Rosey Hunter, Beau's Grillery April 18, 2015

Oberons met today for our annual April gathering when we traditionally celebrate Shakespeare's un-birthday. We shared lunch at the remodeled Beau's Grillery -- formerly Beau Jacks -- at Maple and Telegraph in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Celebrants included, chairperson Richard Joyrich MD, Mara Radzvickas, Linda Theil, Barbara Burris, Pam Verlone, Rosey Hunter and Robin Browne. We missed Sharon Hunter who had planned to join us but was unable to attend.

Oberon chairperson Richard Joyrich MD, Mara Radzvickas, Linda Theil and Barbara Burris at Beau's Grillery

Joyrich and Verlone reported on attending the film version of King John produced for the Stratford Festival HD series and distributed by Fathom Events at the Livonia AMC multiplex on April 8, 2015 -- see "Stratford Festival HD distributed nationwide by Fathom". Pam and Richard were were joined at the film by Oberoner Ray Perez and friends. At our luncheon, several members made plans to attend the Stratford Festival HD production of Antony and Cleopatra to be broadcast May 21, 2015.

We hope to schedule this year's Oberon meetings on Saturday afternoons at the Bloomfield Township Public Library, 1099 Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Twp., Michigan. We will announce the times as soon as they are scheduled. Since the library is near today's meeting, we may adjourn to Beau's in the future.

 Bar at renovated Beau's Grillery (formerly Beau Jack's) at Maple & Telegraph

Rosey Hunter and Robin Browne at Beau's Grillery, April 18. 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Oberons honor George Thomas Hunter

George Thomas Hunter (1923-2015)

On February 22, 2015, Oberon members honored the memory of our friend and colleague George Thomas Hunter who passed away at the age of 91 on February 3, 2015. 

Richard Joyrich, Mara Radzvickas, Pam Verlone, Barbara Burris, Linda Theil, and George's niece-in-law Rosey Hunter attended his memorial service at the Birmingham Unitarian Church of Bloomfield Hills where George and his wife Sharon have been long-time members.

The Reverend Dr. Kathy Hurt presided over the service, and the Hunter's daughter Linda Hunter, son Chris Hunter, and nephew Jon Hunter eulogized our friend. Oberon chair Richard Joyrich expressed our loss and sympathy during the sharing portion of the memorial. 

Before he passed away, George requested that those in attendance sing the song "Smiles"  at his memorial. Linda Hunter and her husband and brother sang the verses and we all joined in on the chorus:
There are smiles that make us happy,There are smiles that make us blue,There are smiles that steal away the teardrops,As the sunbeams steal away the dew.There are smiles that have a tender meaning, That the eyes of love alone may see,And the smiles that fill my life with sunshineAre the smiles that you give to me.
by Lee Roberts and Will Callahan, 1917

Friday, February 6, 2015

Stratford Festival HD distributed nation-wide by Fathom

Richard Joyrich reported that a series of high-definition films were made of three of last season's Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada productions and will be distributed as the Stratford Festival HD series by Fathom Events. The first film, King Lear with Colm Feore, will be shown oat Commerce Township theater, AMC Livonia 20 theater, and Quality 16 in Ann Arbor.

The next production, King John with Tom McCamus and Seanna McKenna, will be shown on Wednesday, April 8 at 7 p.m. at the same theaters (although the theater in Ann Arbor might be showing it on Thursday, April 9 instead).

The final production, Antony and Cleopatra with Geraint Wyn Davies and Yanna Mcintosh, will be Thursday, May 21 at the same theaters.

Tickets are $18, with some variation possible.

These productions will be distributed nationwide in theaters that show other Fathom events -- such as the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series. For more information, see

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

George Hunter passed away February 3, 2015

George Hunter, 91, enjoys the Oberon holiday gathering in December, 2014 
at Rosey Hunter's house in West Bloomfield, MI.

Oberon stalwart George Thomas Hunter passed away yesterday at the Henry Ford Hospice in West Bloomfield, Michigan at the age of 91. George attended Oberon gatherings faithfully with his wife Sharon Hunter, to whom we extend our heartfelt condolences. Their daughter Linda said on the Caring Bridge website yesterday:
. . . His final hours were spent with his family. Even though he was not responsive, we talked, sang, read poetry and even read an article about Neanderthals from Scientific American (his kind of thing). 
We Oberon members also grieve with George's niece-by-marriage Rosey Hunter, who told Oberon members that George had not been feeling well after the holidays and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer. 

Rosey said, "Thank you again for your caring comments. Uncle Tom (George Hunter) was very special to my Tommy (the late Oberon chair R. Thomas Hunter, PhD). He (George) introduced him (R. Thomas Hunter) to the world of literature."

The family will schedule a memorial service, and announce the date on the Caring Bridge site. (Please see UPDATE below.)

Oberon chair Richard Joyrich shared Claudius' insight in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies,

 But in battalions!"
            Hamlet, Act IV, scene 5

UPDATE 02/12/15:
A memorial service for George Thomas Hunter will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 22, 2015 at the Birmingham Unitarian Church38651 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oberons meet at Rosey Hunter's for annual holiday gathering

Rosey Hunter, Pam Varilone and Sharon Hunter at Oberon holiday gathering 2014

by Linda Theil

Rosey Hunter welcomed the Oberon group to her home on Saturday December 6, 2014 for a holiday feast of companionship and good will. Oberon co-founder Barbara Burris joined us in our first gathering since the recent loss of her husband, Oberon friend and colleague Ron Halstead. George and Sharon Hunter, Pam Varilone, Richard Joyrich, Rey Perez, Mara Radzvickas, Linda Theil, Rob Stefanovich, and Robin Browne also attended. Rey Perez took the photos shown here. We all extend holiday greetings and wish joy to Oberon friends and family, far and near.
Barbara Burris at Oberon holiday gathering, 2014

Pam Varilone, Robin Browne, George Hunter and Mara Radzvickas at Oberon holiday gathering 2014

Richard Joyrich and Linda Theil at Oberon holiday gathering 2014

Mara Radzvickas at Oberon holiday gathering 2014

Oberon photographer Rey Perez and Barbara Burris at Oberon holiday gathering 2014. Photo by Rosey Hunter

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Robin Browne spoke at Ron Halstead's memorial service

Ron Halstead at Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario October 4, 2014

by Linda Theil

At Ron Halstead's (1940-2014) memorial service on November 22, 2014, Oberon member Robin Browne spoke of our beloved friend at William Sullivan & Son Funeral Home, Royal Oak, Michigan where mourners gathered to honor Ron, and comfort his wife of 47 years, Oberon co-founder Barbara Ann Burris.

Oberons also attending included George and Sharon Hunter, Rosie Hunter, Richard Joyrich, Rey Perez, Linda Theil, Pam Verlone, and Mara Radzvickas.

Robin Browne said:
An article in The Eccentric pinpoints the date I first met Barbara Burris and Ron Halstead: Wednesday 18 October 2000. We met at the Baldwin Library in Birmingham, Michigan, following a wonderful lecture given by a researcher from Northern England, Derran Charlton. 
I quote from the newspaper which I have kept these past fourteen years: ‘The retired coalminer, Mr. Charlton, was sipping tea at the Royal Oak home of Barbara Burris, a member of the local chapter of The Shakespeare Oxford Society’, subsequently to be called the Oberon Chapter. The following day I joined Barbara, Ron and Derran at a nearby coffee house where we enthusiastically discussed our common interest with the Shakespeare authorship debate, something I had pursued since the mid-1960s. I immediately warmed to Ron’s gentle nature, his knowledge on the subject, and his deep passion for research.
The Oberon group has met nearly every month since my introduction to Ron and Barbara. Over the years we have shared many enjoyable hours together, at meetings Ron would often enthrall us with his research and original ideas, at book shops we would hunt out new publications together and occasionally share moments at his home which was only a stone’s throw from where my father-in-law lived. 
Whoever wrote the Shakespeare plays -- be it Francis Bacon, Edward De Vere, Marlow or Spencer -- was of an exceptional mind. For the plays reflect great learning, the ancient classics, history, philosophy, language, the Bible and an understanding of the law. The author or authors of this great collection of plays were incredibly knowledgeable and displayed a notable sense of humor. 
Had Ron Halstead lived four hundred years ago he would have been at one with the author(s). He had all the same attributes, a brilliant mind, knowledge of the classics, well read, a student of the Bible and someone who smiled, laughed and had a wonderful sense of humor.
I shall always remember him as a friend bursting with knowledge and passionate about so many different interests, the kind of person you meet one or twice in a lifetime.
Fond wishes and happy memories.
We have created an Oberon page in Ron Halstead's memory and invite readers to please write their thoughts about our friend there so that your words will be easily accessible to all who wish to read at 

Or you may read and comment on the memorial page by clicking on the title "In memoriam Ronald D. Halstead" in the masthead of this page.

Thank you.