Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oberons in the labyrinth

Above: Richard and Dorothy made it to the center of the labyrinth while Rosey continuted her journey.

Thanks to all Oberoners who spent a glorious Sunday afternoon together. I had a great time watching my friends walk the labyrinth with Sting singing Dowland in the background.

Here is the resource list I used for my introductory talk about the labyrinth and the music of John Dowland (1563-1626).

Design of the labyrinth at Theobalds, Burleigh's Hertfordshire estate, circa 1560-1600 from Matthews' Mazes & Labyrinths.

Oberons' favorite -- the eating part.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Oberon Report to the Unsatisfied: Thursday's Meeting

Dear Oberon,

Some special people couldn’t be with us at Oberon Thursday evening. We missed you all, but we want to send special wishes to Laura and Gary, and also to Robin and Judy. Although we missed Robin, we certainly understand. He did get some cookies, however, so not to worry.

For those of us who were there, we had, as Richard said, “another great meeting.” Thank you, Richard, for that. I can’t disagree.

Preparations are under way for our Oct. 25 meeting with guest speaker Lonnie Morley. Lonnie will tell the assembled multitude about herbs in Shakespeare and their authorial implications. Linda Theil and her committee have already gotten the word out to a number of groups, will make some follow-up contacts, and will work on final preparations. The meeting will be at the Farmington Library, Room 1A, starting at 7 p.m., doors open at 6:45.

Also Linda urged everyone to visit our blog, which by now features many contributions from various people. Even better, she urged everyone to contribute to it, especially those who have not yet had the opportunity to do so. We would like to see it become a flourishing center of Shakespearean thought and exchange of ideas on authorship and related issues, especially issues which our members feel are important.

Finally, Linda extended an invitation to her Labyrinth Party this Sunday afternoon. Please contact Linda at linda.theil@gmail.com

We noted the successful, well-covered introduction of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, which many of us have signed, by Oxfordian actors Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi at the Chichester Festival in England which introduced Mr. Rylance's new comedy about authorship.

Richard briefly reviewed our Stratford outing and the fact that The Merchant of Venice turned out somewhat better for him the second time around. Part of this was due to a better understanding of director Richard Rose’s intentions with this production which he shared with me in an e-mail exchange which I intend to resume some time soon. The last e-mail from Mr. Rose contained an invitation to visit with him in Toronto where he is artistic director of Terragon Theatre. Mr. Rose has been most open and willing to talk about his work.

Richard (our Richard) will also be reporting on the joint SOS/Shakespeare Fellowship conference in Carmel, CA early next month. He will be our only representative and plans to provide daily updates for us as he has in the past with his inimitable reporting skills.

The Hamlet Project is now underway. We discussed key lines from Act I for themes, issues, and connections to Oxford, finding at least six connections to work with: Polonius for Burghley, Oxford’s mother’s quick remarriage, truepenny, Burghley’s gardens, reflections on nobility, and “ever I was born.” We will start with the last lines of Act I when next we work on the Hamlet Project at our meeting in November. Also, Tom Townsend will be presenting thoughts on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, their role in the play, and their Oxfordian connections. I am hoping that we will make significant progress over the next few months and have every confidence that Oberon can make it happen.

In the mean time, we have extra seating for the October meeting. Lonnie’s last visit to Oberon was very successful. She was well received and stirred interest. We look forward to seeing you all there except perhaps those of you in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Kentucky. Not a good excuse, mind you, but with the price of gas what it is, understandable.

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ian McKellon plays Lear

Ian McKellon as Lear in the world tour of Trevor Nunn's Royal Shakespeare Company production will be at the Guthrie in Minnesota from October 5-14, 2007. Check the NPR interview from September 13.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oberon meeting Thurs., Sept.20

Dear Oberon,

Well, now. We are meeting at just the right time--next Thursday, Sept 20 at 6:45 at the Farmington Community Library, which apparently has become our comfortable new home. It's the right time for updates about the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt authored by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition which many of you signed and which is creating quite a stir in England, having been presented by Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance this past week to a responsive public! Not bad company to be in. And this right after Prof. Jonathan Bate, from up high on his Stratfordian throne, declared that no major actors have ever doubted Stratford Bill (my term not his, of course) as the true author.

I say let's start with this glaring error and take a systematic look at the rest of what Prof. Bate has said on the subject!

By the way, a report just in from John Shahan, one of the originators of the Declaration, that whereas we had just under 300 signers when Jacobi and Rylance made the announcement, we now have 1,000! Nothing truer than truth, as they say.

Anyway, we should have a rollicking good time with this and with the other stuff we will cover at this meeting. We will have updates on our October meeting featuring Lonnie Morley re herbs in Shakespeare and what that tells us about authorship. Also a report from our techno phenom Linda who will also update us, I'm sure, on how her garden grows. If the fates are kind, we will have our Treasurer's Report! Also, we will forge ahead with the Hamlet Project.

Then, if we are especially fortunate and Robin attends, we will have cookies from Rosey!

So it will be good to get together again. And not a moment too soon. If we haven't seen you recently, please make a special effort to stop by. This is a good time for Oberon.

Oberon Chair

P.S. from Linda: Tom, I just gave my labyrinth a haircut and it is looking good for our 3 p.m. Sunday, September 23 Autumn Pot Luck. All Oberons and guests are welcome; send me an email and I'll send you a map. L.

Monday, September 10, 2007

AP touts anti-Stratfordian actors

Here is my note to Jos. Harker, Response Editor of The Guardian, after The Associated Press scooped The Guardian on the anti-Stratfordian actor issue raised in my letter to the editor -- see text in Sept. 7 blog below. Note: The coalition referred to in the AP story is the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. Tom

To Joseph Harker, Response Editor, The Guardian

Dear Joseph,

I followed your suggestion of Wednesday, Sept 5 and sent the letter below to letters@guardian.co.uk correcting Prof. Bate's misinformation passed along by your reporter. Apparently nothing was done about correcting the error.

Apparently my letter was not printed.

Apparently The Guardian has not bothered to look into the error.

Now Yahoo has run a story by Associated Press writer D'Arcy Doran providing accurate information about famous actors who have doubted the traditional attribution of Shakespeare authorship which you can link to here:

"Coalition Aims to Expose Shakespeare" by D'Arcy Doran, Associated Press Writer

I don't understand why the press, which is supposed to be seeking out the truth, allows so called authorities like Bate to go on with their errors and not even bother to correct them--or at least look into them--when they are pointed out.

What is The Guardian guarding? Is it tradition and the status quo which have misled us all these years, or is it the truth? I would think that your newspaper would at least be interested in looking for the truth. You can see that if this keeps up, the unsatisfied will be looking for their news from the Yahoos of the world and will bypass The Guardian because it doesn't seem to care about the first commandment of journalism: accuracy.

If I am wrong and you indeed have confirmed and corrected Prof. Bate's misstatement and your publication of it, I would be most gratified if you would write back and show me the error of my ways and that your publication is indeed interested in the truth after all.

By the way, my list of famous actors challenging Shakspere authorship omitted Charles Chaplin. Yahoo got that right, too. Thank you again for your response of Sept. 5.

R. Thomas Hunter
Independent Shakespeare Scholar

Friday, September 7, 2007

New Novels to Look Out For

Earl Showerman has told me (and the other members of our Joint Committee for putting on the upcoming Conference in Carmel) about an upcoming novel by Jennifer Lee Carrell called "Interred With Their Bones" due to be published in "early September". Earl somehow got an advance manuscript copy and he is two-thirds through reading it. It seems that the novel is going in an Oxfordian direction (although Earl didn't want to "spoil" it for us). He is going to invite the author to try to attend the Carmel Conference to do some book signings and maybe speak to us. She has a good academic background including a PhD in English from Harvard. Reading about the book on her website, it seems like it will be interesting, but I can't tell from what is on the website whether she is really an Oxfordian, but there are many good links on her site to information on the Authorship. The book is about a murder and then the search for clues to a "Shakespearian puzzle" I know it has to do with finding lost manuscripts of Shakespeare, including the long-lost play Cardenio.

Then, I heard from Matthew Cosollotto (who was on the conference call with Earl and I) about another novel, this time definitely Oxfordian, by some friends of his, Toni and Stephen Downs. This is called "The Hidden Lie" and is a mystery starring Bob Hastings, "a working class self-educated Shakespeare scholar from the North of England" (description from the website description of the book). I am quite sure that this character is based on Derran Charlton and there seems to be many other characters based on "real Oxfordians" This book is available now on the website (yes, I already ordered my copy)

So much reading ahead for all of us!

Reviewer takes Bate

It appears that Stratfordian Prof. Jonathan Bate (see letter to the Guardian below) has been caught in a display of ignorance. Chances are my letter will never see print in the Guardian, but we need to answer the obvious gaffes of the traditional camp to get the discussion out into the open -- sooner or later it will happen. Tom Hunter

To the Editor of the Guardian:

In his review of Mark Rylance’s new play, The BIG Secret Live - I Am Shakespeare - Webcam Daytime Chat-room Show at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Michael Billington (Guardian, Sept. 3, 2007 ) quotes scholar Jonathan Bate: "It is a striking fact that no major actor has ever been attracted to anti-Stratfordianism," the notion, Billington explains, that someone other than Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him. Says Billington, “Now Mark Rylance proves Bate wrong.”

The problem is that Bate is as accurate in this statement as he is about the authorship question in general, about which he displays only a woeful ignorance.

Mark Rylance is only one of many major actors to prove Bate wrong. How about Sir John Gielgud, Leslie Howard, and Orson Welles for starters? How about we add Jeremy Irons, Michael York and Sir Derek Jacoby? All have stated reasonable doubt, some outright disbelief, about the authorship of poems and plays attributed to William Shake-speare, later spelled Shakespeare.

Add to that list the author Mark Twain, who recorded his reasons for opposing Shakespeare as the author of the works in a long essay, Is Shakespeare Dead?

Twain himself is a good example of the issue. Professor Bate would insist that Mark Twain wrote Mark Twain's works, wouldn't he? Nothing could be more obvious. Twain's name is all over them, isn't it? It would be looney to think Twain's works might have been written by somebody named Samuel L. Clemens.

R. Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.
Independent Shakespeare Scholar

Additional reviews of Rylance play

Shakespeare Fellowship's Skeptics Hall of Fame

Monday, September 3, 2007

Eastward Ho! to Stratford

Our Oberon Stratford group this year was able to fit into one car. The five of us, Richard, Linda, Sue, Rosey, and I, headed eastward toward the bridge at Port Huron/Sarnia early last Saturday morning, August 25. There was no wait at the bridge, and the merry little band was admitted to Canada after brief questioning by the attendant as to who we were (Oberon, Shakespeare study group), what did we do (study Shakespeare), where we were bound (Stratford),for what reason (to see a play), at what time (2 p.m.), which play (Merchant of Venice), brief plot summary please (one followed--just kidding), by which author (Shakespeare), was he the real author (just kidding).

Fortunately, I had given the driving over to Richard, so it was Richard who patiently answered the questions as opposed to me who, as Rosey likes to relate, undoubtedly would have become totally irritated and scornful and who would have gotten everyone strip searched and jailed, thereby missing the curtain.

The drive through Canada by Richard was masterful indeed, following an off the beaten path itinerary of two lane roads and small towns with colorful names, none of which shall be made public here since Richard made us take a vow of silence having discovered and patented the route.

It was by far the best way to get to Stratford, Richard maintained, and he should know having gone there several times a year for the last 40 or so years of his life.

When we passed the familiar Tim Horton’s at the edge of town, we knew we were there, only to be confirmed as Richard pulled up to the tourist office where everyone disembarked to load up on free literature inside.

Richard and Sue disappeared while Linda, Rosey and I munched delicious date bars at one of Richard’s favorite restaurants -- the York Street Kitchen -- which appeared to be a covered alleyway between two buildings with doors on either end and some tables, chairs, and a kitchen in the middle. Richard appeared some minutes later with bags filled with puzzles which he had bought at a store at the end of the block with some kind of secret access which involved stairs. Lord knows where Sue was.

All together again, the merry band pressed onward to Jack Scofield’s seminar on The Merchant of Venice. For the first 20 minutes, Mr. Scofield zeroed in on another play that we weren’t going to see that evening. I was getting impatient, but luckily Jack turned his attention to the Merchant of Venice before I rudely voiced my impatience which would have gotten everybody strip searched and arrested by the local police. Fortunately that didn’t happen either when I began to monopolize the conversation with my cockamamie theories about the Merchant. Mr. Scofield, very polite, from time to time managed to wrest the floor away from me, but it was a struggle.

Luckily, I soon solved for all time the MOV enigma for all who were present, and a grateful public, including our merry band, departed to see the play.

But first lunch.

That was at an Italian restaurant after we almost lost Sue who gave in to the siren call of an ATM machine. The group together again, we found the restaurant -- Trattoria Fabrizio Cooking School & Restorante on Wellington Street -- recommended by Richard who has an unerring knack for such things, and enjoyed a filling lunch sitting next to a vast table of luscious desserts with signs basically saying, Keepa You Hands Off.

We noticed that when we approached this table to get a better look, battalions of wait staff gathered to enforce the signs. The whole event ended nonviolently, and, cookies and gelato consumed, the group departed post haste for the theatre, curtain in twenty minutes, although Sue thought there was plenty of time to do some shopping.

The play was almost everything I wanted it to be. It should be OK to say that everyone had a most entertaining afternoon. Even Richard, who vehemently warned us against it due to an apparently unhappy experience with it earlier this year, found something of redeeming value. I had been in e-mail contact with the play’s director Richard Rose that week and had found out some things that caused Richard to take a different look at the proceedings and to come away more at peace with it so at least we didn’t have to listen to him crabbing about it all the way back home which probably would have caused us to be strip searched and arrested at the border.

Incidentally, I found out from Mr. Rose that he would be seeing it this past Tuesday evening for the first time since he last saw it before it opened. I hope he liked it.

With Richard mollified, we made the traditional stop at Tim Horton’s on our way out of town, feasting on muffins and bagels and coffee until we found an actual restaurant for dinner. Richard took us through St. Mary’s, a lovely town to the west of Stratford, to which we would like to return to spend more time. The wait at the bridge was 32 minutes. Richard won $1.50 Canadian on the over/under pool, dropping some of it under the car seat and so leaving a share for the house, so to speak. Dinner was at Dmitri’s on Gratiot north of 59. I took over the driving the rest of the way, immediately making a wrong turn, but no matter, since all roads lead to Hunters Ridge.

Home again, but never far from Shakespeare.

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Merchant credits:
Artistic credits -- Director / RICHARD ROSE, Costume Designer / PHILLIP CLARKSON, Associate Set Designers / GILLIAN GALLOW, DOUGLAS PARASCHUCK (Based upon an original concept by GRAEME S. THOMSON), Lighting Designer / STEVEN HAWKINS, Composer / MICHAEL VIEIRA, Sound Designer / TODD CHARLTON, Fight Director / JOHN STEAD, Choreographer / MARK CHRISTMANN

The cast -- Salerio / PAUL AMOS, Bassanio / SEAN ARBUCKLE, Solanio / BRUCE DOW, Nerissa / RAQUEL DUFFY, Shylock / GRAHAM GREENE, Stephano / GRAHAM HARLEY, Old Gobbo / BERNARD HOKPINS, Duke of Venice / JOHN INNES, Salarino / JACOB JAMES, Launcelot Gobbo / RON KENNELL, Lorenzo / JEAN-MICHEL Le GAL, Prince of Arragon / TIM MacDONALD, Gratiano / GARETH POTTER, Prince of Morocco / JAMIE ROBINSON, Leonardo / ROGER SHANK, Portia / SEVERN THOMPSON, Jessica / SARA TOPHAM, Tubal / BRIAN TREE, Antonio / SCOTT WENTWORTH