Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tom Hunter reports on Oberon February meeting: MSF and UNbirthday

Dear Oberon,

Robert Duha, managing director of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, was our special guest for the second meeting in a row Thursday, Feb. 19, to follow up with us on certain issues pertaining to the Festival.  Mr. Duha brought with him Laura, his marketing assistant.

Robert has given Oberon the use of a table at all Festival productions this year for getting out information about the authorship issue especially as it may relate to the productions at this year’s Festival. 
Robert also stated that the Festival newsletter  needs articles and invites Oberon members to submit articles on authorship issues or on anything else of interest about Shakespeare or especially The Tempest or As You Like It, the two Shakespeare plays being performed by the Festival this year.

He added that there will be a final print edition of the newsletter this year, after which it will continue life via e-mail. 

He also asked Oberon’s assistance with finding groups of 20 or more to attend the plays since those groups can receive significant discounts on tickets.  This is one area of research in which volunteers can help the Festival.

Ultimately, Robert would like to extend the season to the school year and make Shakespeare available to students for free.

Finally, he promised to send details of the Festival’s opening night dinner. Artistic Director John Neville-Andrews will discuss the plays being presented this year and answer questions about the productions.

We are looking forward to seeing both Robert and Laura at future meetings.  They and all of the hard workers who are striving to build a successful Michigan Shakespeare Festival will always be welcome guests.  

The brief thoughts we shared with Robert and Laura about how such issues as the dating of The Tempest extend to the identity of the true author were meant for Mr. Neville-Andrews since he will be directing that play for the Festival this summer.  But Robert good-naturedly promised to take the message back to Mr. Neville-Andrews. Perhaps the subject will be one which we submit to the Festival newsletter. Look for more on this in the near future.

Oberon also welcomed Prashant Andrade to Thursday’s meeting. Prashant runs the Shakespeare Reading group which Richard Joyrich and Linda Theil have attended to their great enjoyment.  Prashant is welcome back to share with Oberon his Shakespeare experiences.  Next reading will be March 22 at the Plymouth Library in downtown Plymouth.  Most appropriately to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, the group will be reading The Tempest.

Finally, we were able to get started in planning our Shakespeare UNbirthday party to be held at our April 23 meeting at the Farmington Library.  More about that in a separate e-mail soon.  The best development is that Joy volunteered herself, Rosey and others to dress up for the event.  That could be the most fun of all, even more fun than Ron Destro’s UNShakespeare program and the UNbirthday cake, and I just can’t wait.

Yours devoted,
Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Friday, February 20, 2009

Duha takes helm at Michigan Shakespeare Festival posted by Tom Hunter

Robert Duha, the Michigan Shakespeare Festival ’s new managing director, was Oberon’s special guest at our January 22 meeting.  It didn’t take long for Rob to make it clear that he wants Michigan’s festival to take its rightful place among the national festivals centering on Shakespeare’s work.  “I want to start a war with Stratford,” he declared.  Oberon can only hope that we can be there to pass along some friendly ammunition.

Rob became the MSF’s leader only last summer, but he has already formulated specific plans for the Festival.  Near term, he plans to catch up with opportunities which need following up, such as building contact and support groups around the state.

His long range plans involve bringing Shakespeare back outdoors again. The Festival originally appeared in an outdoors venue, then moved into the theater at Jackson Community College.  Rob would like to see the Festival performed once again outdoors but this time in a “weather friendly” theater in which the play goes on even in inclement weather. 

Rob also wants to tour the currently Jackson based Festival throughout the state, thereby extending its season and making it a truly statewide event, including areas such as Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and Detroit.  Finally, he wishes to establish a strong educational outreach component to its activities.

Also on the table are online ticketing, a newsletter, a new web site and an advertising campaign to get people to the web site.     

To do all this, the Festival needs volunteers to do research and in other ways to support its ambitious agenda.  For example, the Festival holds a monologue contest for high school students around the state and needs help in the Detroit area.

This summer, the Festival will be performing As You Like It and The Tempest by Shakespeare as well as the popular musical Side by Side by Sondheim.  MSF productions have invariably been of high quality and most enjoyable.  Festival artistic director John Neville-Andrews, for example, last year mounted the seldom produced All’s Well That Ends Well so successfully that we left wondering why the play so seldom sees the stage.

Indeed, one of Rob Duha’s biggest challenges might be filling the seats in Jackson Community College’s theater which is not only a most comfortable venue but is also very appropriate for Shakespeare productions.  To me, every seat that is not filled is an opportunity someone—a student, a senior, or anyone who likes a good play--has missed for an evening of certainly good if not great theater.

It is also a concern of Rob Duha’s and another one of his priorities.  He shared with Oberon last month that he is reading Michael M. Kaiser’s The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations.  It is our hope that Rob finds some answers in the book which will build MSF to health and strength.

It is my expectation that answers must also be found among willing Michiganders who find in Shakespeare, as so many other states of done, the bulwark on which to build their own cultural programs.  What if, for example, the Michigan Shakespeare Festival could become a center for inquiry into the authorship issue?  Not academics, but actors and directors like Mark Rylance, Orson Welles, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Harvey and others have led this inquiry because the sublimity of the man’s work does not match the mundane details of the sordid life of William Shakspere of Stratford, to whom the work has so long been attributed. 

Oberon is excited at the prospect of presenting the author Shakespeare for who he was and to partner with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival to connect the plays to the man.

Now that would be a way to start a war with Stratford.
R. Thomas Hunter, PhD
Oberon Chair

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tom Hunter invites all to Oberon meeting this Thursday, Feb. 19

Dear Oberon,

Just a reminder that we will take up where we left off at our February meeting this Thursday at the Farmington Library on 12 Mile Rd. between Orchard Lake Rd. and Farmington Rd.  Doors to our meeting room A open at 6:45.

Our special guest will again be Robert Duha, managing director of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.  We will also welcome festival artistic director John Neville-Andrews, who will be directing The Tempest for the festival this summer. At our last meeting, Robert revealed some fascinating plans and dreams for the MSF, which could well involve our Oberon group.  More on that in a separate e-mail report and at our meeting Thursday.

Also, be on hand to plan our Shakespeare Unbirthday Party for our April meeting, one of the best unbirthdays you will ever celebrate.  The idea, of course, is that the world has been commemorating the wrong date for Shakespeare’s birth for 400 years now.  Why have they done that? Because it is the wrong Shakespeare!  Help us correct that little error this year.

We will then move on to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s sonnets later this year.  No problem there.  The Sonnets were indeed published in 1609, exactly 400 years ago.

But wait!  The publisher’s note referred to “our ever-living poet,” as if he had already died because indeed he had.  Not the Stratford Shakespeare who lived out his shady days to 1616, as is well known, but the “ever” poet, E. Ver, i.e. Edward Vere, who had died in 1604.  If there ever was an “ever-living poet” in 1609, it would certainly have been Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

So, yes, time is out of joint, and it is our lot to set it right.  In April we will celebrate how out of joint it has come to be, and we will set it right in October.

A full plate indeed.  What a wonderful 2009 it will be!

Yours, devoted
Tom Hunter

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

I'm a staunch evolutionist, but I can't say I like this million monkeys support of Darwin's genius:
8. Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance.
Chance plays a part in evolution (for example, in the random mutations that can give rise to new traits), but evolution does not depend on chance to create organisms, proteins or other entities. Quite the opposite: natural selection, the principal known mechanism of evolution, harnesses nonrandom change by preserving "desirable" (adaptive) features and eliminating "undesirable" (nonadaptive) ones. As long as the forces of selection stay constant, natural selection can push evolution in one direction and produce sophisticated structures in surprisingly short times. 
As an analogy, consider the 13-letter sequence "TOBEORNOTTOBE." Those hypothetical million monkeys, each pecking out one phrase a second, could take as long as 78,800 years to find it among the 2613 sequences of that length. But in the 1980s Richard Hardison of Glendale College wrote a computer program that generated phrases randomly while preserving the positions of individual letters that happened to be correctly placed (in effect, selecting for phrases more like Hamlet's). On average, the program re-created the phrase in just 336 iterations, less than 90 seconds. Even more amazing, it could reconstruct Shakespeare's entire play in just four and a half days.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mark Anderson's brief overview of the authorship controversy on

I was looking at Mark Anderson's Shakespearebyanothername blog archive today and came across links to his August 2006 essays on The essays are a persuasive intro to the authorship question.

Part I: The enigma and the Shakespeare code
Part II: Gentle Master William
Part III: The 1604 question

Anderson's March 4, 2006 entry in his archive includes an extensive -- and brilliant -- commentary by our chairperson, Tom Hunter.

Anderson's current blog is at Shakespearebyanothername

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project from the University of Guelph

 Quote from masthead of Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project

This treasure trove of a site offers much to Shakespeare omnivores, not least of which is the Spotlight feature on Aboriginal adaptations of Shakespeare . Here's a snippet from the main page introduction of the site:
ThCanadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project is the online resource for anyone interested in how Shakespeare's plays have been transformed and adapted in Canada. But it also contains a wealth of material that relates to all things Shakespearean. With the launch of CASP Version 2, we are pleased to expand the already ample offerings on the site. These include a significant increase in multimedia files; multiple new pages on new areas of research with an emerging focus on French Canada; a huge amount of special resources, including documents, books, scholarly articles, reviews, images, and the like; a literacy video game and perhaps the most comprehensive and intensely multi-mediated study guide of Romeo and Juliet ever created.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The inexhaustible

Four centuries later and the Shakespeare meme continues to reproduce. Here's a Twenty-first Century take on King Lear by humorist Christopher Moore , Fool: a Novel, to be published February 10 by William Morrow/Harper Collins .

Publishers Weekly says:
Starred Review. Here's the Cliff Notes you wished you'd had for King Lear—the mad royal, his devious daughters, rhyming ghosts and a castle full of hot intrigue—in a cheeky and ribald romp that both channels and chides the Bard and all Fate's bastards.
Check it out for yourself in this excerpt .
Addendum: UT/Dallas Interview w/Christopher Moore