Thursday, April 30, 2009

Loves Labors Lost in A2 Oct 20-25, 2009

      Shakespeare's Globe Theatre performers

The University Musical Society has announced Shakepeare's Globe Theatre will present Dominic Dromgoole's production of Loves Labors Lost 8 p.m. October 20, 22, 23, 24, and 2 p.m. October 25 at the Power Center on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

UMS says:
Directed by Dominic Dromgoole, with designs by Jonathan Fensom and music by Claire van Kampen, the production employs Renaissance staging, costume and music. “With a delightful deisgn and jaunty music, it has abundant charm…entirely enchanting.” (The Times, London)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Babes w/Blades presents Macbeth in Chicago through May 30

According to their website, Babes with Blades  theater company:
. . . is a diverse ensemble of artists working together to expand opportunities for women in the world of stage combat. By exploring theatrical violence as a storytelling tool and as a means to entertain, educate, and enlighten, we challenge traditional expectations, push personal limitations, and celebrate the historical role of the woman warrior and her modern evolution.

The all-female company will present a run of Shakespeare's Macbeth directed by Kevin Heckman through May 30, at La Costa Theatre in Chicago. Shows are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Sunday's at 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $20, students and seniors tickets --  with ID at the door -- are $13. Post show Talkbacks are scheduled for Sundays: May 3, 10, 17. At the May 14 and 17 shows, the company will collect donations to benefit the Viola Project , a Chicago organization offering Shakespeare performance workshops for girls 8-18.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tom Hunter responds to WSJ letters on Justice Stephens' non-Stratfordian view

The Wall Street Journal has caved in to the inevitable traditionalist reaction to its front page report last Saturday, April 18 about the finding by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for Edward de Vere as the name behind the pen-name, Shakespeare. All five of the five letters to the editor printed today (Sat./Sun., April 25 -26, 2009) attack the authorship issue and authorship doubters in general, and the Journal and Justice Stevens in particular. The Journal printed none of the supportive letters it received.

The letters which it did print are a remarkable lot, brilliant in their own conceit but in fact blissfully ignorant and uninformed, among the very best examples of the know-nothing mentality which prefers ". . . that the media wouldn't give print space to Oxfordian elitists." They rail against “. . . treating this nonsense seriously.” They see themselves ". . . like Shakespeare,. . . primarily self-educated and masters of intellectual material." They congratulate themselves that they have “. . . probed and delved with the solitary power of independent minds and found the elitists’ positions wanting and negative.”

All of this demonstrates that they haven’t a clue about the true genius who was Shakespeare or about the new and greater understanding they might have if they only cared to learn about the author they profess to love.

So. although the Journal has taken one step backwards, we must still congratulate that publication for the two steps forward which it took last Saturday. We should also assure the Journal that in the dog-eat-dog world of Shakespeare authorship, it is OK to tell the world that an informed readership appreciates what you have done.

Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.
Chairperson, Oberon Shakespeare Study Group

Friday, April 24, 2009

UN-birthday party 2009

Two dozen Shakespeare-lovers had a wonderful time at Oberon's UN-birthday party last night. The cake from VG's was delicious! Everyone loved Ron Song Destro's film, and discussion of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt was interesting and lively.

Mara picks up information about the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt.
Rosey H. and Joy T. help themselves to UN-birthday cake and coffee.
Oberon Chairperson Tom Hunter welcomes visitors.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stephanie Hughes blogs as Politic Worm

Check out author and scholar Stephanie Hughes' brand new blog on history and the authorship question: Politic Worm.

I’m starting a blog on the Authorship Question, not only “who wrote the Shakespeare canon?” but the broader question of who wrote several of the other important literary canons of the Elizabethan Renaissance, and why so many found it necessary to hide their identities as authors. 

So different is our present day culture from that of the English Reformation, and so much information is missing that should be there, whether on purpose or through the natural entropy of time, that, to arrive at a scenario has meant looking beyond literary history into mainstream history, most particularly the history of the Renaissance and Reformation periods, as well as modern clinical psychology, art history, theater history, the literary histories of the other European Renaissance nations, and the most complete biographies possible of everyone concerned. 

In a celebrating mood -- from Tom Hunter

Hey, everybody!  In all the excitement about the Wall Street Journal article  about self-announced Oxfordian U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and our involvement with the Farmington Players (more later) and looking forward to the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival and Oberon Up North 2009, we can’t forget our Shakespeare UNbirthday party Thursday evening at our usual meeting place, Room A of the Farmington Library.

Be with us as Oberon celebrates Shakespeare’s UN-birthday! 
Come for a great PowerPoint presentation by Ron Destro about the authorship issue. And don’t forget a piece of that great UNbirthday cake, coffee, and good fellowship.  We will toast Justice Stevens and the fact that the Shakespeare issue near and dear to our hearts is now front page news in one of the most read and authoritative newspapers in the country, the Wall Street Journal.
Bring a guest.  Let us all enjoy Shakespeare’s UN-birthday together!

In a celebrating mood, I am
Tom Hunter
Your Oberon Chair

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Justice John Paul Stevens says YES to Oxford

Dear Oberon,
Justice Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court was reported in the Wall Street Journal  to have come down on Oxford's side in the authorship controversy.
We all knew this but here are two amazing things:
  • It's the WALL STREET JOURNAL reporting it
  • The poll in the article of all the judges adds up to NINE not supporting Stratford Will to THREE supporting him.  There were 3 pro Oxford, 1 specifically against Stratford but not pro anyone, 3 pro Stratford, which makes it 4-3 AGAINST Stratford.  The remaining opinions were "no comment," "no idea," and "no informed views," which according to my math puts the United States Supreme Court overwhelmingly in the Reasonable Doubt column.
We have just taken a huge leap forward.
Enjoy the day.
Tom Hunter

Hunter commends Wall Street Journal

Note: On date below, I understand that although the article was available online on Friday 4/17/09, it wasn't actually published in print until Saturday 4/18/09. LT

Yesterday (4/17/09) the Wall Street Journal published an article by Jess Bravin titled:

Justice Steven's renders and opinion on who wrote Shakespeare's plays: It Wasn't the Bard of Avon, He Says, Evidence Is beyond a Reasonable Doubt

In response, Oberon Chairperson Tom Hunter sent this message --

To the Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

Thank you to reporter Jess Bravin and the Wall Street Journal for the news about the support of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, as the true author under the pseudonym William Shakespeare of the works which have been attributed for 400 years to William Shaksper of Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The report is extremely relevant as hundreds of thousands of devoted Shakespeare fans around the world plan to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23.  In Farmington, Michigan, our Oberon Shakespeare discussion group will be celebrating Shakespeare’s UNbirthday on that date, since Shaksper wasn’t Shakespeare and since the date, like almost everything about Shaksper, is just a guess.

Perhaps the most important element of your report is the quote by the professor of English and president of the Shakespeare Association of America, “Nobody gives any credence to these arguments,” which in fact expresses the academic community’s almost total ignorance of the issue. For her information, a vast amount of research has demonstrated that at the very least there is reasonable doubt as to the identity of the true author of the works of Shakespeare.  In fact, in your report, nine of 12 justices expressed reasonable doubt, including the five choosing not to declare for either candidate.

There will always be a Shakespeare, just as there will always be a Mark Twain, who is one of Shaksper’s strongest doubters.  We know that Twain was in real life Samuel Clemens.  And once we explore the possibility that another name, such as Oxford’s, was behind Shakespeare, we gain a new and greater understanding of the truly profound genius that the world will always know as Shakespeare.

Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Miami U. math professor teaches high school students to analyze Shakespeare

The current issue of the journal Mathematics Teacher, Vol. 102, No. 8 April 2009 cover article by Michael Todd Edwards is titled: “Who Was the Real William Shakespeare?: Connecting language arts and mathematics, students use data analysis and readability measures to identify the Bard”. (pp 580-585). 

Go to Shakespeare Oxford Society blog to see information on this interesting topic. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Equivocation-The Play

As a prequel to the 13th Annual Authorship Studies Conference to be held at Concordia College in Portland, Oregon (which I will hopefully blog about in the coming days), I have taken the opportunity to spend a few days at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. However, since it is only the beginning of the season here, there is only one play by Shakespeare available to see (Macbeth) and, it being sold out and I not having time to stay longer, I didn't see. Actually I kind of sort of saw the play Macbeth (in a very loose sense) as you will see by reading further. I did enjoy the plays I saw however very much. They were The Music Man, Servant of Two Masters, Dead Man's Cell Phone and the subject of today's blog, Equivocation.

Equivocation is a new play (in fact, I was in the first audience ever to see it) by Bill Cain (founder and former artistic director of the Boston Shakespeare Company) and is one of the newest in the literary genre of writing fiction to flesh out the personality of William Shakespeare of Stratford. However the play is much more than that and, in fact, I got over my initial disgust of the idea and actually liked the play very much. In fact, the play is not really about William of Stratford per se, but about truth and lies told in theater and real life, particularly for political gains.

As you all probably know, the "standard line" on the play Macbeth is that it was written after 1605, refers to the Gunpowder Plot (November, 1605), and was written to please James I (who came to the throne in 1603) because it shows his supposed ancestor Banquo in a good light and has witches which were a fascintion for James. Of course, almost all of this seems to me (and other Oxfordians) to be nonsense.

To begin with, the only connection the play has to the Gunpowder Plot is that it mentions "equivocation" (particularly in the Porter scene) and the doctrine of equivocation was used as a defense in the trials of many of the conspirators in the plot. However, the doctrine of equivocation was known many years before this and in fact was an important part of previous trials of Jesuits (most notably that of Father Robert Southwell in 1595).  In fact, the word "equivocation" also occurs in Hamlet, "officially" written in 1598. Secondly, the "fascination" that James I had with witches is that he was extremely terrified of them. Thirdly, it seems to me that putting on a play where a Scottish king gets murdered is not one calculated to please James. In fact, along with many other facts that I don't have space to chronicle, it is obvious that Macbeth was written several years before the "official" date of 1605 (and not for James I).

Be that as it may, Bill Cain has taken the official line as to the writing of Macbeth as the spingboard or his new play (hence the title). The premise of the play is that Robert Cecil has commissioned Shagspeare (this is the way Bill Cain prefers to refer to him) to write a play to tell the "official story" of the Gunpowder Plot. Shagspeare agrees, but in his research (interviewing some of the conspirators before they are executed) he begins to doubt the "official story" and comes to see that the whole thing is a big political lie originated by that master manipulator Robert Cecil. He finds that he cannot really write the play the way that Cecil wants it. His compromise is to instead write Macbeth (at least it has witches in it). Luckily the king (James) loves it (oh really?) and everything is OK. Everyone sees that the play is in fact mocking Robert Cecil (actually this is true from the Oxfordian standpoint) who leaves the theater at the premiere of the work (a la Claudius in Hamlet).

The play is very well written and has many good insights into the use of truth and lies as propaganda. It also is about how a theater company functions with all the disagreements and petty jealousies that arise. Unfortunately, it does contain some of the attempts by scholars to try to construct parallels between the life of Shakespeare of Stratford with the plays, such as how he felt so bad about the death of his son Hamnet that he wrote the play Hamlet, and how the themes of the so-called late plays (a father throwing away a daughter only to be reconciled with her at the end) match William of Stratford's supposed regret at shunning his two daughters (even traditional scholars have difficulty with that one).

But this kind of nonsense (in my opinion of course) does not overwhelm the play and the picture it paints of the Machiavellian Robert Cecil and how he is caricatured in the plays of William Shakespeare is quite true (except that the William Shakespeare in question is the Earl of Oxford who knew Cecil very well as a brother-in-law).

I will have to see what kind of effect this new play has as it becomes more known.

Monday, April 13, 2009

John Shahan reports on Shakespeare Authorship Coalition

Note: Oberon will include a discussion of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt at our Shakespeare's UN-birthday celebration on April 23, at the Farmington Community Library. LT

From Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Chairperson, John Shahan:

This Tuesday, April 14, will be the second anniversary of the launch of theDeclaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare. On that day in 2007, same-day signing ceremonies were held at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, and at UCLA's Geffen Playhouse. Each event involved a Declaration signing by ten prominent authorship doubters, the most notable being former LA Times Arts Critic Emeritus Charles Champlin.

Since then, 1,470 people have signed the Declaration, including 263 current or former college and university faculty members. Of the total, 214 have doctorates, and 310 master’s degrees. Overall, 895 are college graduates, the largest number of them in English literature (244), followed by those in the arts (148), theatre arts (106), education (88), history (77), social sciences (76), math/ engineering/ computers (75), natural sciences (67), law (62), and medicine/ health care (61). Among faculty members, the largest category is also English literature (57). Thanks for helping the SAC get off to a good start toward achieving our goal of legitimizing the Shakespeare authorship question in academia by April 23, 2016!

SAC Patrons
We've always had the best arguments on our side, and now we have the best actors! Last year Mark Rylance won the Tony Ward for Best Actor in a Broadway Play. This year Sir Derek Jacobi won the Olivier Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Congratulations to Mark and Sir Derek for taking top honors on both sides of the Atlantic! W are also pleased to announce that actor Michael York has joined Mark and Sir Derek as a SAC patron. Michael has long advocated for the legitimacy of the authorship issue. He was the featured speaker at a reception at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles when the Shakespeare Association of America and World Shakespeare Congress met there in 1994. It was the first authorship-related event for some of us, and his enthusiasm was inspiring. Please join the Board in welcoming Michael. We hope this will portend good things for his career, too!

Notable Signatories
The SAC Board is also pleased to announce the addition of seven people to the list of “notable” signatories on our website. They join the previous ten, for a total of seventeen. It is always difficult to decide whom to include on this list because we have so many distinguished signatories. We have decided to set the bar high in keeping with the quality of the twenty outstanding past doubters named in the Declaration itself. The notables list now includes just 1.1% of current signatories. Keep in mind that all faculty members appear on the separate list of academic signatories. We trust you will agree that the following are all worthy additions:

  • Alan K. Austin – Producer of the documentary "The Shakespeare Mystery," Frontline (PBS). Author of novels "The Adago" and (due in 2010) "A Walking Shadow," involving Edward DeVere
  • Barry R. Clarke, M.Sc. – Daily Telegraph puzzlist; author, “Challenging Logic Puzzles Mensa” (Sterling: 2003), and “The Shakespeare Puzzle” (Lulu: 2008), which argues for Francis Bacon
  • Dr. Keir C. Cutler, Ph.D. – Actor, playwright; Ph.D. in theatre; adapted Mark Twain's "Is Shakespeare Dead?" Performed it across Canada, and it was televised nationally.
  • Mr. Gareth L. Howell, J.D. – President World Affairs Council, Greater Cincinnati, formerly Director of Programs, United Nations International Training Center, Torino, Italy
  • Dr. Mark Andrew Morris, Ph.D. – Visiting Scholar-in-Residence, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta. As Canada's most-performed librettist, I cannot believe Shakspere was the author.
  • Michael D. Rubbo, M.A. – Director, "Much Ado About Something," award-winning documentary on the case for Christopher Marlowe; co-winner, Hoffman prize. Former lecturer on film, Harvard.
  • Prof. Jack M. Shuttleworth, Ph.D. – Professor of English, Emeritus, US Air Force Academy; long time Oxfordian; currently editing the Oxfordian edition of Hamlet

We should note that Professor Shuttleworth is also a retired Air Force general, and a former Chairman of the English Department at the Air Force Academy.

Signatory recruitment letter
We have asked our patrons and Academic Advisory Board membersto help recruit additional signatories by sending letters to prominent doubters and others they know. We would like to ask each of you to do the same. Please try to recruit at least one new signatory this year. We have created a draft letter you can revise and send. Feel free to change the names at the top to names of other signers who may be known to those to whom you send letters. Please include copies of the Declaration and signing form from our downloads page. You can also copy the text of the letter into an email and send it that way, if you prefer. Thanks for helping to recruit new signatories. We hope to have another high-profile media event this year, possibly on September 8, the second anniversary of the Doubters’ Day signing event in Chichester. We want to maximize the number of new signers we announce this fall.

Finally, please make a tax-deductible donation to the SAC. We depend on your donations to operate our website, disseminate the Declaration, recruit signatories, organize signing events, and keep our tax-exempt status. Donors of $40.00 or more ($50.00 outside U.S.) are eligible to receive a Declaration poster like those used in signing ceremonies.

SAC Bard of Directors,
John Shahan, Chairman

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Performance of Twelfth Night That's All Wet-Literally

Having been in Chicago for a medical meeting (yes, I do have a life outside of Shakespeare), I took the opportunity to attend a performance of Twelfth Night (well, maybe I DON'T have a life outside of Shakespeare) at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. It was wonderful! The CST ( constantly amazes me with the quality of their productions (I have blogged about them before). I only wish that they would be a reperatory theater instead of a traditional one with one show at a time, so I could go and see multiple plays like I can at Stratford or Ashland. Well, maybe I can use it as an excuse to get away to Chicago more often.

Anyway, I will try to describe the performance. The stage there at CST is a modified thrust one, like the one at the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, ON (only not as long). For this performance the part of the stage that "thrusts" out into the audience (surrounded on three sides) was turned into an actual swimming pool containing various levels from about six inches deep around the edges to over 5 feet deep in the center section. the actors delivered much of their lines while walking around the edges of the pool (in the water) or while swimming in the deep part. Other portions of the action took place on the "dry land" at the back of the stage (where there were many levels of decking built. You can see pictures of how all of this looked and see a video (sped up) of how the usual stage at CST was converted into the pool by going to,31,1,22 (a page that seems not to be accessible directly from the main CST web site).

Throughout the play, just about every actor ended up submerged in the deep part of the pool, whether by being pushed (in a fight), falling in (while drunk), or jumping in (for various reasons). Whenever this happened I (being seated in the first row at the side of the stage/pool) was able to have a little "audience participation" by being splashed (but only a few drops).

All of the actors were wearing beautiful Elizabethan era costumes (informally known as "pumpkin pants") and I was constantly amazed at how these costumes were being soaked (at the start of the play, the actors would remove their outer garments as if they were going for a swim, which of course they were, but later on they would be in the pool in full dress).

Part of the fun of watching the play (aside from the extremely good quality of the cast) was waiting to see who would end up in the pool next and how. Of course, the one person everyone in the audience was waiting to see get dunked was Malvolio who, in his austere Puritan dress (shades of Christopher Hatton?) was the only actor who wasn't barefoot thorought the production (well Feste did wear shoes for a short time while pretending to be Sir Topas the priest). Sadly (maybe) Malvolio never did get into the pool, although he was splashed a little, even when he lost his outer clothes and shoes when everyone thought he was mad.

An added bonus was right at the end when Feste sang his melancholy song containing the refrain "the rain it raineth every day". Seeing him using a tattered umbrella to try to stop real rain (coming down from the top of the theater) made the whole thing very poignant.

All in all, one of the best productions of Twelfth Night I have ever seen.

The production runs until June 7 so there is still time to go see it. In fact, I think I will be proposing another Oberon road trip at our next meeting.