Monday, April 30, 2012

True Shakespeare offers matching funds to Shakespeare authorship film-maker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan

Edward de Vere bust commissioned by True Shakespeare founder Ben August

Film-maker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan of Controversy Films thanks Oberon readers for their support and announced a matching pledge from backer True Shakespeare: 
Thank you so much for your continued support of NOTHING IS TRUER THAN TRUTH. We are committed to bringing the true story of Shakespeare to audiences around the world. . . . Our sponsor True Shakespeare has offered to match new donations to NOTHING IS TRUER THAN TRUTH made on his page up to $7,500 Please join us and tell your friends to go to the Edward de Vere-Shakespeare Facebook page to make a donation now: 
With just 4 hours left, for our Finishing Funds campaign to be successful, we need more backers, including Associate Producer level backers. If you have any friends or colleagues who might be interested in joining the NOTHING IS TRUER THAN TRUTH team, . . . [click on] . With your help, NOTHING IS TRUER THAN TRUTH will be screening at festivals later this year! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shapiro invents a Jacobean Shakespeare for BBC

From British TV listings for April 23, 2012:

The King & The Playwright: A Jacobean History, BBC4, 9pm World-renowned American scholar Professor James Shapiro re-examines the work of the world's greatest playwright during the troubled first decade of King James's reign, in this new three-part documentary series. This is not the familiar Shakespeare of the time of Elizabeth, but the dark, complex Jacobean Shakespeare, at the height of his powers in truly turbulent times. . .  

The King & The Playwright: A Jacobean History, BBC4, 9pm  A three-parter in which US professor James Shapiro looks at the influence of King James I on Shakespeare and his plays. During this time the Bard’s output reflected the troubled and unpredictable times ushered in but this new ruler, but being promoted to a King’s Player did wonders for his bank balance and profile (much to the chagrin of present-day schoolkids across the land). Sinister strings add to the atmosphere of the saga.

The King and the Playwright: A Jacobean History, 9 p.m. BBC4 American scholar James Shapiro eschews the Bard's Elizabethan plays to look at the work Shakespeare wrote during the first decade of King James's reign. In Shapiro's reading, James was admirably intellectual yet lacked the common touch. Enjoying the personal patronage of James, Shakespeare saw the workings of the court close up. In the first of three documentaries-cum-personal essays, Shapiro looks at how the era's uncertainties fed into Measure For Measure, the little-performed Timon Of Athens and King Lear. Excellent. Jonathan Wright

UPDATE 04/24/12
Reviews of first installment of three-part documentary on James Shapiro's imaginings about Shakespeare and King James:
The Guardian
The Independent
This is Cornwall

UPDATE 05/29/12
See De Vere Society Secretary Richard Malim's response to Shapiro's arguments at:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Shakespeare authorship documentary to air tomorrow on SKY Arts 2 in UK

Lisa Wilson, co-director with Laura Wilson Matthias of the new Shakespeare authorship documentary Last Will. & Testament, announced this week that the film will air in the United Kingdom tomorrow, April 21, 2012 at 8 p.m. on SKY Arts 2Wilson said she and Matthias are negotiating US distribution and will update viewers at their website First Folio Pictures and on their new Facebook page, Last Will. & TestamentWilson and Matthias showed Last Will. & Testament in their American premier at the Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre conference in Portland, Oregon on April 14, 2012. Wilson said:

"Thanks to all who attended the Portland screening for your enthusiastic response and lively discussion!  Special thanks to Daniel Wright, Al Austin, James Gaynor, Dominic Toulouse, Earl Showerman and our great panel of contributors:  Hank Whittemore, Roger Stritmatter, Laura Wilson Matthias, Bill Boyle, and Michael Delahoyde."

Oberon chairperson Richard Joyrich attended the conference and sent a report about the film. (He also plans to post a full report on the conference on this site, soon.) Joyrich said:

I was very pleased to be in the audience for a special showing of Last Will. & Testament during the recent Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University. It really is an amazing achievement and a beautiful film. I hope Lisa and Laura can get it shown on TV soon, or maybe out via Netflix or DVD so you can all see it for yourself. We might be able to also have a showing of it at the SF/SOS Joint Shakespeare Authorship Conferencein Pasadena October 18-21, including "unused footage". [Shakespeare Fellowship President Earl Showerman has confirmed this booking. LT]
The film is 90 minutes long and features great production values (including several scenes from the movie Anonymous). It features interviews and contributions from Stanley Wells and Jonathan Bate,Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Rylance, Hank Whittemore, Bill Boyle, Roger Stritmatter, Diana Price, Daniel Wright, Michael Cecil, William Leahy, Michael Delahoyde, and Charles Beauclerk, [among others].
The film is in three sections (called "acts" by Lisa and Laura, but not noted as such in the film). These are 1) Why the traditional story doesn't make sense (except to the two Stratfordians), 2) The case for Edward de Vere, and 3) A possible reason for what happened and why we should care who wrote the plays (the same one given in Anonymous). This last part was not given in a "dogmatic fashion" and Derek Jacobi called it only one of several possible scenarios.
This film has already been sold to Sky TV in England (for three years) and will be premiering there on April 21. Apparently, the twins are close to making deals in Germany and Russia (both places where Anonymous did very well compared to the US). But they are having trouble getting something in the US. They are somewhat hampered by legal considerations since Roland Emmerich (and, through him, Sony) are involved and portions of Anonymous are in the film. By the way, in my opinion, the way that the scenes from Anonymous are used in this film are superior to the way they were presented in the original movie (less "dramatic baggage" and confusion).
There was a panel discussion that went on after the screening of the film. Joining Lisa and Laura were Michael Delahoyde, Bill Boyle, Dan Wright, Roger Stritmatter, and Hank Whittemore (all having appeared in the film).
Some interesting information that was revealed was that Lisa and Laura had approached Kenneth Branaugh, Harold Bloom, and James Shapiro for the film, but all declined [with] Shapiro not even answering their inquiry. Lisa and Laura said that they had about 254,000 words that they edited down to 12,000 for the film as it exists now and as it will be shown in England. Perhaps some future use of other footage will be possible.
PBS and some other US networks Lisa and Laura approached wanted them to edit it down further into only 60 minutes or less, but they don't want to do this (and I can't blame them). They said that if they don't get a TV deal in 60-90 days, they will deal with Netflix.
UPDATE 04/28/12

Last Will. & Testament is now available online at SKY GO!  (UK Only) Click here to stream or download the film to your computer. Next broadcast: June 21st at 7:30 pm on Sky Arts 1

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eagan-Donovan hopes to wind up long-term, film project this year

Cheryl Eagan-Donovan at Shakespeare Authorship Studies conference April 12, 2012

Director Cheryl Eagan-Donovan reports on her film, Nothing Is Truer Than Truth:
I wanted to let your group know about my new Kickstarter campaign to raise [$25,000] finishing funds for my film Nothing Is Truer Than Truth. I screened an excerpt from the film at the Concordia [Shakespeare Authorship Studies] Conference [on April 13, 2012]. . . . The total budget for the film is less than one million dollars, and we are working toward festival a debut in 2012. . . . Funding received to date has been generously provided by individual donors and by a grant from Shakespeare Fellowship Foundation. For more information about the film, go to: or
From Eagan-Donovan's press release on the new fundraising campaign:

Director Cheryl Eagan-Donovan has launched a new Kickstarter campaign to raise finishing funds for her feature length documentary, Nothing is Truer than Truth. Speaking at the 16th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University, she also announced the formation of an advisory committee to assist in developing outreach, marketing and distribution strategy for the project. The film is currently in post-production and scheduled for release later this year. Nothing is Truer than Truth is not about the authorship question; it’s about the authorship answer, Edward de Vere.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


During the just-concluded 16th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon (which I hope to describe in an upcoming post) I had the opportunity to see a very unusual production of Shake-Speare's Sonnets in Portland (Cheryl Eagan-Donovan, another conference attendee) went along with me). Note that this was definitely NOT part of the Conference; we went on our own after the Conference events were finished for the day.

There were only two other people in the audience with us. I am curious as to what they thought of the performance. The production was very "avant-garde" (a term I got from Cheryl; I would have said "incomprehensible").

It was done (as you may be able to see in the above advertising poster) by the Fuse Theatre Ensemble at the Q Center in Portland. This is the community center for the Gay and Lesbian community in Portland and is quite a nice place. The intent of the production was to show how the Sonnets can be seen as homosexual and bisexual (a relationship involving Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton) and that this could be the reason they were initially suppressed after being published in 1609.

The tag line under the name on the poster (hard to read above) is "What if the reason we know so little is because they knew too much?" I really like this sentiment. Of course there have been various other theories put forward to explain why the Sonnets had to be hidden and their author not identified.

The production featured two women, playing the parts of Poet and Earl, and a man (dressed in black with a black hood covering his head and face). I don't really know what his part was. He seemed to be some kind of manipulator of the two other characters (and probably also represented the Rival Poet in Sonnets 78-86). The Poet had tape over her mouth for the whole performance (I guess signifying inability to come forward or be acknowledged).

There was a projection screen which, at the beginning and end, showed strange images of someone writing sonnets using black and red ink which was then smeared all around and, during most of the show, a "count-up" of the Sonnets as they were each performed (yes, all 154 of them). The show lasted about 90 minutes, with no intermission (which may have been fortunate for the actors as I don't think Cheryl and I would have stayed for a second Act).

As I said, all 154 Sonnets were performed (in a fashion). Most were recited in entirety by a voice-over (I think it was the man in black, who it turns out was also the director of the play) with occasional recitation in whole or part of some Sonnets by the Earl along with the voice-over ("Why not the Poet?" Cheryl and I wondered-oh yes, she had tape over her mouth). There were some Sonnets, especially at the beginning (the first 17 "procreation" sonnets) and at the end (the "Dark Lady" ones) which had only their first few lines said.

During all of this Sonnet reciting, the actors engaged in highly theatrical (i.e. weird in my opinion) dancing and stylized encounters (during which the actors sometimes wrote words on each other with a marker pen). There was a sign at the box office (that is a desk in the Q center) warning that the show was rated R for partial nudity and strong language. Well, there was certainly partial nudity in some of the encounters of the Poet and Earl, but the only language I heard was by Shakespeare (well, I guess it could be considered strong).

After it was all over, there was opportunity for some discussion with the actors. They did know about the Authorship Question, but were not that interested in it. They only wanted to explore the themes they had found in the Sonnets.

Cheryl and I certainly had an interesting time!

Perhaps we had seen something wonderful and groundbreaking and perhaps we simply wasted our only free evening during the Concordia Conference. Time will tell. You can read more if you want at

I do like the tag line very much though!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Prosser asks "Why don't we study holocaust denial?"

Students at Shakespeare authorship seminar at York University April 7, 2012

Richard Joyrich, MD gave an excellent overview of “Shakespeare: The Authorship Question” seminar hosted by Professor Don Rubin at York University on April 7, 2012 in his article, “York University Tackles the Authorship Question”. The seminar was planned and executed by students under Rubin’s direction as the culmination of their participation in his Shakespeare authorship course held during the winter semester.

“Two years ago I suggested we offer a course and got the usual laughter,” Rubin said. “A friend tried to stop me from making a fool of myself. After debate and stubbornness on my part, I offered the course. We cut off the class enrollment at 30 members, and 26 students finished. I thank my students; they were the primary researchers. My goal is to make them all understand just how odd the connections are between the author and Shaksper.”

His success was demonstrated during the culminating panel discussion when keynote speaker, panel member and Shakespeare by Another Name author, Mark Anderson, asked students to report on their experience in Rubin’s authorship course.

Students responded with thoughtful comments:

“When presented with information and documents, it became impossible for me to believe what I believed before I went into this class.”

“You can’t not talk about this – a debate needs to happen.”

“We really need to be critically thinking.”

Michael Wisniowski, a third-year, film screenwriting, and education student from Toronto spoke about the benefits of Rubin’s course and asked, “Why shouldn’t we discuss the authorship question?”

David Prosser on panel at "Shakespeare: The Authorship Question"

David Prosser, director of communications for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Ontario, replied, “Why shouldn’t we discuss holocaust denial?”

Unfamiliar with this crude, but common Stratfordian rhetorical tactic, Rubin’s students seemed to recoil in disgust, and Wisniowski retorted that there is no comparison between the two issues. Wisniowski said, later:
I explained that the two were completely dissimilar, when there is so much overwhelming evidence for that horrific event and nowhere near enough evidence one way or the other for the authorship question. Before I was cut off to responding to that comment -- after getting what I believe was a rousing applause for telling him there's no comparison between the two -- I was going to ask him, despite the ludicrousness of the topic, would he not be interested in at least attending a debate about it? I think Mr. Prosser is a very close-minded individual who has done no research on the topic due to his own close-mindedness, which is very unfortunate.
I don't want to completely bad mouth the guy, because he is entitled to what he believes! I just think that it's a little ridiculous that he's ridiculing the idea of skepticism and reasonable doubt and the yearning for more information. Especially seeing as how I advocated that it very well could have been the Bard from Stratford. I'm just interested in the debate and interested in the information and the arguments that all sides come up with. It's entertaining, informative and, most importantly, gets you thinking critically, which is something not enough people these days do.
Mark Anderson on panel at "Shakespeare: The Authorship Question"

During the closing commentary, Mark Anderson said -- in a very gracious but grave manner -- that he could not allow Prosser’s remark to stand without comment. “We are studying a literary question,” Anderson said. “We are not killing six-million people.”

Professor Rubin said that the April 7, 2012 seminar was being taped and would be published in edited form at a future date. He also intends to write about his Shakespeare authorship course for publication.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poet Patricia Keeney reads "Shakespeare in Space" at Toronto authorship conference

Patricia Keeney reading "Shakespeare in Space" York. U. April 7, 2012

Poet Patricia Keeney read her poem "Shakespeare in Space" at the York University seminar titled "Shakespeare: The Authorship Question" held April 7, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. Keeney is professor of English and creative writing at the university and is married to conference organizer Don Rubin. Together they attended the 2009 SF/SOS Shakespeare authorship conference held in Houston where Keeney was inspired to compose "Shakespeare in Space". Keeney said:
What inspired the poem is contained in the little headnote under the title. That first (for me) conference in Houston with the Oxfordians was a revelation. Combined with our tour of the space centre, it gave me two whole sets of languages with which to express what I think is really a call to take risks in our thinking, especially in academia which should be all about discovery and exploration, intelligent adventure!
As an editor, and theater and literary critic, Keeney publishes in Canadian and international journals. She is the author of nine books of poetry and a picaresque novel, The Incredible Shrinking Wife; her works have been translated into many languages including Hindi and Chinese. Her latest English book of poetry, First Woman, was published in 2011 by Inanna Publications.
Oberon is honored to be given permission to publish the poem, "Shakespeare in Space", by Patricia Keeney.

Shakespeare in Space

(being the result of a conference on the Shakespeare authorship question held in Houston, Texas)
Houston we have a problem.

There’s an alien in the galaxy
imposter on the cultural radar
pretender to the literary throne

an English Renaissance upstart
cruising around with the classicists
Gemini and Apollo
sailing the Sea of Tranquility
cresting an Ocean of Storms

here and now
at the authorship conference
literary inquisition
star chamber, torturing
the question:
was Shakespeare really Shakespeare?

or the Earl of Oxford?

We circle in space.
Did he sign his name
hand write a manuscript
(disputed hand)
compose the music
trumpet fanfares and an aubade
this simple man of Stratford?

Skylab trainees
we ponder
his dance with Don Juan of Austria
flamboyant in Love’s Labours Lost and Othello
an intimate of France and Spain.
Could our untraveled bard step so lavishly
before the conqueror at England’s gates
light a Spanish fire in Elizabeth’s court?

Somersaulting  through weightless space
we come undone
froth at the mouth when we brush our teeth
spray onto walls a pointillist painting.

The shaker of spears was any playwright
needing anonymity in a dangerous time.
Stratford kept Oxford
umbilically tethered to earth.

Reading Greek and Latin in the original
marking out verses of his blue boar bible
David and his harp, the artist at court
practicing legalities in the sonnets
this unlettered actor in his verse
sang songs of strange birds
the phoenix half-dreamer,
the siren, all-seeming
this local village man.

From mission control
our brains are bombarded
invisible relays, the tapping of keys
sending whispers through space
close as a closet, farther
than freedom or fear.

We’ve practiced for this.
dangled in partial gravity
spun in neutral buoyancy

Snub-nosed and charging
we’re riding the rocket
not easy but hard 
to moonwalk again

past an oak grove of dead astronauts
and ideas

when Stratford was a Roman road
and Oxford a crossing for cows.

Patricia Keeney, 2009

Monday, April 9, 2012

York University Tackles The Authorship Question

Lamberto Tassinari

Christopher Innes, David Prosser, Don Rubin, Michel Vais, Keir Cutler, Mark Anderson

This past weekend Linda Theil and I represented Oberon at an Authorship Conference at York University in Toronto. This conference was organized by Professor Donald Rubin of the Theatre Department at York University as a culmination of a semester long seminar he taught at that university over the winter (more on this course in a later post).

The conference was very enjoyable. Don Rubin was an excellent host and I was glad to meet him again (he had been at the Joint SOS/SF conferences in Houston and Washington).

The conference began at 11:00 on Saturday with some opening remarks by Professor Rubin, in which he described how he became interested in the Authorship Question after reading Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare By Another Name and how he was very happy to have taught a course on the subject (over some objections by fellow faculty members at the University). Many, if not all, of his students were present at the conference.

We then were treated to a rare performance of Mark Twain’s Is Shakespeare Dead, performed by Keir Cutler from Montreal. I saw him do this show live in Houston and Ashland at past Authorship Conferences and I enjoyed it as much as I did before. The rest of the audience loved it as well.

After a break , we heard the keynote address by Mark Anderson, “The Bard’s New Clothes: Shakespeare’s Autobiography and Why the Authorship Controversy Matters”. In this talk, Mark detailed many of the parallels between the works of Shakespeare and the life of Edward de Vere, particularly his travels in Italy and his relationship to his first wife, Anne Cecil.
Mark also pointed out how the “Shakespeare Industry” seemed to shut down in 1604 (the year of deVere’s death), as the Shakespeare works use no proven source material published after 1604 and the works do not mention or refer to important events which happened after that year.

Mark thinks that knowing how the Shakespeare works might be somewhat autobiographical can help readers and performers of the plays to understand what might otherwise be problematic scenes or plays, and to see more of how characters in different plays are related to each other thematically.

After a break for lunch, catered by Pickle Barrel of Toronto, we had a reading by Professor Patricia Keeney of the English Department (and Professor Rubin’s wife) of her poem Shakespeare in Space, which she wrote after attending her first Authorship conference in Houston and then we watched The Shakespeare Conspiracy, a video made in 2000 by a German filmmaker, starring Derek Jacobi. Both of these presentations were also well received by the audience.

It was now time for a Panel Discussion, moderated by Professor Rubin, featuring Lamberto Tassinari, from Montreal, author of the recently published John Florio, The Man Who Was Shakespeare; Christopher Innes, Professor in the English Department at York University; David Prosser, Theatre Critic and Director of Literary Services at the Stratford Festival (Ontario); Michel Vais, Editor of the Quebec theatre journal Jeu and Secretary-General of the International Association of Theatre Critics; Keir Cutler, actor and director; and Mark Anderson, author of Shakespeare By Another Name.

Lamberto Tassinari can be seen in the top picture above and the rest of the panel is seen in the second picture (in the same order left to right as I named them in the previous paragraph-except that Professor Rubin is third from the left between David Prosser and Michel Vais).
Each of the panel members initially did a 5-10 presentation and then there was discussion among the panel with questions from the audience.

Lamberto Tassinari presented a quick summary of the case for John Florio as the author of the Shakespeare works. Some important points made were that many of the plays display a knowledge of Italy and Italian ways, Florio’s vocabulary and literary style is a good match for Shakespeare’s, and Florio was the translator into English of Montaigne’s Essays and Boccaccio’s Decameron, two important source texts for Shakespeare. I may go into more detail on this topic in a future post, as I think that John Florio deserves more attention than he has gotten to this point , although I must say I still have difficulties with him being Shakespeare. For now, I offer this link to Lamberto Tassinari’s website:

Professor Innes, representing William of Stratford, began his remarks by criticizing the recent movie Anonymous for its historical errors. Of course, this is just a straw man argument, as this movie was never meant to be a documentary or an exposition of the case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare. It is a movie, and is historical fiction, meant to tell a story (much as Shakespeare did in his Histories). Professor Innes than questioned the conspiracy aspect of a hidden or secret author, wondering how many people would have known of it, how such a secret could be kept, and why did it need to be kept after the death of the true author? At the end of his presentation Professor Innes tried to make the case that the plays of Shakespeare are not particularly aristocratic in outlook, thereby flying in the face of most Shakespearean scholarship.

David Prosser, also representing the Stratfordian case, did make some good points regarding how a secret author would work in an acting company during rehearsals and preparation for a play. What if questions come up when the author is not around? Also, how would such a secret be maintained when the actors (known for their egos and tendency for gossip) would certainly know that their fellow actor William was not the real author? I think that Mr. Prosser is imposing his idea of how theater works today on the time of Shakespeare when things were quite different, but his points are valid in some sense. Unfortunately, Mr. Prosser completely lost the sympathy of the audience when he tried to compare the Authorship question to various more current conspiracy theories, including one that I will not dignify by mentioning it here.

Michel Vais was convinced by reading Lamberto Tassinari’s book on John Florio and added some of his own reasons for believing that there is a very good case for Florio as Shakespeare.
Keir Cutler decried the unwillingness of Universities to teach (or even mention) the Authorship Question and applauded Professor Rubin for doing what he has done. The Authorship Question is a legitimate one and deserves academic attention (even, as Keir says, if the final conclusion is that the traditional author turns out to be confirmed). This point was poignantly made during the audience participation portion of the Discussion when a student described her efforts to spread the word about this conference to other universities and solicit input. She was nearly universally shunned and told that she was not to bother with such stuff. The stunned student could only say, “I’m a student. I’m just asking someone to teach me!”

Mark Anderson then rebutted a few points made by some of the previous speakers and added some more interesting information on Edward de Vere, such as how de Vere could certainly have read Montaigne and Boccaccio in their original languages, both works being in the libraries of his tutors and father-in-law (where he spent much of his educational years) and did not have to wait for John Florio to translate them.

The question and answer period with the audience was very good, with much participation from Professor Rubin’s students.

The conference then ended, but Linda and I were invited to have dinner with the whole panel (except for the two Stratfordians, who for some reason declined to attend). Of course, there was much lively discussion around the table. After nearly three hours of this, we finally all called it a night (partly in response to the looks we were getting from the restaurant staff who thought we were never going to leave).

All in all, it was a very good experience and I hope Professor Rubin will be able and willing to put something like this on again. I think it would make a wonderful annual event. Professor Rubin is planning on attending (and maybe presenting) at the upcoming Joint Authorship Conference in Pasadena.