Saturday, October 26, 2013

What's your authority for that statement?

by Linda Theil
Wally Hurst talks about his presentation "What's Your Authority for that Statement?" at the Toronto Shakespeare authorship conference Oct. 17-20, 2013.
Wally Hurst is that rarest of creatures: a master of arts in Shakespeare authorship studies. He was awarded his degree from Brunel University, London, England in July this year. Also trained in the law, Hurst put his academic background to good purpose when he spoke on day-one at the Toronto Shakespeare authorship conference, October 17, 2013. Hurst's presentation was met with great enthusiasm by conference attendees; the title of his talk became something of a byword for the remainder of the conference. In fact, the question raised by Hurst's topic might serve as a motto for anti-Strats everywhere: "What's Your Authority for that Statement?" Hurst told his audience of authorship skeptics that they must develop a sense of skepticism about all research, including their own. In a video overview of his talk, linked above, Hurst said:
We have to recognize our own biases,  our own fallacies, in our everyday thinking -- both in others, which is easy; and in ourselves, which is not so easy. It is very, very difficult to recognize our own biases. We always resort to ad hominim attacks -- which means attacking the person rather than the ideas they hold. We are comfortable with our own beliefs; we think we are the rational and logical ones and everybody who opposes us is irrational and illogical. Those are just two of the fallacies -- the mistakes in everyday thinking, the cognitive biases -- that we hold.
He also proposed a method for thinking about evidence based on what he termed a "living theater proposition":
 . . . examining evidence the way an actor builds character by answering six specific questions; we ask who, what, where, when, why and how. . . . We ask those questions much like an actor asks those questions in building their own character. We can talk about how good the evidence is -- what its veracity is: is it good evidence, some evidence, or evidence not even worth talking about.
In his talk, Hurst recommended reading Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist by Michael Shermer. When asked about Shermer's famous derision for the Shakespeare authorship question (see Note below), Hurst said: 
He’s suffering from his own bias. Physician heal thyself! its very tough to do that. Its something we have to do ourselves. We are not part of a conspiracy therory. We’re a paradigm shift.
Wally Hurst is director of the Norris Theatre and a faculty member at Louisburg College, NC where he teaches courses in English, drama and political science. He and his wife Maria Hurst will lead a tour of London May 11-20, 2014 through the Office of Alumni Relations at Louisburg College. Hurst plans to make his "What's your Authority for that Statement" (see note below) presentation available soon on YouTube. He may be reached at or at 919 497 3429.  Note on Michael Shermer: for more information on Shermer's view of the authorship as a conspiracy theory see "Skeptics take on the life and argued works of Shakespeare" by Michael Shermer, originally published as "Shakespeare Interrupted" in the July 31, 2009 edition of Scientific American. For Oberon commentary on the Shermer SA article see: "SciAm not so rational" "Tom Hunter comments on Shermer's SciAm essay" "Tom Hunter comments on Shahan/Shermer discussion on CHQR"

Note: "What's your Authority for that Statement?" video available on YouTube

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stratford Festival's communications director David Prosser considers name-calling appropriate communication

by Linda Theil

An article titled “Come not between the Oxfordian and his wrath to paraphrase Lear” appeared in the Toronto Globe & Mail on October 16, 2013 -- the day before the Toronto Shakespeare authorship conference began. This piece did not get as much attention as later articles in the local press criticizing York University and Guelph University for their roles in supporting the conference.

In the October 16 article, Stratfordian Kelly Nestruck wrote about an encounter last year between Toronto Shakespeare authorship conference organizer Don Rubin and Ontario's Stratford Festival communications director David Prosser at a day-long authorship seminar Rubin convened on April 7, 2012 wherein Prosser compared authorship inquiry with Holocaust denial.

According to Nestruck’s October 16 article, Prosser said he regretted his comment. Nestruck wrote:
In defending the traditional, fact-based narrative that a fellow named William Shakespeare wrote William Shakespeare’s plays, Prosser made what he now calls a “rhetorical mistake” – asking if there might not be equal grounds for a class questioning whether the Holocaust happened?
“I should have said something less emotionally charged – like how do we really know the Americans landed on the moon,” says Prosser.
I was astonished to discover that -- according to Prosser – he only regretted the "rhetorical mistake" of having used a emotion-laden metaphor. He didn’t regret calling those who wish to study the Shakespeare authorship a despicable name? He only wished he had used a despicable name that fewer people cared about? Is name-calling considered a legitimate rhetorical device at the Shakespeare Festival in Ontario where Prosser serves as "communications" director?

It is hard to reconcile that great institution with Prosser and his crude comprehension of appropriate public discourse. We have complained before about the Shakespeare Festival's support of bullying and we are sorry to see by this recent Nestruck article that the Festival depends on communications professionals possessed of such limited communications skills.

In addition, we suggest to writer Kelly Nestruck that calling the traditional Stratfordian attribution of Shakespeare's plays, "fact-based" does not make that statement true any more than Prosser calling anti-Strats holocaust-deniers makes his statement true. I refer Nestruck to Stratfordian David Ellis' book The Truth about William Shakespeare: Fact, Fiction, and Modern Biography (Edinburgh University, 2012) for one Stratfordian's take on Shakespeare "facts".


Monday, October 21, 2013

Images from Toronto day four

Oxfordian of the year!

Roger Stritmatter, PhD was named Oxfordian of the Year at the 2013 Shakespeare Oxford Society/Shakespeare Fellowship joint conference held at the Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto, Ontario, October 17-20.

SOS President John Hamill and SF President Tom Regnier, JD announce the results of the unification vote. Members of the Shakespeare Oxford Society (138 to two) and the Shakespeare Fellowship (74 to four) voted in favor of unification. Hamill will assume presidency of the unified organization, the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, when legal papers are filed today. Update 10/22/13: Ann Zakelj posted a video of the presidents signing the new bylaws at

Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Director John Shahan spoke to attendees at the conference banquet about what they can do to forward the cause of anti-Stratfordian research: 1. read and sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, 2. share authorship ideas on social media and elsewhere, 3. support research with donations of time and money.

Alex McNeil holds unification votes at SF annual meeting October 20, 2013: 74 yes, four no. McNeil will edit the newsletter for the new Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship.

Researcher Earl Showerman, MD presented on the topic of "A Midsummer Night's Dream: Shakespeare's Aristophanic Comedy" on the final day of the conference, October 20.

Sky Gilbert, PhD -- Guelph University associate professor and conference presenter of "Was Shakespeare a Euphuist?"-- was quoted in the Guelph-Mercury in response to university colleagues who publicly criticized university involvement in the Shakespeare authorship conference. The article, titled "Guelph professors troubled over Shakespeare debate" by Chris Seto was published Oct. 19, 2013.

Local conference organizer Don Rubin, who teaches a course on the Shakespeare authorship at York University also came under fire in print. Theater critic Kelly Nestruck authored a piece that appeared Oct. 16, 2013 in the Toronto Globe & Mail titled "Amid controversy, two Canadian universities financilly back debate over Shakespeare's 'true identity'". Both articles generated extensive commentary by readers. Rubin invited Nestruck to debate the issue in today's (Oct. 21, 2013) Letters to the Editor in the Globe & Mail.

Unified organization gets glamorous new website

Jennifer Newton, creator of The Shakespeare Underground podcast site worked with members of the Shakespeare Fellowship communications committee to redesign the Fellowship website which will incorporate the site of the former Shakespeare Oxford Society now that both organizations have unified. Material from both old SF and SOS sites will be archived and available on the new site. For a preview of the space that will be the official home of the new Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship on the Web, go to

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Images from Toronto day three

Film maker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan presented on the topic of Oxford's homosexuality. "I believe Oxfords sexuality is a primary reason for his pseudonym," she said. She will debut her film Nothing Is Truer than the Truth in Boston in November.

New York actor and author Hank Whittemore spoke about Oxford as the guiding force behind the three most important acting companies of Elizabeth's reign.

Lynne Kositsky and Roger Stritmatter sign their new book On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Journalist Mark Anderson gave the keynote address on "Shakespeare, Newton and Einstein: Listening to the Obsession of Genius".

Shelly Maycock made her debut appearance at the conference with a paper on "Essex, Oxford, and the Concept of Popularity in Late Elizabethan Discourse".

SOS/SF Unification vote:
During the SOS annual meeting this morning, Vote Teller Frank Davis announced a total of  l38 ballots in favor of the unification of the Shakespeare Oxford Society and the Shakespeare Fellowship, two negative votes and two abstentions were cast. The Fellowship will vote on the unification tomorrow morning and the results will be announced before the end of the conference.

More local press coverage, this article from the Guelph Mercury: "Guelph professors troubled over Shakespeare debate" at

Update 10/26/13
Canadian actor Keir Cutler, PhD presented in his signature comedic style "From Crackpot to Mainstream: The Evolution of the Authorship Question" explaining how the Shakespeare authorship question is going from crackpot idea to mainstream thought, on the third day of the Toronto Shakespeare authorship conference, October 19, 2013. A video of his presentation is now available on YouTube at "Shakespeare Authorship / Crackpot to Mainstream"

Friday, October 18, 2013

Images from Toronto day two

Shakespeare Authorship Conference organizer Don Rubin (right) and assistants Chad Froude (left) and Peter Andrusiak (center) prepare for a second successful day at the Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto, Ontario.

Shakespeare Fellowship President Tom Regnier beams after successful presentation on the errors in Clarkson and Warner's analysis of Shakespeare's knowledge of the law.

Gerit Quealy presented a fascinating look at how authorship study informs the work of actors.

York University theater students Michael Atlin and Jade Lattanzi illustrated Quealy's talk wearing t-shirts she designed based on the Droushout engraving in the First Folio. Check out availability on her Facebook page, History Chiq.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Images from Toronto conference2013

Oberon member Ron Halsted, after successful presentation on the "Dangerous Timeliness of Julius Caesar"

Bonner Cutting, SF trustee

Roger Stritmatter and Wally Hurst discuss Hurst's presentation on examining evidence in early modern authorship. UPDATE DEC 7 2013: Hurst's address now available on YouTube at:

Anthony Pointon and Heward Wilkinson in from England will present this weekend.

Hanno Wember from Germany and Michael Kositsky discuss Wember's presentation of Robert Detobel's "The Outcast State".

Richard Joyrich, SOS trustee relaxes after a successful conference launch,

Note: We were very sorry to hear that Ron Hess and family members were in an auto collision on their way to the conference with no injuries, but Hess will not attend the conference to present his paper on Oxford'ssecretary hand. We send our best wishes for their speedy recovery from their trauma.

As SAC's John Shahan said in an email to colleagues, Toronto welcomes Oxfordians in Globe & Mail article.