Thursday, April 27, 2017

Young actors respond to Shakespeare authorship controversy


Interlochen Arts Academy students Clara Honigberg and Peter Carroll attend the
"Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" April 22, 2017 at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
by Linda Theil

David Montee's "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" at Interlochen Center for the Arts on April 22, 2017, included a large audience contingent of Montee's students who attend his acting classes at Interlochen Arts Academy -- a fine-arts, boarding, high-school in Interlochen, Michigan.

Among the students attending were two of the principal actors in Montee's production of CardenioClara Honigberg of Washington DC who played Luscinda, and Peter Carroll of San Francisco who played Fernando. Both young actors expressed enthusiasm for the topic of Shakespeare authorship, and they agreed to share their reactions and insights with Oberon readers. Their interviews are highlighted below.

Academy post-grad Anna Armstrong also shared her response to the authorship symposium. Armstrong is taking Mantee's Acting Shakespeare class to prepare her portrayal of Lady Macbeth; and she will perform the role of Eliza Doolittle in Interlochen Center for the Arts' May 12 and 13, 2017 production of My Fair Lady. 

I enjoyed the symposium immensely and think it was a brilliant way to get students' minds going about such an intricate and seemingly controversial topic. As a young actress, I am fairly new to the world of Shakespeare but I love academic discussion and debate, so watching those two come together was wonderful. 
I found the symposium to be informative, insightful, and entertaining. Now that the authorship question has been posed, I feel curious enough to begin my own research and exploration on the topic. I appreciate the time and effort that the members of the panel gave us and share a special thank you to the academy’s instructor of all things Shakespeare, Dr. David Montee, who organized the event.
Montee had invited Oberon chair Richard Joyrich, MD, to give an overview of the authorship question at the symposium, and to participate in an afternoon panel discussion with Sabrina Feldman, PhD, who supports Thomas Sackville; and actor Scott Harman who supports the traditional Stratfordian attribution.

The students in Montee's Acting Shakespeare class were required to attend as part of their course work. Montee said:
The responses of our students to the symposium were quite enthusiastic, and I think it gave them a clearer picture of the major questions behind the authorship controversy. 
Spirited discussions continue with the students about the authorship of the plays, in class and informally. They're fascinated, and are researching more on their own. Exactly what I wanted to happen.
So far, about 20 students have signed the poster board "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt"; when the lines ran out, they signed around the blank borders near the bottom. When everyone has signed it that wants to, we'll hang it somewhere in the theater hallways, then send you a picture to post on your blog.

Interview with Interlochen Arts Academy student, Peter Carroll

Oberon: Are you interested in the Shakespeare authorship controversy?
Carroll: Yes, though until the symposium I was relatively unaware that there even was such thing as an authorship controversy. Sure, I had hear some conversation over the uncertainty surrounding the Bard’s identity, but the sheer amount of puzzling facts that complicate the issue was astounding. Now, it has thoroughly captivated my interest.


Oberon: Do you feel that the controversy has any impact at all on your work on the stage?

Carroll: The controversy has in no way tainted my view of this “Shakespeare”, whoever he was. If anything, the issue has inspired me to dig into his texts with even more ferocity. To think that some answer lies buried within lines of beautiful verse to be uncovered by the savvy actor greatly excites me.


Oberon: In general, does an actor's work have any relationship at all to the author/screenwriter/content provider's work?

Carroll: That’s an interesting question. I’m sure in many ways the content provider has some say over the actor’s work, some sense of pushing the actor to give the performance he envisioned. But with the works of “Shakespeare”, the original content provider is long, long dead. Therefore, the actor has more of an opportunity to interpret the text as totally fresh, to create a performance that is entirely their own. We like to think that by analyzing the text closely enough, an actor can capture the original essence of the role he is portraying.


Oberon: To your best recollection, could you comment on your response to any and/or all of the three speakers at the event: Joyrich, Feldman and Harman? Did you find any or all of them compelling? Have you developed your own viewpoint on the topic of the Shakespeare authorship?

Carroll: I thought each presenter had some extremely interesting ideas, although some had more of a knack for presenting than others. Mr Harman, for instance, had natural stage presence and thus came across as very convincing. Mrs. Feldman delivered the most original and interesting argument I had ever heard on the Shakespeare issue, presenting some uncanny points about Thomas Sackville's connection to the Shakespeare canon. This symposium has certainly cultivated the idea in my mind that the works of “Shakespeare” are very likely made up of multiple [writers], as collaboration between playwrights was a very common theme of the early moderns.


Oberon: What is your sense of how your peers have responded to the issue?

Carroll: I have seen NO trace of resistance to this topic among my friends. I have admired the open-mindedness that my fellow theater students have maintained about this whole topic. The [Reasonable Doubt] poster board given to us by Mr. Joyrich has been signed by many theater students so far, and I’m sure more are still to come.


Oberon: Will you present a paper or other academic response to your attendance at the symposium? Did you receive academic credit for attending?

Carroll: It was mandatory for us to attend the symposium. My Acting Shakespeare class is required to write a two-to-three-page paper for academic credit detailing how we felt about the symposium and what answer we had to the Shakespeare authorship question.  


Oberon: Do you think the Shakespeare authorship is is a topic worthy of consideration, or is it academically inappropriate?

Carroll: It is absolutely an essential question to be asking. I think academic curiosity about the foremost writer of the western world should be expected. We are all intellectuals and students, why not be inquisitive about Shakespeare’s legitimacy? Why condemn the person who challenges the norm? Who’s getting hurt in the process? It just doesn’t make sense to me.


Interview with Interlochen Arts Academy student, Clara Honigberg
  

Oberon: Are you interested in the Shakespeare authorship controversy?
Honigberg: I am definitely interested in the authorship of Shakespeare and all the controversy that comes with it. The symposium inspired me to sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt!

Oberon: you feel that the controversy has any impact at all on your work on the stage?
Honigberg: I don't feel as though it impacts the work I do on stage. No matter who wrote the plays they are still beautifully written and performed with just as much passion as they would be if we were to discover evidence that proved someone else was the true author of the plays.

Oberon: In general, does an actor's work have any relationship at all to the author/screenwriter/content provider's work?
Honigberg: I believe an actor's work does have a relationship to the author. An actor should always be aware of the author's past and particular life events that may have inspired parts of the play. Doing research as an actor is crucial in order to have a crystal clear understanding of their character and the play as a whole.

Oberon: To your best recollection, could you comment on your response to any and/or all of the three speakers at the event: Joyrich, Feldman and Harman? Did you find any or all of them compelling? Have you developed your own viewpoint on the topic of the Shakespeare authorship?
Honigberg: Joyrich presented an argument for the Earl of Oxford being the true author of Shakespeare's plays. He presented some evidence, but it was hard to follow because he spoke very quietly and didn't have any visual aids. He agreed with many of Feldman's points, but applied it to the Earl of Oxford rather than to Sackville.

Feldman's presentation was very strong with lots of evidence supporting Thomas Sackville as the true "Shakespeare." She obviously had done extensive research on the authorship of Shakespeare and was able to provide sufficient evidence against any potential loopholes presented to her within the argument of Thomas Sackville.

Harman gave the most entertaining and engaging argument of all the speakers. It was very easy to follow and the way in which he presented it drew the audience in. Although the presentation was great, Harman barely provided evidence supporting that Shakespeare is in fact Shakespeare.


All presentations helped me further develop my view of who the true author of the Shakespearean plays are. I believe the person who provided the most convincing evidence and gave the most compelling argument was Sabrina Feldman. She convinced me almost completely that Thomas Sackville is the true author. Unfortunately, we will probably never know who the author truly was.


Oberon: What is your sense of how your peers have responded to the issue?
Honigberg: All of my peers have had very strong responses to the symposium. It has inspired many discussions at lunch and throughout the day. We are all continuing to discuss who we thought presented the best arguments and who we think wrote the "Shakespearean" plays.


Oberon: Will you have to present a paper or other academic response to our attendance at the symposium? Did you receive academic credit for attending?
Honigberg: I will have to present a paper to David Montee -- the director of Cardenio and my Acting Shakespeare instructor -- about who I thought had the most compelling argument. I did not receive any academic credit for attending, but was required to. If it weren't required to attend, I still would have stayed.


Oberon: Do you think the Shakespeare authorship is is a topic worthy of consideration, or is it academically inappropriate?
Honigberg: I think it is worth discussing the authorship of Shakespeare at great length. It is a very intriguing topic that I think more people should open their minds to and start considering other possible authors as being the man we know as "Shakespeare."

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UPDATE May 2, 2017









 Interlochen Arts Academy teacher David Montee, PhD, sent Oberon a photo of his Acting Shakespeare students who signed SAC's "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare" after studying the topic and attending the "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" Montee organized at Interlochen Center for the Arts on April 22, 2017.

Interlochen Arts Academy students in David Montee's Acting Shakespeare class signed SAC's "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare" in April, 2017