Shakespeare Authorship Coalition

Wednesday 4 May

Outcome of 400th anniversary global events

In our tenth anniversary news release, we said that Shakespeare authorship doubters in cities worldwide were planning to hold events this April to reaffirm their doubts about the identity of Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the death of Mr. Shakspere, and several of them specifically to reaffirm support for the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt. Now that April is behind us, what was the outcome of the events?

Overall, they were a big success, demonstrating that doubts about the authorship have clearly gone global. Events were held in Sydney, Australia; Oslo, Norway; London; Toronto; Upstate New York; South Florida; Flint, Michigan; Los Angeles and Palo Alto, California. If Stratfordians thought doubters were incapable of mounting a meaningful response to all the 400th anniversary celebrations, they were very much mistaken. One easy way to get a sense of how they went is to take a look at this gallery of photos on the SAC website.

The most effective “event” was a meeting in London between Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance in which they reaffirmed their support for the Declaration in a high-quality video now on the SAC YouTube channel. Perhaps equally important was the opportunity the meeting afforded for an interview by Renee Montagne, co-host of U.S. National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. The interview, which is excellent, aired on April 25. First and foremost among the many people we have to thank for their contributions to this effort are Derek and Mark, for their courage and commitment to the issue, and Renee Montagne, for her excellent coverage.

Right up front, we want to emphasize that the purpose of these events was to call attention to the evidence. We are often accused of “arguing from authority” for calling attention to notable people who are doubters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stratfordians have created a false negative stereotype of doubters, and we must first debunk that before anyone will take the issue seriously enough to look into it themselves. But it is really all about the evidence. We are proud that these events kept the focus firmly on the evidence. That is the focus of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, and also of the sequel, Beyond Reasonable Doubt.

Here is a rundown of the other events:

Sydney, Australia – Graham Jones & Jepke Goudsmit, co-directors of Kinetic Energy Theatre Company, declared April 1–24 Shakespeare Authorship Awareness Month, featured a Declaration poster in a display in their lobby, and made copies of the one-page Declaration flyer available to all who attended their plays. We did, in fact, pick up a number of new signatories from Australia, so their strategy proved to be helpful.

Oslo, Norway – Hosted by author and poet Geir Uthaug and independent scholar Petter Amundsen, over a hundred people attended and sat through a five-hour event at Norway’s House of Literature. Geir writes “They were really fascinated. Among the public were publishers, translators, artists, people with doctorates, financiers, teachers, filmmakers, as well as people of many other professions and trades. There were young people, old people, middle aged people, women and men. Some were doubters beforehand, others inclined towards the Stratfordians; others were interested, but neutral; some had not really considered the issue to be of much importance. In short they were fairly representative. At the end of the day 57 put their names to the Declaration. There were people who came in believing in the man from Stratford, and went out not only as doubters, but found their candidate among the various described. They were quite enthusiastic. The event went smoothly and we gave our talks to a spell-bound audience. Many of them will spread the word.”

London – Mark Rylance had originally planned to do a reading of his authorship play, “I Am Shakespeare,” at the Old Vic Theatre, followed by Derek Jacobi and himself reaffirming their support for the Declaration in a reprise of their event in Chichester, West Sussex, in 2007, when they launched the Declaration in the U.K. Unfortunately the Old Vic event had to be cancelled, but the video they produced is an excellent alternative.

Toronto, Canada – Organized by Professor Don Rubin, hosted by poet Chris Pannell, and featuring actor Keir Cutler, PhD,  and author Diana Price, a 2-hour event took place at Canadian Stage Company’s Berkeley Street Theatre on April 24th. The keynote speaker was Diana Price, author of the critically-acclaimed book Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem (paperback edition, 2012). Price gave an excellent presentation which was recorded and is now available with an intro by Keir Cutler – her first video ever, on YouTube. Her presentation was preceded by Dr. Cutler, who drew on his various comedic works on the Shakespeare authorship question, many of which ask: “How come those of us who studied theatre in high school and university were not told that there even was an authorship question?” Audience members were encouraged to investigate the authorship question on their own and to sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt once they satisfied themselves on the points made by Price and Cutler.

South Florida – On April 11, at GableStage theatre at the historic Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Florida, attorney Tom Regnier addressed the topic “Did Shakespeare Really Write Shakespeare? Or Did Someone Else?” GableStage is one of the most highly-regarded theatre companies in Florida. It has been nominated for the Carbonell Award (the equivalent of a Tony Award) 197 times and won 59 times. About 100 people attended and heard why it is unlikely that the Stratford man wrote the plays and poems attributed to him. A Q&A session followed. “I just wish you weren’t so convincing,” said one audience member near the end. Afterwards, GableStage Artistic Director Joseph Adler told Tom, “I was enormously impressed with your presentation. It was spellbinding and beautifully delivered. I think you should consider doing a TED Talk.” He later added, “I wish I’d had lecturers like you when I was studying theatre.” Mr. Adler later signed the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt. A video of Tom’s outstanding presentation is now available on YouTube.

Flint, Michigan – The Oberon Study Group held an event titled “Reasonable Doubt about Shakespeare” at the University of Michigan-Flint Campus, organized by Associate Professor Matthew Wyneken, Ph.D. Oberon chairperson Richard Joyrich, M.D., gave a talk on the SAC's Declaration of Reasonable Doubt and the new evidence that renders the authorship question “Beyond Reasonable Doubt,” to the small audience. He said that “I think [the authorship dispute] is a question of evidence. As a physician, that is what I do – investigate evidence – and the same is true of lawyers. I think that is why there are so many doctors and lawyers interested in the issue.” After his talk, UM-Flint Shakespeare professor Mary Jo Kietzman, Ph.D., and her husband, UM archivist Paul Gifford, engaged Joyrich and others in a wide-ranging discussion of aspects of the authorship debate. “I am not personally invested in the man from Stratford,” Kietzman said. “I think we should look into it further. I'm kind of convinced that it’s good to have the possibility opened.” By the end, she and her husband had officially joined the growing ranks of academic reasonable doubters.

Los Angeles, Calif. – The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and the Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable held an event titled “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” with the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles on April 24th. The event sold out when 150 people signed up for free tickets, but the actual attendance was less than that. SAR secretary Sylvia Holmes introduced the event, then recounted the history of the SAR in Los Angeles. SAC patron Michael York introduced the documentary film “Last Will. & Testament,” and the first thirty minutes, dealing with reasons to doubt the attribution of the works to Shakspere of Stratford, were shown. SAC chairman John Shahan described the origins and goals of the Coalition and its main accomplishments. In the second half of the program, Shahan summarized seventeen points of “new evidence and arguments” turned up since the Declaration was issued in 2007, as presented in the sequel, Beyond Reasonable Doubt. Most important were discoveries that change our understanding of the First Folio and Stratford monument. The audience was impressed with the strength of the video and new evidence. Some converted on the spot.

The bottom line: after nine years, the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt remains un-rebutted, and those who issued it, or who signed it since then, have every right to feel that we have been fully vindicated in the stand we took by everything that has happened since -- particularly by all of the new evidence that has turned up. The SAC wishes to thank everyone who helped put on these events to reaffirm doubts about Shakespeare.

Final signatory count, sixteen new notables

Our objective has been to “legitimize” the authorship issue by the 400th anniversary of Shakspere’s death. While the evidence confirms we have been right all along, legitimization requires awareness and acceptance. On that score we are making steady progress, but still have a ways to go. As of May 3, 2016, 3,520 people had signed the Declaration, including 1,340 with advanced degrees (580 doctorates, 760 master’s degrees), 599 current or former college/university faculty members, and 68 notables, including sixteen added below. It would be interesting to see who would sign a Stratfordian authorship declaration, if they could write one. In that sense we can claim victory by default, just as we have won by default with our mock trial challenge.

All college graduates and faculty members are asked to indicate their field. The largest group, both among faculty and all college graduates, is those in English Literature: 108 faculty and 499 graduates, 607 in total. These are followed by those who said they were in Arts (361), Theatre Arts (305), Other Humanities (219), Math, Engineering & Computers (211), Education (204), Law (198), History (191), Oth/Unspecified (182), Natural Sciences (186), Social Sciences (181), Medicine/Health Care (175), Psychology (134), Management (120), and Library Science (41). So virtually all fields are represented, but English literature predominates. It is interesting that the field most directly involved with Shakespeare studies has by far the most doubters. Stratfordians claim that the authorship is “beyond doubt,” but many English Lit graduates clearly disagree.

With this report we announce the addition of sixteen signatories to the Notables list, for a final total of 68. Because we are adding so many at once, rather than bios we just show their names and signing statements.

Joseph Adler, Producing Artistic Director at GableStage theatre, Coral Gables, FL; winner of numerous awards for theatre and film directing, including a Clio and ten Carbonell Awards for Best Director

Edward I. Brodkin, Ph.D., Lucretia L. Allyn Professor Emeritus of History, Connecticut College, New London, CT, USA

Roberto Colombo, Ph.D., Professor of Cytology, University of Milan; internationally-recognized leader in the field; former Visiting Fellow, Warwick University Developmental Biology Lab

Jeffery W. Donaldson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of English, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, CA; Poet and Author of Slack Action (2013), Echo Soundings (2014), and Missing Link (2015)

Ben Donenberg, Artistic Director, Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles; Juilliard graduate; Presidentially-appointed and US Senate-confirmed Member, National Council on the Arts

Peter Eisner, Author and Journalist; former editor and reporter, Washington Post, Newsday, Associated Press; wrote the award-winning books The Freedom Line and The Italian Letter

Mr. Gosta Friberg, Swedish writer, poet and translator; co-founder of the Writers' Centre; former editor, Lyrikvännen, winner of numerous awards; co-author, Täcknamn Shakespeare

Mrs. Helena Brodin Friberg, Swedish actress of The Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm; appeared in more than forty films and television shows, 1960 - 2000; co-author, Täcknamn Shakespeare

Simon Gribben, M.B.A., Award-winning writer, producer, director, editor of television news; several Emmys as a producer of specials, news series and sports series; five films in MoMA

Richard J. Leigh, M.D., Blair-Daroff Emeritus Professor of Neurology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Bachelor’s and M.D. degrees from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Ellen Dinerman Little, M.A., Co-President and co-founder, The Little Film Company; Executive Producer, Richard III, starring Ian McKellen (1995), and Titus, starring Anthony Hopkins (1999)

Jack Ofield, Emeritus Professor of Film, San Diego State University; veteran film/TV producer/director; Member, Directors Guild of America; Fellow, American Film Institute

Oliver Pookrum, Founder of the Pookrum Playhouse and the African-American Theater Lab, Detroit, MI

Bernd E. H. A. Schuenemann, Professor Emeritus; Dr. honoris causa mult; Director, Institute for Lawyer's Law; former Chair, Criminal Law, Philosophy and Sociology of Law, University of München

Geir Håvard Uthaug, M.A., State Scholar; Norwegian writer/poet/translator; biographer of William Blake and Henrik Wergeland; translator of Blake, Conrad, Shakespeare (Richard II), others; numerous awards

Robert Wolf, M.A., American writer and journalist; recipient of the Bronze Medal Award for radio commentary, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award, both from the Society of Professional Journalists

Please join me in welcoming all of these outstanding Shakespeare authorship doubters to the notables list. We hope that with the addition of these and other signatories Stratfordians will stop arguing ad hominem.

Please make a donation

Please support our continued effort to gain public attention for our cause by making a donation to the SAC. The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition is a U.S. IRS tax-exempt charity. You can donate online via PayPal, or send a check made out to “SAC” to: SAC, 310 North Indian Hill Blvd., #200, Claremont, CA 91711 USA. You do not need a PayPal account to donate via PayPal. All you need is a major credit card.

Thank you.

John Shahan, Chairman, SAC

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