Monday, February 4, 2008

The Beard of Avon: Was Shakespeare a Fake?

As an English major married to an Englishman, who took two courses on Shakespeare in high school, has visited Stratford and toured the new Globe Theater in London, and has been a regular audience member at many a Shakespeare production, both in the theater and "in the parks," I am familiar with the theory that William Shakespeare did not truly write all those brilliant plays, poems, and sonnets.

New Globe Theater, London

However, I have never taken the time to research the controversy. Yesterday, we saw the delightful "The Beard of Avon" at Portland Center Stage, which is being presented in repertory with Twelfth Night, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about the possibility that Elizabethan England has pulled the wool over all of our eyes for 500+ years!

We've been season ticket holders at Portland Center Stage for 13 or 14 years now and have enjoyed the opportunity to see consistent, high-quality theater on a regular basis. (If we did not have season tickets, we would never get to the theater, because something else would always come up!) I'm especially enjoying this season, because we elected to see fewer plays but upgrade our seats to the fifth row.

"The Beard" is playright Amy Freed's creative interpretation of what could have happened in Shakespeare's lifetime, and the events that could have led to him becoming known as the greatest writer of all time. I'm the kind of person who loves to think about what could have happened, and for that reason I love historical fiction. I realize that not everyone agrees with me...given the heated conversations I participated in when The DaVinci Code dominated the bestseller lists. Judging by responses to Director Chris Coleman's blog, the literary/academic community has heated discussions on this issue as well.

"The Beard of Avon" is historical fiction in play form at its best! Excellent acting, costumes, acting, and staging, and a funny, thought-provoking story. Queen Elizabeth was a hoot! The actress who played her, Carol Halstead, starred in a one-woman show, "Bad Dates," about the trials and tribulations of dating and the joy of fun shoes.

If you're interested in learning more about this play, check out Coleman's blog and the Portland Center Stage web site. In addition, look at the interesting article by Mark Twain questioning the authorship of Shakespeare on page 15 of the Portland Center Stage Study Guide.

We will see "Twelfth Night" at the beginning of March, and I look forward to viewing Shakespeare with new eyes.

1 comment:

  1. Marie, I'm so glad you enjoyed BEARD. And you'll find 12th NIGHT is like a whole new play, after Amy Freed's comic conjectures about one way it might have come into being.

    I'm grateful to Chris Coleman for guiding me to your blog. Your BEARD comments brought me here and delighted me, but in addition I was moved by your post about water babies. What a wonderful tradition.

    I'll be coming back often to see what new thoughts you have to share with us.

    Thank you,
    Mead Hunter