Reporter

Experts offering free educational talks on Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is regarded as one of the most famous names in English literature.

But what if the man illustrated inside high school textbooks didn’t actually write those well-known works?

That’s the premise behind the Shakespeare Authorship Question – that someone other than the iconic historical figure wrote the plays and sonnets that bear his name.

It may sound like a new-age conspiracy theory, but the Shakespeare Authorship Question was first introduced during the Victorian Era, and has gained traction with a group of supporters ever since.  

Now, local community groups, schools, libraries and service clubs can request a free presentation from expert scholars and published authors throughout Florida to dig deeper into who Shakespeare really was – and was not.

The Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship (SOF) is a nonprofit organization focused on research and discussion of the authorship question.

"The world loves a great mystery, and this is one of the greatest mysteries of all time,” said Steven Sabel, SOF director of public relations and marketing. “The evidence against the man from Stratford being the author continues to build and grow year after year.”

Sabel said SOF works to educate audiences on detailed analysis, uncovered documents and historical details they claim have advanced a widespread theory that the works of Shakespeare were written by someone other than a glover's son from Stratford, England.

The educational foundation was established in 2013 and is comprised of two much-older organizations – the Shakespeare Fellowship and the Shakespeare Oxford Society.

The group has established a Speakers Bureau of members internationally and throughout Florida who provide free presentations to bring literature to life for new generations, Sabel said.

Members of the SOF include professionals from fields including lawyers, doctors, professors and entertainment professionals.

Sabel said over 20 people currently participate in the SOF Speakers Bureau.

Ron Song Destro is the expert for the Orlando and Kissimmee area. He holds a long and extensive knowledge of Shakespeare and serves as the founding director of the New York-based Oxford Shakespeare Company. He’s staged more than 40 Shakespeare plays around the world, and has lectured about the Shakespeare Authorship Question at institutions like Harvard University.

Sabel said Destro and other speakers are willing to travel because they are so passionate about the authorship topic.

“It’s what unites all of us – a love for the plays and poems, as well as a shared desire to figure out this mystery together,” Sabel said.

Sabel said a diverse background allows SOF speakers to tailor their knowledge to appeal to different demographics like high school students or retirees. The talks can also focus on the speaker’s knowledge of different subjects like law, medicine, astronomy, botany, gardening, politics, history, classical literature, music and more.

From libraries to rotary clubs, Sabel said SOF members are happy to speak to and engage with a variety of audiences. Presentations can be as brief as 20 to 30 minute introductions on the topic or as long as 90-minute in-depth talks. 

Program directors, group leaders and facility coordinators are encouraged to contact Sabel directly to schedule a speaker in their immediate area by emailing publicity@shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org.