Mark Rylance, actor and former director of Shakespeare's Globe, visited Warwick in October 2007 with his touring production I Am Shakespeare. Originating at the Chichester Festival earlier in the year, Rylance's play dealt with one of the more controversial debates in Shakespearean circles, the question of whether Shakespeare's plays were actually written by Will Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon or if someone else was responsible. Rylance is a prominent member of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and co-wrote the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, which seeks to open up academic exploration of the authorship debate.
On October 4th, Rylance visited the CAPITAL Centre to present a stimulating and provocative masterclass on his work. Introduced by Professor Carol Rutter, he discussed the authorship question and I Am Shakespeare, expressing his hopes that the play would encourage people to question their assumptions and explore the evidence for themselves.
Rutter invited questions early on, resulting in a lively discussion. Audience members, mostly drawn from the undergraduate Shakespeare module in the English department, were largely unconvinced by the idea of someone else writing the plays. Rylance dealt with questions very gracefully, making the point that he was arguing for people to keep an open mind and that all of these works should be viewed on their own merits, and that his major disappointment was not that people didn't share his point of view but that the academic community generally refused to even consider the possibilities of other authors.
Rylance went on to talk about his work at the Globe, with Rutter questioning him on how his views on the authorship affected him as director of a theatre that calls itself "Shakespeare's Globe". He also talked about the conditions of the Globe and how they affect the actor and the speaking of Shakespeare's words.
The event was an interesting and illuminating introduction to our 2007-08 Masterclass series, highlighting for all present the possibilities for debate between students, academics and theatre practitioners.