Scott Kaiser’s new play, “Shakespeare’s Other Women,” will be presented Feb. 16 to 19 at Southern Oregon University. We met in his office on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival campus, where he is director of company development. This is the second of a two-part column. The first was published on Dec. 26.
EH: You’ve written several books?
SK: Most of my writing has been deeply inspired by Shakespeare.
EH: Why do you find the study of Shakespeare so compelling?
SK: He understood human existence better than any other writer. As you move through stages of life, different characters, plays, scenes, situations and moral conundrums start to read differently. “Romeo and Juliet” is a great example of this. When you’re a teenager, you totally understand Juliet: the passion, the love. But as you get older, you start to look at the parents and what they’re going through; the death of children; hatred towards a rival faction; a prince that is trying to make peace and simply can’t do it.
Most of Shakespeare’s plays encompass a full range of experience. That’s why you can spend an entire lifetime being inspired by him. There are a lot of wonderful plays, written by a lot of wonderful playwrights, but nobody has his range in terms of his understanding of the human experience from beginning to end. That’s what makes him unmatchable as one of our playwrights and why we’re doing him 400 years later.
EH: Do you think Shakespeare was the guy from Stratford?
SK: Shakespeare was a glove-maker’s son from Stratford. No question about it.
EH: Why do people question his authorship?
SK: There’s a whole industry built up around trying to explain anomalies around Shakespeare’s birth. The more you read, the more these things are not really anomalies. People don’t want to accept the fact that a glove-maker’s son from the country could possibly have an understanding of human existence better than a prince or a duke or a nobleman.
If I were to say to you: “Abraham Lincoln, who grew up in a cabin in Illinois, could not possibly have become America’s greatest president. He could not possibly have written the ‘Gettysburg Address.’ It’s not possible for an uneducated dolt who grew up in a cabin.” We know that’s the case, but it’s so unlikely.
It’s the unlikelihood of Shakespeare becoming who he was that bothers people. It bothers people out of the sense of entitlement and elitism that I don’t accept.
It is possible for a glove-maker’s son to have been born with a genius that was developed as an outsider to the system of nobility and class. I would argue that, “The fact that he was an outsider to that system, was what made it possible for him to see so completely into the system.”
People are saying that, “He had to have been a noble person, because they were the only ones who had access to kings and queens.” I would say that, “They are the insiders. How could they write as exquisitely from the perspective that Shakespeare had?”
I just don’t buy into any of it. It’s absolute nonsense. If you go back far enough you’ll see that there’s no concrete evidence that he was anybody other that who we think he was: a glove-maker’s son from Stratford, England.
Kaiser has written several books and plays, including "The Tao of Shakespeare," "Mastering Shakespeare" and "Shakespeare’s Wordcraft." There is more information on his website at scottkaisershakespeare.com.
”Shakespeare’s Other Women” plays Thursday, Feb. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 19, at the Stevenson Union Arena on the Southern Oregon University campus, Ashland. For tickets and information, call 541-552-6348 or visit sou.edu/performingarts/boxoffice.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding cast member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.