Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sir Derek Jacobi and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford a.k.a. "Shakespeare"

"...A piece many years in doing and now perfectly perform'd."
The Winter's Tale

On Thursday night at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, I had the great pleasure and honor of helping present a noteworthy statute to Sir Derek Jacobi at a benefit fundraiser for the newly launched theatrical company The Ensemble Theatre Company of New York

Jacobi is fresh off a widely acclaimed run as perhaps the greatest King Lear of our time -- one that brought him this spring to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (He also serves as the narrator of this fall's Oxfordian feature film Anonymous.) 

Thanks to some stealthy planning and gracious goodwill (see acknowledgments below), my co-conspirator Gerit Quealy and I had set beneath a concealing veil the very first ready-for-primetime Edward de Vere bust from the entrepreneur Ben August and sculptor Paula Slater. (The story of the de Vere bust was blogged about here and here.) 

At the completion of the evening's program celebrating the legendary Shakespearean actor -- and longtime Oxfordian advocate -- we were generously allowed to include a surprise presentation of the de Vere bust to Jacobi. 

The five-minute presentation featured Quealy, who'd originally conceived of bestowing the statue on Jacobi, recalling the recipient's peerless Prospero and Lear. She said in her experience as an actor, the finest practitioners of the craft are forever searching for new windows on the truth. My contribution concerned great artists being unafraid to take big and sometimes controversial risks. (I wrote the remarks beforehand but tossed it out the window almost completely when the moment came. The one thing preserved word-for-word, though, was a poignant and funny Bertrand Russell quote -- someone else's quip, yes, but it still gave this admitted fanboy a thrill to say something witty enough to make one of his heroes laugh out loud.) 

Jacobi was surprised, touched and most grateful for a bust of the Bard that he could claim as "Shakespeare."