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Martha Andresen Receives Crystal Quill Award for her Continued Shakespeare Scholarship

Martha Andresen

Emerita Professor of English Martha Andresen will be honored tonight with a special Crystal Quill Award by the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, which is presented to “scholars, patrons, and artists whose work and philanthropy advances appreciation of the immediacy of Shakespeare’s plays.”

Bert Fields, entertainment attorney and author of Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare, and film director Roland Emmerich will also be receiving Crystal Quill Awards for their contribution to the Shakespeare authorship debate. The awards event will include an advanced screening of Emmerich’s new film Anonymous, a political thriller about the authorship debate, and discussion of the authorship question.

Andresen offered a preview of her thoughts: “Not the Earl of Oxford, not Frances Bacon, Lord Stanley, or Queen Elizabeth, but William Shakespeare, playwright and actor, wrote William Shakespeare’s plays!”

Since her retirement in 2006, the seven-time Wig award winner has continued her Shakespeare scholarship. She is completing a book, Caught in the Act: A Passion for Shakespeare, which she says is “an effort that frames interpretive and analytic essays with narratives of my own transformative encounters with Shakespeare’s plays.”

Andresen often works with the Huntington Library, participating in their “Shakespeare at the Huntington” programs, including several summer institutes for teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and offering lectures that pair Shakespeare’s plays with artistic representations of them, including The Merchant of Venice and J.M.W. Turner’s painting Grand Canal, Venice: Shylock, and Othello as a source for Verdi’s opera Otello during its performance by the Los Angeles Opera.

Andresen has been involved with The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles since its inception in 1986, has previously served on its Board of Directors and currently serves as an occasional consultant and lecturer. The Shakespeare Center is a professional theatre company, offering free performances each summer, as well as an outreach center that promotes participation in theatre as a catalyst for creating positive change in the community, including an upcoming effort to reach veterans.

Recently, Andresen participated in a mock trial of Hamlet, which was part of the Shakespeare Center’s 25th anniversary celebration and a collaboration with USC’s Gould School of Law. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy presided over the trial, 12 community members served as jurors, and four distinguished Los Angeles and Beverly Hills trial lawyers argued for the prosecution and defense. The Court was charged to determine whether or not Hamlet was mentally competent to stand trial for the murder of Claudius.

“My role was as consultant to this grand event,” says Andresen. “I lectured at a “read-through” of the play, an event to prepare the attorneys, expert witnesses, and jurors for the trial. I also met with Justice Kennedy before the trial, sharing my insights with him, and learning much from his own knowledge and passion for Shakespeare.”

After a spirited debate at the trial, says Andresen, 11 out of 12 jurors judged that Hamlet was sane and therefore morally responsible for his actions and competent to stand trial.

“I have found great personal joy and professional satisfaction in these activities,” says Andresen. “But nothing can equal the delight I enjoyed for 34 years in my classroom at Pomona College.”