It all began with film sales agent Carole Sue Lipman. In 1980, her longtime friend Karen Stein who randomly met George Elliot Sweet on a flight from Paris to California. They got to talking about the Shakespeare mystery and Karen said, 'I have to introduce you to my friend Carole Sue. She absolutely adores this kind of thing and she's in the film business.'
After encountering the many curious inconsistencies regarding Shakespeare and his remarkable body of work, in 1983 she contacted the UCLA Extension Department of Humanities with the hope of organizing a rational debate of the facts. A panel of experts, to be moderated by Charles Champlin, then the Arts Critic for the Los Angeles Times, would present the current five major cases for the true authorship of the Shakespearean works, and the audience would vote on what they believed to be the most convincing arguments. To their surprise, however, UCLA declined to sponsor the program.
Unaware that the authorship subject was tacitly censored at most universities, Champlin and Carole Sue opted to present their own seminars once a month; a series called “Shakespeare in Cross-Examination.” They gathered prominent experts at the Globe Playhouse replica in West Hollywood, a theater built in 1964 by Thad Taylor. Spurred by the enthusiastic outcome, Barbara Gilfilan Crowley, whose father had been a leader in the early Shakespeare Oxford Society, and her husband John Crowley, then mayor of Pasadena, registered the group as a non-profit educational organization. (Their daughter, Sylvia Crowley is now secretary of the Roundtable.)
Thus in 1985 the official Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable was born. Meeting at public libraries in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, the Roundtable was the first authorship group to open their forum to members and non-members alike, allowing discussion of all views on the authorship controversy.