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Shakespeare Behind Bars

Award-winning program helps inmates by using the works of Shakespeare.

As part of our 6 month Project Milwaukee series on black male incarceration in Wisconsin, we included discussions on potential solutions. One of the goals is to equip those already in prison with stronger job and interpersonal skills so they're less likely to re-offend once they're released.

That's also at the heart of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars. For almost 20 years the program has used the works of Shakespeare to help inmates of all races and creeds explore what it means to be human and to help them gain the skills they need to lead productive lives once they are released from prison. From its beginnings in one prison in Kentucky, the Shakespeare Behind Bars program has been adopted in 10 prisons in two states. And its founder, Curt Tofteland, hopes it continues to grow. 

In addition to his work with Shakespeare Behind Bars, Tofteland has more than 30 years of professional and academic theatre experience both as a director and actor. He is also a Fulbright Scholar and published essayist and poet. 

Tofteland was in the Milwaukee area at the end of April, teaching classes and giving a public talk at UW-Waukesha and we spoke with him then.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.