4th International Shakespeare in Prisons Conference (SiPC4) Announced

Author: James Comerford

For Immediate Release
November 2, 2020

The 4th International Shakespeare in Prisons Conference:
Why Shakespeare Now?

Notre Dame, IN – Shakespeare at Notre Dame and the Shakespeare in Prisons Network (in partnership with the Folger Institute) announce the 4th International Shakespeare in Prisons Conference (SiPC4), commencing Monday, November 9th, 2020.  Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic SiPC4 will convene virtually.

Drawing on the success of three previous iterations in 2013, 2016, and 2018, SiPC4 will gather (online) an international cohort of arts practitioners, returned citizens, researchers, scholars, corrections officials, and social justice advocates. SiPC4 will be comprised of performances, roundtables, curated dialogues, workshops, social events, and featured contributors exploring the current state of the field of prison theater arts in light of the effects of Covid-19 on current programming and the racial justice movement that has prompted extensive (and long overdue) change within the performing arts.

“We find ourselves in a critical moment that is demanding us to take stock of and reflect upon our practice, particularly as it pertains to Shakespeare, and the cultural monuments we continue to uphold without understanding the holistic impact on us and our program participants. I’m excited to take this time to come together as a community and do the hard work so when things open back up again, we can step in and be as transformed as the work we love and are committed to manifesting in the world,” notes Karen Ann Daniels, Director of the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit and SiPC4 co-producer.

Departing from the traditional in-person conference structure, the virtual SiPC4 will consist of a series of asynchronous and synchronous sessions offered weekly between November 2020 and April 2021. “The Covid-19 pandemic compromised our initial plan of presenting SiPC4 at the University of Notre Dame in partnership with the Folger Institute,” observes Scott Jackson, Mary Irene Ryan Executive Director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame and co-founder of the Shakespeare in Prisons Network. “After extensive feedback from our network, we reimagined the structure of the conference and adopted a weekly model that offers our community the ability to remain connected during this tumultuous time when the vast majority of our programs are on hiatus due to Covid-19,” he added.

Centered around the provocation of “Why Shakespeare Now?” SiPC4 will highlight best/next practices in the field, current research and publications, antiracist/decolonizing pedagogies, social justice activism, and the voices of returned citizens whose participation in prison arts programming served as a catalyst for a more deeply realized self-actualization. 

Featured contributors include; Nia Wilson of SpiritHouse Inc in North Carolina, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (author of The Body Keeps the Score), performer and activist Liza Jessie Peterson, DE-CRUIT (Shakespeare for Veterans) founders Stephan Wolfert and Dawn Stern, Ashley Lucas (author of the recently released Prison Theatre and the Global Crisis of Incarceration), and Sylvan Baker from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Additional sessions reflective of current events will be offered throughout the duration of the conference.

SiPC4 will commence with a live opening session on Monday, November 9th at 7:00pm (ET). Directly following an opening ceremony, Barry Edelstein (Erna Finci Veterbi Artistic Director) and Freedome Bradley-Ballentine (Associate Artistic Director and Director of Arts Engagement) from San Diego’s Old Globe will discuss their organization’s plan for systemic operational change in a session entitled “The Future is Now: A Social Justice Roadmap.” 

Registration is currently underway and is capped at 200 attendees. In an effort to amplify the voices of the network, all SiPC4 sessions will be recorded and offered to the public at no charge.

Visit shakespeare.nd.edu to learn more about SiPC4 or to register as an attendee.



Jason Comerford, Audience Development Manager, Shakespeare at Notre Dame
(574) 631-3777 | shakes@nd.edu