Shakespeare in Prisons

Effecting change with Shakespeare

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Formed by Peter Holland, Curt Tofteland, and Scott Jackson in 2012, the Shakespeare in Prisons Network (SiPC) is a loose affiliation of programs in prisons nationwide. The network’s mission is to bring Shakespeare to incarcerated populations, through ongoing classwork, education and performance, and to instill vital skills for social re-entry. 

Locally, the impact happens in Westville, Indiana, where Jackson teaches a regular Shakespeare course at the Westville Correctional Facility. For 10 weeks, Jackson teaches Shakespeare and acting techniques to prisoners. The primary goal: to use the arts to lower recidivism rates and help returning citizens prepare for successful re-entry into our communities.

Shakespeare in Prisons Network Directory

Shakespeare in Prisons Conference

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The Shakespeare in Prisons Conferences (SiPC) initiative is a flagship program of the Shakespeare in Prisons Network, founded at the University of Notre Dame by Curt L. Tofteland, Founder and Producing Director of Shakespeare Behind Bars; Scott Jackson, Executive Director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame; and Dr. Peter Holland, McMeel Family Chair in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame.


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The Shakespeare in Prisons Network serves as a global forum for the prison and community arts practitioner community; promotes the production and study of the plays of William Shakespeare within prisons and alternative settings; and advocates on a local, national, and international level on behalf of organizations engaged in arts programming for and by incarcerated and post-incarcerated populations.


The Shakespeare in Prisons Network celebrates the transformative power of William Shakespeare's works in bridging the space between our shared humanity and the isolation typical of incarcerated and marginalized individuals.  We accomplish this by building foundational skills vital to positive societal re-engagement: literacy, teamwork, self-confidence, purpose, and hope.


Peter Holland, one of the central figures in performance-oriented Shakespeare criticism, was educated at the University of Cambridge and, when he left in 1997, was Judith E. Wilson Reader in Drama and Theatre in the Faculty of English. He then served as Director of the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon and Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Birmingham before coming to the University of Notre Dame in 2002.

He is editor of Shakespeare Survey; co-General Editor, with Stanley Wells, of Oxford Shakespeare Topics (20 volumes to date); and, with Adrian Poole, of the 18-volume series Great Shakespeareans (Bloomsbury Academic, 2009-13). Among his books are English Shakespeares: Shakespeare on the English Stage in the 1990s and a major study of Restoration drama, The Ornament of Action. He has also edited many Shakespeare plays, including A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Oxford Shakespeare series and Coriolanus for the Arden Shakespeare 3rd Series, as well as coediting Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist with William Sherman.

In 2007, he completed the publication of a five-volume series of essays, Rethinking British Theatre History. In 2007-08, he served as President of the Shakespeare Association of America. He is the author of more than one hundred articles on a wide range of topics in Shakespeare studies as well as on David Garrick, English pantomime, Chekhov, farce, Peter Brook, and many other aspects of drama and performance. He was elected an honorary fellow of the Shakespeare Institute and of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. In 2012 he received the Sheedy Award for teaching excellence at Notre Dame.


Scott Jackson is the Mary Irene Ryan Executive Director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame. In this position, he provides executive oversight for the many Shakespeare-related programs housed at the University of Notre Dame, with a particular focus on engaging our local community through the works of William Shakespeare. Previously he served as executive director for the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre (FST) in Fairbanks, Alaska. At FST he produced and performed in outdoor Shakespeare productions staged under the midnight sun at venues throughout Alaska and toured around the globe (most notably at the VIII World Shakespeare Congress in Brisbane, Australia, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland).

From 2000–2003, Scott was the business and legal affairs coordinator for Brighter Pictures, Ltd (now a part of Endemol UK), one of the United Kingdom’s most successful independent television and film production companies. He holds a BA in theatre from Indiana University Bloomington, as well as intensive study in acting at the London Centre for Theatre Studies.

Scott served as the Treasurer for the Shakespeare Theatre Association and as an instructor of the acting process at the University of Notre Dame. A firm believer in the power of Shakespeare and the theatre arts to effect positive social change, he is currently teaching a weekly Shakespeare in performance course at the Westville Correctional Facility near Michigan City, Indiana.


Curt Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. SBB has thirteen programs in Kentucky and Michigan. He currently facilitates the adult Shakespeare Behind Bars/Michigan program at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility and West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights.

From 1995-2008, Curt facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, producing and directing 14 Shakespeare productions. His 2003 SBB/KY production of The Tempest was chronicled by Philomath Films, producing the multiple award-winning documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars, which premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be screened at 40+ film festivals worldwide, winning eleven awards.

Curt is a national and international speaker, having lectured at over forty-five colleges and universities across the United States and at TEDxBerkeley, TEDxEast (NYC), and TEDxMacatowa. He has For his work as a prison arts practitioner, he was named a Creative Fellow at University of Auckland (New Zealand), been awarded two fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation (Australia), the Petra Foundation (USA), an Al Smith Fellowship in Playwrighting (Kentucky), as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bellarmine University. He is a founding member and past president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association, an international service organization for theatres that produce the works of William Shakespeare. He is a published essayist and poet, currently authoring the book, Behind the Bard-Wire: Reflection, Responsibility, Redemption, & Forgiveness…The Transformative Power of Art, Theatre, and Shakespeare.

From 1989–2008, Curt served as producing artistic director of Kentucky Shakespeare, producing 50 Shakespeare productions, directing 25, and acting in 8. He continues his professional directing career at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, American Shakespeare Center, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Oklahoma Shakespeare, Theatre at Monmouth, Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble, Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, and Foothills Theatre Company. More information on Curt’s work can be found at