Spring of 1992: Curt L. Tofteland partnered with Dr. Curtis Bergstrand, chair of the Sociology Department at Bellarmine University, to bring the works of William Shakespeare into Dr. Bergstrand’s Books Behind Bars program (created in 1991).
July of 1992: Dr. Bergstrand, Dr. Julie Barto, psychologist at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, and two teachers from Western Middle School attended From the Page to the Stage: Teaching Shakespeare in the Classroom, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s one-week teacher training institute. The participants are trained to teach Shakespeare with performance-based techniques.
Spring of 1993: One play by William Shakespeare is incorporated into the structure of Books Behind Bars.
Spring of 1995: Shakespeare Behind Bars is created as a program housed within Luther Luckett Correctional Complex’s psychology department.
Autumn of 1998: Shakespeare Behind Bars became an independent program within the programs housed at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. Over the next 10 years, Founder Curt L. Tofteland goes on to produce and facilitate 10 seasons of Shakespeare Behind Bars, which include touring to other correctional institutions, incorporating the Dept. of Juvenile Justice, and the award-winning documentary.
Autumn of 2008: Curt L. Tofteland appointed Matt Wallace as the Artistic Director/Facilitator of the Shakespeare Behind Bars program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. Curt retained his position of Founder and Producing Artistic Director. He remained the liaison between the LLCC warden and staff and the Shakespeare Behind Bars program.
Shakespeare Behind Bars has continued to be funded by personal contributions from individuals. In the 2009-2010 season/fiscal year through Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, the Shakespeare Behind Bars program raised the entire $10,782 annual budget for the program plus a $2,300 surplus which will be used for the future of the new not-for-profit corporation.
September of 2010: With a solid base of supporters and after working as a highly successful program under the umbrella of Kentucky Shakespeare Festival for 15 years, it became evident that the Shakespeare Behind Bars program was ready to stand and develop on its own. Curt L. Tofteland and Matt Wallace created the new not-for-profit corporation, Shakespeare Behind Bars, Inc. As a not-for-profit corporation independent of Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Behind Bars, Inc. plans to continue the program’s mission while growing and expanding the vision and participants. Press Release
February 2011: Curt L. Tofteland founded the Shakespeare Behind Bars|Michigan circle at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.
2012: Matt Wallace founded the Shakespeare Behind Bars Journeymen Program at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, KY, a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education and VSA Kentucky, the state organization on arts and disability.
2013: Matt Wallace founded the Shakespeare Behind Bars Journeymen Program at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in LaGrange, KY, a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education and VSA Kentucky, the state organization on arts and disability.
SBB programming expands to 10 programs in 2 states.
2014: Matt Wallace was hired as Producing Artistic Director of Kentucky Shakespeare. He will continue in his capacity of Artistic Director for Shakespeare Behind Bars and facilitator for the Journeymen Program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex.
Curt L. Tofteland founded the Journeymen Program at the Green River Correctional Complex and took over facilitation of the Journeymen Program at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Facility.
Curt founded two additional programs (Journeymen Program and Shakespeare in the Housing Unit) in Michigan at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility and three separate groups of Shakespeare Behind Bars at the West Shoreline Correctional Facility (Level I – minimum security).
SBB programming expands to 15 programs in Kentucky and Michigan.
September 23 & 24, 2014: The SBB Circle at the E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Michigan presented “A Night of Inspiration” for invited guests. The performance was intended as a thank you to Warden Mary Berghuis and Shakespeare Behind Bars Founder Curt L. Tofteland for their commitment to the process of transforming inmates into who they wish to become. Additional gratitude was extended to volunteers of the Ridge Point Community Church of Holland, Michigan, and the staff of the E.C. Brooks correctional Facility for their personal support of the inmates.
September 23 & 25, 2014: The SBB Circle at the E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Michigan presented Justice for Maurice Henry Carter written by Donald Molnar & Alicia Payne based on the book Sweet Freedom: Breaking the Bondage of Maurice Henry Carter by Doug Tjapkes. Maurice Carter was falsely accused, tried, convicted, and sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. After twenty-nine years of false incarceration, Maurice Carter was set free due to the nine year long efforts of Doug Tjapkes and his Humanity for Prisoners not-for-profit. Three months after he was freed, Maurice died of liver disease due to his contracting Hepatitis C through contamination while caring for his bunkie who was dying from the disease. The Michigan Department of Corrections was aware Maurice had contracted Hepatitis C through a blood test he received but the Michigan DOC chose not to inform him. Consequently, Maurice’s liver was destroyed. Although he was on the national list to receive a liver transplant, he died before he could receive one.
December 3, 2014: The three SBB Circles at West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Michigan came together into one large SBB Circle of ninety participants in the Chapel. Each of the three circles shared their prepared Shakespeare monologues, scenes, and/or original materials. Warden Mary Berghuis, Deputy Warden Bobbi Smith, and Chaplain Brian Burrel were in attendance for the celebration. This is the first time in SBB history that ninety SBB participants have gathered together in such a short time of working together (three months) to create a public sharing of their work.
July 23, 2015: The SBB|MI circle in the Baldwin Housing Unit at the E. C. Brooks Correctional Facility held its first matriculation ceremony by sharing Shakespearean monologues and scenes, original songs, and personal pieces with Warden Mary Berghuis. 13 prisoners matriculated in the first matriculation circle in the 20 year history of Shakespeare Behind Bars. Following the rite of passage, each of the 13 matriculators received an SBB wristband.
September 21, 2015: The three SBB|MI circles at the West Shoreline Correctional Facility held their first matriculation ceremony by sharing Shakespearean monologues, original songs, and personal pieces with Warden Mary Berghuis, 13 invited guests, and 14 prisoner journeymen. 40 prisoners matriculated in what is the single largest matriculation circle in the 20 year history of Shakespeare Behind Bars. Following the rite of passage, each of the 9 matriculators received a copy of The Collected Works of William Shakespeare, an SBB|MI t-shirt, and an SBB wristband.
March 31 & April 2, 2015: The SBB circle at the E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Michigan presented Breakout by Dan Borengasser. The play is about a Shakespeare Behind Bars program being started in a prison.
October 20, 2015: SBB/MI matriculated 3 members of the Shakespeare in Conklin Housing Unit at the E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.
September 22, 2015: Warden Mary Berghuis retired.
October 22, 2015: SBB/MI matriculated 2 Journeymen at the E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.
Spring 2020: SBB celebrates its 25th anniversary at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. In-person programming pauses due to COVID-19.