SBB Incorporates

October 28, 2010
Contact: Holly Stone,

Internationally Acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars Incorporates As Not-For-Profit

Louisville, KY – October 2010 – Curt L. Tofteland, Founder and Producing Director of Shakespeare Behind Bars, announces the incorporation of Shakespeare Behind Bars as the not-for-profit corporation Shakespeare Behind Bars, Inc.

Tofteland, who created the Shakespeare Behind Bars program in 1995 when he was the Producing Artistic Director of Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, has partnered with Matt Wallace, Artistic Director, and Holly Stone, Director of Technology and Communications, to form the new 501(c)(3).

“The Board of Kentucky Shakespeare is very proud of Shakespeare Behind Bars. We believe it has a very promising future and an important role in our community. In order to reach its potential, we support the spinoff of Shakespeare Behind Bars as its own nonprofit entity,” said Mac Thompson, Past President of the Kentucky Shakespeare Board of Directors. We wish Curt, Matt, and the troupe the best success in the future.”

Now based in Michigan, Tofteland chose Louisville theatre artist Matt Wallace in 2008 to serve as Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Behind Bars program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, KY. Wallace is currently directing the inmates in a production of The Merchant of Venice. The Kentucky Council on Crime and Delinquency recently awarded Wallace the 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award for Outstanding Service and Commitment to the Kentucky Criminal Justice System.

Now in its 16th year, Shakespeare Behind Bars is the oldest North American Shakespeare program contained within the walls of a medium security adult male prison with an ensemble of inmates performing exclusively the works of William Shakespeare. The program is the subject of Philomath Films award-winning documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars, which received its world premiere at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and traveled to 40+ film festivals around the world winning 11 awards.

Shakespeare Behind Bars continues to make a real difference in the lives of Kentucky’s incarcerated by preparing them to live contributing lives outside the razor wire. The recidivism rate for Shakespeare Behind Bars members is 6%, as opposed to the 65% recidivism rate nationally and the 34% recidivism rate for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

“Shakespeare Behind Bars has been a wonderful partner with the Kentucky Department of Corrections for many years. The collaboration has afforded a unique opportunity for not only our inmate population but it has enriched audiences as well,” said LaDonna Thompson, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. “When you view a performance, you come away knowing these men have gained a respect for the community within the Shakespeare group. They have learned to work hard together as a team to produce something uncommon in a prison setting. I am extremely pleased now to see the organization take this next step to become independent and incorporate as a not-for-profit.”

Coinciding with the formation of Shakespeare Behind Bars, Inc. is the international release of the ground breaking book, Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre. Edited by Jonathan Shailor, the book features a chapter by Tofteland and 13 other prison arts practitioners and educators who write about the transformational power of the performing arts to change the lives of the incarcerated.

Visit the new website at for information concerning the May 2011 performances of The Merchant of Venice, the media gallery, staff biographies, past productions, and to make a secure, tax-deductible contribution. (501(c)(3) not-for-profit status is pending, however, contributions are tax-deductible as provided by law. Status will be retroactive when official notification is received.)

The mission of Shakespeare Behind Bars is to offer theatrical encounters with personal and social issues to the incarcerated, allowing them to develop life skills that will ensure their successful reintegration into society.