Othello’s Tribunal

In 1999, Sammie Byron, a founder of the Shakespeare Behind Bars Program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky chose to play Othello in the annual SBB production.

In 2011, Curt L. Tofteland, Founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars, began working with Sammie, on his memoir one person play – Othello’s Tribunal.

In 2012, Sammie premiered Othello’s Tribunal while he was incarcerated at the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City, Kentucky.

In 2014, Sammie was paroled from prison after serving thirty-one consecutive years of a LIFE sentence.  As a returned citizen, Sammie and Curt continued to work on rewrites of Othello’s Tribunal.

Give Back Tour

Sammie is aware that he was a “taker” in his young adulthood. As a returned citizen, he is committed to “giving back” to others by sharing his personal story of overcoming his childhood trauma and his human transformational change in his memoir play, Othello’s Tribunal.

In the spirit of “giving back”, Curt is booking performances of Othello’s Tribunal followed by talk-backs with the audience in adult prisons, juvenile detention centers, and facilities that offer programming to youth and young adults who have been impacted by the American Criminal Justice System.

Curt and Sammie believe a performance of Othello’s Tribunal followed by an audience talk-back can be an inspiration to those who are locked behind the razor-wire, as well as to returned citizens.

Othello’s Tribunal has performed:


* Rome Shakespeare Festival, Rome, Georgia
* Shakespeare in Prison Network Conference, The Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, California


* Shakespeare Tavern, Atlanta, Georgia, followed by an audience talk-back with actor Harry Lennix (played Aaron in Julie Taymor’s film Titus Andronicus).


*Hope College, Holland, Michigan.


* Little Sandy Correctional Complex, Sandy Hook, Kentucky
* Illinois Youth Center, Chicago, Illinois
* The Spot at Goodwill Industries, Louisville, Kentucky
* Save Our Children Network, Louisville, Kentucky
*Roderer Correctional Complex, LaGrange, Kentucky
*Northpoint Training Center, Burgin, Kentucky
*Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference, Dayton, Ohio

Performances continue to booked at colleges, universities, conferences, prisons, and juvenile detention centers.

Sometimes the human beings most impacted by injuries – those they have suffered and those they have inflicted – are the ones best equipped to help others.

The true heroes are those who, in the process of bearing their own pain, can lift up others and offer their personal story as a reflection of their previous behavior.

It is through telling my personal story – in revealing myself with clarity and lucidity — even the shameful parts of myself — that I know that I am not alone.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest,
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes,
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest, it becomes
The throned Monarch better then his Crown.
Mercy is above this sceptered sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of Kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then shew likest Gods
When Mercy seasons Justice.

—Portia, Merchant of Venice IV.1

Sammie Byron

SAMMIE BYRON is a Founding Member of Shakespeare Behind Bars at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky.

During his ten years with Shakespeare Behind Bars (1995-2005) Sammie played 20 of Shakespeare’s characters, including:

* First Gravedigger in Hamlet in An Evening of Shakesperean Scenes (1995);
* Proteus in Two Gentlemen of Verona (1996);
* Henry V in King Henry V, Ghost in Hamlet, Gratiano in Merchant of Venice, & Capitano in Commedia del ‘Arte in Knaves, Knights and Kings: An Evening with William Shakespeare (1996);
* Maria & Priest in Twelfth Night (1997);
* Henry IV in King Henry IV part 2, Clown in Winter’s Tale, Launce in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Richmond in King Richard III, & Master Brook in Merry Wives of Windsor in The Bard Behind Bars: An Evening with William Shakespeare (1998);
* Othello in Othello (1999);
* Aaron in Titus Andronicus (2001);
* Polonius & First Gravedigger in Hamlet (2002);
* Trinculo in The Tempest (2003);
* Marcus Brutus in Julius Caesar (2004);
* Knowledge & Archbishop Marlow in Falstaff and His Luggage by Jerry Guenthner, & Richard II in King Richard II in All the World’s a Stage (2004).

Sammie appears in Philomath Films award-winning documentary, Shakespeare Behind Bars, which follows the 2003 SBB production of The Tempest from the first day of rehearsal through the conclusion of the tour of the production to other Kentucky prisons.

Sammie is employed full-time with Goodwill Industries as a Youth Training 
Facilitator at The Spot working with young adults 16-24 years of age. Sammie teaches a course called, Developing Soft Skills. The course is designed to equip participants with social standards to enhance quality performance in workplace environments, as well as inspire value systems that are worthwhile, realistic, and attainable.