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Shakespeare Behind Bars Founder to Show Documentary About Program

Mar 7, 2011

Shakespeare's "The Tempest" is set on a remote island where Prospero and his daughter have been exiled. During the story three different plots of revenge, greed and love twist throughout the story until repentance and forgiveness brings the play to a close. Similar to this story, thousands of men and women are incarcerated in prisons every year and battle with the same emotions.

Shakespeare Behind Bars PosterUniversity of the Pacific's Humanities Center, The McGeorge School of Law, Benerd School of Education and local prison outreach programs will bring the documentary "Shakespeare Behind Bars" to Pacific at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23 in Janet Leigh Theatre on Pacific's Stockton campus. The film, which follows a program that affords prisoners the opportunity to participate in roles from "The Tempest," helping them use their characters to confront personal demons and work through forgiveness, will be followed by a Q&A session with Curt Tofteland, founder of the program.

"This event is intended to reach beyond the gates into the greater Stockton community, a city beset by hard economic times and rising crime," said Courtney Lehmann, director of Pacific's Humanities Center and professor of English. "Stockton also has a historic resilience that has enabled it to survive the worst of times; the inmates in 'Shakespeare Behind Bars' have inspiring stories to tell that can give us all some much-needed perspective, especially those of us who take the simplest of things-like sunshine-for granted."

During the mid-1990s volunteer Shakespearean director, Tofteland, founded the program Shakespeare Behind Bars when he began working with Luther Luckett Correctional Complex inmates. The prisoners would cast themselves as characters of Shakespeare's plays that reflected their personal history and fate. The mission of the program 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.

In "Shakespeare Behind Bars" a film crew takes a year-long trip into and around this prison production with the Shakespeare Behind Bars Theatre Troupe. The film weaves the prisoner's individual stories with the plot of "The Tempest." Shakespeare's play begins as Alonso, King of Naples, and his entourages become stranded on a secluded island where Prospero and his daughter have been unrightfully exiled for years. Conspiracy, greed and survival are at work until repentance and forgiveness brings the characters together. The film was selected for the first ever Sundance Institute Documentary Story and Edit Lab, as well as the Sundance Documentary Composer's Lab in 2004.

Pacific's McGeorge School of Law's Educational Pipeline Initiative students consist of McGeorge and high school students. The students are involved in a variety of programs serving low income students. These programs include working as reading mentors for K-5 students, teaching high school student's law content and teach literacy skills through law content.

"The film will complement the commitment the law students have shown to improving student success and the efforts of the students who participate," said Christine Minero, Educational Pipeline Advisor at McGeorge.

The Pacific Humanities Center promotes the value of art, music, theatre and film as well as classical and religious studies, philosophy, literature and languages.

For more information contact Courtney Lehmann at 209.946.2690 or clehmann@pacific.edu.