Co-Facilitators and Designers
Keith McGill, Co-Facilitator – SBB|Kentucky
Kathi E.B. Ellis, Co-Facilitator – SBB|Kentucky
Kate Thomsen, Co-Facilitator- SBB|Michigan
Joseph Byrd, Co-Facilitator - SBB|Michigan
Donna Lawrence Downs, Costume Designer – SBB|Kentucky
Curt L. Tofteland, Founder & Producing Director
Curt brings thirty-five years of professional theatre experience to his current role as a freelance theatre artist – director, actor, producer, playwright, writer, teacher, program developer, and prison arts practitioner.
Curt is the Founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. From 1995 – 2008, Curt facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. During his thirteen year tenure, Curt produced and directed fourteen Shakespeare productions. Two participants in the SBB/KY program have garnered three Pen Literary Prison Writing Awards.
During the 2003 SBB production of The Tempest, Philomath Films chronicled the process in a documentary that premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and forty+ film festivals around the world winning a total of eleven film awards.
Additionally, Curt has worked as a prison arts practitioner in the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women – where he taught college classes for the Jefferson Community and Technical College and created a Ten Minute Playwriting Program, and the Kentucky State Reformatory – where he taught JCTC classes.
In the summer of 2010, Curt partnered with filmmaker/director/producer Robby Henson and playwright Elizabeth Orndorf to create Voices Inside/Out – a 10-minute playwriting program – funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, at the Northpoint Training Center in Burgin, Kentucky. Now in its fourth year of funding by NEA, the program has generated inmate authored plays that have gone on to be professionally produced at Theatrelab, an Off-Off-Broadway theatre in New York City. A participant in the Voices Inside/Out program has garnered one Pen Literary Prison Writing Award.
On February 12, 2011, Curt founded the Shakespeare Behind Bars/Michigan program at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.
On November 19, 2012, Curt founded the first Michigan court-ordered, co-gender juvenile Shakespeare Behind Bars program at the Ottawa County Juvenile Detention Center and Shakespeare Beyond Bars program at the Ottawa County Juvenile Justice Institute.
Curt has been invited to share his Shakespeare Behind Bars experience through screening the documentary, facilitating a post-screening audience talk-back, teaching master classes, and visiting classrooms at thirty-eight colleges and universities (sixty visits) across the United States; he has been a key presenter at the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA); he has thrice been a key presenter at the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA) Annual conference; he has been a four time key presenter at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), Region III, and once each at KCACTF Region VI, VII and VIII; he has been a VIP guest and presenter at ten professional Shakespeare Festivals in North America including: twice at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Stratford, Ontario); Utah Shakespearean Festival (Cedar City, UT); American Players Theatre (Spring Green, WI); Actors’ Shakespeare Project (Boston, MA); Chesapeake Shakespeare (Ellicott City, MD); Great River Shakespeare Festival (Winona, MN); Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival (Grand Valley, MI); Independent Shakespeare Company of LA (Los Angeles, CA); Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (Louisville, KY); Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park (Oklahoma City, OK – in association with Oklahoma City Museum of Art); Shakespeare Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA – in association with the William James Association); and he has taught the SBB process internationally, in Switzerland, at the International School of Lausanne and the College du Leman in Geneva.
Curt is the Executive Producer of Prospero’s Prison, a film by Tom Magill, an award-winning Northern Ireland filmmaker and founder of Educational Shakespeare Company.
Curt has been the keynote speaker at the Distinguished Lecture at University of Wisconsin-Waukesha; Jepson Leadership Forum at University of Richmond, Gates-Ferry Distinguished Visiting Lectureship at Centenary College; Personal Effectiveness and Employability Through the Arts (PEETA) International Symposium, Rotterdam, Netherlands; the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA) Joint International Symposium with Columbia College, Chicago, IL; National Arts Club in New York City; Utah Shakespearean Festival’s Wooden O Symposium; Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law panel discussion about the First Amendment in Prision: Marking the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail; and the Shakespeare Connection Conference at the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival.
Curt has delivered three TEDx Talks. In 2013, at TEDx Berkeley, on the subject of building circles-of-trust; in 2012, at TEDx Macatawa in Holland, Michigan, on the subject of revenge and mercy; and in 2010, at TEDx East (New York City), on the subject of shame. Additionally, Curt was a speaker at the 2012 IDEA Festival in Louisville, KY; at the Vibe Wire Youth, Inc. FastBREAK Breakfast Speaker Series in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Curt is the recipient of two distinctive fellowships, from the Fulbright Foundation and the Petra Foundation, for his work as a prison arts practitioner using Shakespeare in corrections. Curt’s 2011 Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship took him to Australia to share his SBB experience as a co-facilitator with Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble’s prison program at the Borallon Correctional Centre in Queensland.
Curt is a founding member and a keynote presenter at the inaugural Shakespeare in Prison Conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame in November 2013.
Curt is a published poet and essayist who writes about the transformative power of art, theatre, and the works of William Shakespeare. He has three published essays – “As Performed: By Shakespeare Behind Bars at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, KY, 2003” in The Tempest, Chicago: Sourcebooks Shakespeare 2008 and “The Keeper of the Keys: Building a Successful Relationship with the Warden” in Performing New Lives: Reflections on Prison Theatre, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010. His third essay, published in the 2012 edition of the Shakespeare Survey, is co-written in with SBB/KY founding member Hal Cobb – “Prospero Behind Bars”. His essay – “Shakespeare Goes to Prison: Holding the Transformative Mirror up to Nature: Responsibility, Forgiveness, and Redemption” won the University of Wyoming 2010 National Amy and Eric Burger Essays on Theatre Competition. Additionally, Curt continues to write his own book, Behind the Bard-Wire: Reflection, Responsibility, Redemption, & Forgiveness . . . The Transformative Power of Art, Theatre, and Shakespeare.
From 1989 to 2008, he was the Producing Artistic Director of Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. During his twenty year tenure, Curt produced fifty Shakespeare productions, directed twenty-five Shakespeare productions, and acted in eight Shakespeare Productions. As a professional director and an Equity actor, he has 200+ professional productions to his credit. Additionally, he has presented 400+ performances of his one man show Shakespeare’s Clownes: A Foole’s Guide to Shakespeare.
Curt is a founding member and past president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association, an international service organization for theatres which produce the works of William Shakespeare.
Curt has professionally guest directed at Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble (Brisbane, Queensland AUS), Theatre at Monmouth (Monmouth, ME), American Shakespeare Center – Blackfriars Playhouse (Stanton, VA), Actors Shakespeare Project (Boston, MA), Oklahoma Shakespeare (Oklahoma City, OK), Foothills Theatre Company (Worcester, MA), Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (Holland, MI), Fort Harrod Drama Productions (Harrodsburg, KY), Actors Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY), Stage One (Louisville, KY), Bunbury Theatre (Louisville, KY), Farmington Lunch Time Theatre (Louisville, KY), Kentucky Contemporary Theatre (Louisville, KY), and New Composer Residency (Louisville, KY).
In 1989, Curt designed, wrote, and hosted the award-winning creative thinking series, Imagine That for Kentucky Educational Television.
Curt is the recipient of a number of prestigious honors and awards, including a Doctor of Humane Letters from Bellarmine University, an Al Smith Fellowship in playwriting from the Kentucky Arts Council, the Fleur-de-lis Award from the Louisville Forum, the Mildred A. Dougherty Award from the Greater Louisville English Council, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota.
For information on booking Curt to speak at your event, conference, or in the classroom, contact him directly at email@example.com.
Matt Wallace, Artistic Director
Matt is in his sixth season as Artistic Director of Shakespeare Behind Bars. He is Director and Facilitator of the program at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, where he is currently working on Much Ado About Nothing and directed the last five seasons of Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, The Winter’s Tale, and Macbeth. He has been Program Director and Facilitator of the SBB Multidisciplinary Juvenile Arts Program at the Audubon Youth Development Center. He created the SBB Shakespeare Beyond Bars programs at Louisville Day Treatment Center, Home of the Innocents, and Uspiritus – Brooklawn Campus. Last season he created and began facilitating the new Journeymen Programs for 18-21 year olds at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex and Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education and VSA Kentucky, the state organization on arts and disability.
For his work with SBB the Kentucky Council on Crime and Delinquency awarded Matt the 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award for Outstanding Service and Commitment to the Kentucky Criminal Justice System and he was also recognized by the Louisville Courier-Journal Velocity 2011 Generation Next Issue as a Louisville Leader to Watch.
Matt is the new Producing Artistic Director of Kentucky Shakespeare. Kentucky Shakespeare, designated as the Official Shakespeare Company of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a non-profit, professional theatre company founded in 1949 and incorporated in 1963. Its mission is to enhance community life through accessible, professional theatre experiences that educate, inspire and entertain people of all ages. Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the country.
Matt was the Director of Children’s Theatre and Audience Development at Derby Dinner Playhouse, where he directed five seasons of the children’s musical theatre series. He created the Derby Dinner Playhouse Performing Arts Academy which now serves over 1,000 students a year. He also performed in over 40 productions at the Playhouse.
As an Artistic Associate with Kentucky Shakespeare Festival for nine years, Matt performed in main stage productions in the park, toured/taught throughout the state, and directed in Central Park (Hamlet, Twelfth Night, 50th anniversary production of Richard III). In Chicago, he served as Artistic Director of Dolphinback Theatre Company where directing accomplishments included the world premiere rock musical The Sound of One, the United States Premiere of Anna Weiss, the Chicago Premiere of One Flea Spare, and bringing in Pulitzer Prize and Tony nominated playwright Lee Blessing to workshop and premiere his play Rewrites. Matt was also Booking Manager and Company Member with Chicago’s HealthWorks Theatre, working in HIV/AIDS prevention and violence prevention theatre for several years. While he was at HealthWorks, the company was awarded the 2000 Award of Excellence in Prevention Education by Mayor Daley and the Chicago Department of Public Health.
As an educator, Matt has taught with other companies including Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, and Horse Cave Theatre. He has been judge and respondent for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Illinois Theatre Association, Kentucky Thespian Society, and English Speaking Union Shakespeare Competition.
As an actor, Matt has performed professionally at Chicago theatres, across the Midwest, and throughout this region for over twenty years. Favorite stage credits include Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Charlie in The Foreigner, Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, Starkwedder in The Unexpected Guest, and Ali Hakim in Oklahoma. Film and TV credits include roles in the Oscar-winner Forrest Gump, Clancy, The Perfect Gift, 1 Message, recent releases The White Box and Pieces of Easter and the upcoming film Nikki and the Perfect Stranger.
As a writer, he has been published in Shakespeare Magazine and recently in the Selected Papers of the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference with Dr. Niels Herold. He has co-written the book and lyrics for several musicals for young audiences with his wife Tina Jo and they have had their work produced professionally by theatres across the country including recent productions in New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, and Tennessee.
Matt has given presentations and facilitated workshops on Shakespeare Behind Bars for organizations including the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children Conference, the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children Conference, and most recently at Xavier University in New Orleans.
He has studied with Second City Chicago and Shakespeare & Co. and holds a BFA in Regional Theatre from the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis.
Holly Stone, Director of Technology & Communications
Holly has been working with the Shakespeare Behind Bars team for over 10 years, doing marketing, graphic design, photography, web design and IT. She has served on the Board of Directors since 2010. Holly grew up on free Shakespeare and began volunteering and apprenticing with Kentucky Shakespeare Festival as a teenager. From 1999-2010, she worked full-time as their Director of Technology & Design/Communications, doing graphic & web design, marketing, IT and general administration.
Holly studied art and theatre at the Youth Performing Arts School/duPont Manual, Louisville Visual Art Association, Young Actor’s Institute and Wright State University’s Theatre Design and Technology Program. Holly has been working in and around the theatre community for over 20 years as an administrator, stage manager, scenic artist, house manager, production manager and actor, among various other technical positions. She has worked and volunteered with many Louisville theatres including Looking For Lilith, Bunbury Theatre and Stage One Family Theatre. She also served on the Board of Directors and was the resident Stage Manager for Dayton Theatre Guild in Dayton, OH.
Aside from her life-long career of working with Shakespeare, Holly is a freelance artist, designer, and photographer. She and her husband Pete are proprietors of The Salvage Emporium, which specializes in jewelry, accessories and other curiosities handcrafted from salvaged items and materials.
Keith McGill has been a free-lance theater teacher and workshop leader for over a decade for organizations including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, ArtsReach, and Walden Theatre and Actors’ Theatre’s New Voices playwriting program. He has also appeared in productions with various theatre organizations, such as Actors Theatre, The Necessary Theatre, Pleaides Theatre, Louisville Repertory Theatre, and the Royal Palm Players. Keith is very excited and proud to be part of Shakespeare Behind Bars.
Kathi is a professional theatre director, a member of the Lincoln Center and Chicago Director’s Labs, and an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. She directs professionally across the country, and has been nominated for the South Florida Regional Theatre Carbonell Award. Shakespearean directing credits include The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline (New Theatre, FL); Much Ado About Nothing, Women of Will (Looking for Lilith, Louisville); Macbeth, The Tempest, and As You Like It (Josephine Summerstage, Frankfort, KY); and she had the honor of being assistant director to Dennis Krausnick of Shakespeare and Company for The Winter’s Tale and Titus Andronicus. She has also been assistant to Livui Cuilei (Ghosts, Arena Stage), Susan Booth (As If Body Loop, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville) and Seret Scott (Spunk, Actors Theatre of Louisville). She received her MFA in Directing from the University of Louisville.
Kathi is a company member of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company where she is Resident Director. Highlights include the originally-devised Fabric, Flames, and Fervor: Girls of the Triangle, which toured to the 2011 centennial remembrances of the Triangle Factory Fire, and the world premiere of Robin Rice Lichtig’s Alice in Black and White. She has also served on the boards of Pleiades Theatre, the Juneteenth Legacy Theatre, Louisville’s only African-American theatre, and the Kentucky Theatre Association. She is director and co-producer of Josephine Summerstage at Josephine Sculpture Park, and created ShoeString Productions, an ad-hoc collective of artists with whom she has directed The Zoo Story, Art, The Glass Menagerie and Stones in his Pockets.
As a teaching artist Kathi conducts residencies, workshops, and teacher professional development sessions at schools throughout the Commonwealth. Her residency and workshop experience is as an independent teaching artist as well as with Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, Blue Apple Players, and the Kentucky Arts Council’s Directory of Teaching Artists. Her professional development work has been for Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky Alliance for Arts Education, Kentucky Art Educators Association, the Kentucky Center Arts Academies and Arts Institute, and the Kentucky Theatre Association for which she coordinated the annual teacher PD Day for a decade. As an adjunct faculty member she has taught at the University of Louisville, Spalding University, Centre College, Bellarmine University and through, Jefferson Community and Technical College, she has taught at both Luther Luckett Correctional Complex and Kentucky State Reformatory.
Kathi worked with the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in an administrative capacity for four years during Curt Tofteland’s tenure.
Kate joined the Shakespeare Behind Bars|Michigan circle as a facilitator-in-training in 2011. She brings with her a passion for both Shakespeare and outreach theatre and is thrilled to be able to combine her theatrical loves as she learns the SBB process. Kate first learned of SBB when she saw Curt L. Tofteland give a presentation at a 2005 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region III event; the experience inspired her to keep using theatre as a tool for social and individual evolution. Her work has taken her to North Miami to establish free theatre camps for ‘gang-risk’ youth and to nursing homes in Southern California to create life-story performances. Kate received her BA in Writing and Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University and her MFA in Acting from University of California, Irvine.
Joseph joined Shakespeare Behind Bars|Michigan as a facilitator-in-training in 2012. His love of the interior process, and of how the arts and social justice collide, has happily led him toward working with Shakespeare Behind Bars|Michigan.
While living in Berlin, Germany, Joseph was a member of Open Forum, a traveling discussion group which engaged former East Berlin high-school students in conversations including Euthanasia, Religiosity in America, Sex, Love, and Prayer. As an intern at Fr. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation, Joseph worked with the women and children of the Centro Santa Catalina in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Joseph holds Masters degrees from the Eastman School of Music in both voice and conducting, as well as the Performer’s Certificate in voice. His original music compositions are published by earthsongs and his poetry has appeared in Prism, The West Wind Review, Foxfire Books, Thorny Locust, The Penwood Review, and NewVerseNews.com
In 2011, Joseph received the Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Direction from the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, Indiana and was awarded the Charles Wesley Prize in Sacred Music and Liturgy for his work with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Morning Prayer, a contemplative worship liturgy taken from the posthumously published Letters and Papers from Prison, written while Bonhoeffer was incarcerated under the Nazi regime during WWII for participating in the resistance movement against Hitler.
Joseph is co-facilitator of the Center for Mission and Ministry’s Spiritual Direction Practicum in DeWitt, MI, and is the animator of The School for Contemplatives in Action in Holland, MI, partnering with those interested in learning, and living, the riches of the inner life.
Since 1998, Joseph has served as Minister of Music and Spiritual Life at Zion Lutheran Church in Holland, MI. He is chaplain for the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, a religious community of vowed Lutheran brothers and sisters committed to living in the simple ways of Francis of Assisi.
Since 2009, Joseph has worked with the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre as a member of the Acting Company, as Music Director for the Children’s Performance Troupe, and as the theatre’s Assistant Music Director.
Donna joined the SBB team in 2010. She designed costumes for SBB productions of The Winter’s Tale, The Merchant of Venice, and Romeo and Juliet and is currently working on this season’s Richard III.
Donna has been part of the Louisville Theatre family for 18 years. She was costume shop manager, draper and resident designer for 18 seasons. She has also been costume shop manager and resident designer for Music Theatre Louisville for 15 seasons. She has been lucky enough to work with many theatres in town, including Pandora Productions, Centre Stage, Walden Theatre, Louisville Ballet, Kentucky Opera, Assumption High School, Bunbury, Actor’s Theatre and Derby Dinner Theatre. This past spring, Donna had the wonderful experience of designing Shakespeare Behind Bar’s The Winter’s Tale.
Included among the over 280 shows that Donna has designed are: Alice in Wonderland, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, The Jackie Robinson Story, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Year With Frog And Toad, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Hello Dolly, Schoolhouse Rocks Live, Oedipus Rex, Take Me Out, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Cabaret, The Full Monty and The Secret Garden. Donna’s designs for The Great Gilly Hopkinswere seen on the Broadway stage at the New Victory Theatre. Donna has also had the chance to work with award-winning costume designers Jane Greenwood, Martin Pakladinez, Marie Ann Chimet and Andre Barber as a draper for Opera Theatre St. Louis. Donna has also designed and built several local school mascots and done several commercials for Kentucky Lottery and Caesar’s (now Horseshoe) Casino.
Donna has recently opened her own costume shop and is a professional baker for local outlets in Louisville.