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Shakespeare director and educator Curt Tofteland to visit AST and UCA

​​CONWAY — Curt Tofteland — theatre director, actor, producer and playwright — will visit the University of Central Arkansas Nov. 15-16 as artist in residence.

Tofteland is perhaps best known as the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. Its mission is “to offer theatrical encounters with personal and social issues to incarcerated and post-incarcerated adults and juveniles, allowing them to develop life skills that will ensure their successful reintegration into society.”

As part of the residency, Tofteland will screen the documentary film Shakespeare Behind Bars at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 in Stanley Russ Hall 103, to be followed by a discussion.

The filmmakers followed Tofteland as he directed The Tempest with the prisoners at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Ky., in 2003. The award-winning film is about his work and its impact on the prisoners who participated in it. Shakespeare Behind Bars premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and has been screened at more than 40 film festivals around the world

“I first met Curt Tofteland and saw the film Shakespeare Behind Bars as a graduate student at Illinois State University,” said Rebekah Scallet, faculty sponsor for the residency and artistic director of the UCA-based Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. “I was surprised and moved to see the power of Shakespeare's work manifested in such a tangible way.

“I wanted to share this experience with the students at UCA. Curt's work provides a surprising demonstration of the diverse ways they can practice their art and have an impact on their community."

As founder of SBB, Tofteland facilitated the program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex from 1995-2008. During his 13-year tenure there, he produced and directed 14 Shakespeare productions, including 2003’s The Tempest. He went on to establish 10 more Shakespeare Behind Bars programs in Kentucky and Michigan.

Tofteland has taught theatre classes at the Kentucky State Reformatory and created a 10-minute playwriting program called Voices Inside at the Northpoint Training Center in Burgin, Ky.

Other residency activities at UCA Nov. 16 include presentations “Acting Styles: Shakespeare”, with Q&A, in Snow Fine Arts Center Black Box Theatre at 12:15 p.m.; “Art of Change” and Q&A with students in McAlister Hall 303 at 1:40; and a master class, “Art and Social Change,” in the Snow Fine Arts Center Black Box Theatre at 7 p.m.

Tofteland has been a key presenter at the Modern Language Association, Shakespeare Association of America, Shakespeare Theatre Association, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe Playhouse, Utah Shakespearean Festival, American Players Theatre and other Shakespeare festivals across the globe. As a professional director and actor, he has more than 200 productions and has presented 400 performances of his one-man show, Shakespeare’s Clownes: A Foole’s Guide to Shakespeare.

For more information, contact Scallet at (501) 852-0702 or

The Artist in Residence program is funded by UCA’s arts fee and is administered by the College of Fine Arts and Communication. For more information about the program, call the Office of the Dean, College of Fine Arts and Communication, at (501) 450-3293 or e-mail

The UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication includes the Departments of Art, Music, and Film, Theatre and Creative Writing, as well as the School of Communication. The College’s primary mission is the preparation of the next generation of artists, educators and communicators. For more information about CFAC, visit or call (501) 450-3293.

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