7 October 2011

The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble will next week host a leading US director who has used the bard to reach out to prison inmates.

Fulbright Fellow Curt Tofteland will attend a special screening at St Lucia on October 13 of Shakespeare Behind Bars, a powerful documentary which follows his theatre troupe’s work in an American prison.

The award-winning film shows inmates at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in Kentucky rehearsing The Tempest as they explore their characters’ and their own personal histories.

“They come to know they don’t have to be the crime they committed; they can be who they wish to become,” Mr Tofteland said.

“It is through the process of understanding their past they come to take responsibility for the actions of abuse.”

Following the screening, a discussion will take place on the impact of Shakespeare’s plays in prisoner rehabilitation involving Mr Tofteland and a former participant in QSE's Shakespeare Prison Project.

Led by artistic director and UQ lecturer Dr Rob Pensalfini, QSE has gained a reputation for energetic, accessible and unique productions of Shakespeare's plays, and celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

The ensemble has participated in the Shakespeare Behind Bars project for the past four years, working with inmates at the Borallon Correctional Centre to stage productions of Macbeth, The Tempest and Julius Caesar.

The company is currently presenting The Merchant of Venice at the Roma Street Parkland’s Amphitheatre. Supported by a directorial team including Mr Tofteland and Crystal Aronsm, the play tackles tough realities of prejudice and exclusion through daily commerce in 16th century Venice. Tickets are available on the QSE website.

The screening of Shakespeare Behind Bars will take place at UQ’s Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio at 7pm on October 13, followed by the discussion.

Media: Dr Rob Pensalfini (07 3365 2245, r.pensalfini@uq.edu.au) or Dania Lawrence (07 33659163, d.lawrence@uq.edu.au)