Curt Tofteland Bio

CtoftelandCurt L. Tofteland is the Founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars program.

From 1995 - 2008, Curt facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. Additionally, Curt worked 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 third 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.

On February 12, 2011, Curt created the most recent Shakespeare Behind Bars program at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.

Curt frequently travels the country to screen Philomath Films award-winning documentary - Shakespeare Behind Bars, facilitate a post-screening audience talk-back, teach master classes, and visit classrooms. To date, he has visited thirty-three college campuses and eleven professional Shakespeare Festivals. Additionally, Curt has been hosted by the Modern Language Association, Shakespeare Association of America, National Conference of the Teachers of English, Shakespeare Theatre Association, and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Regions III, VII, and VIII.

Curt has been the keynote speaker at the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s Wooden O Symposium; the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA) Joint International Symposium with Columbia College, Chicago, IL;  National Arts Club in New York City; and the Shakespeare Connection Conference at the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival. Additionally, he has upcoming keynote speaking engagements as the Gates-Ferry Distinguished  Visiting Lectureship at Centenary College; Personal Effectiveness and Employability Through the Arts (PEETA) International Symposium, Rotterdam, Netherlands; and the Jepson School of Leadership Study at the University of Richmond.

Curt has delivered two TED Talks. In 2012, at the TEDx Macatawa in Holland, Michigan where the subject of his talk was mercy and in 2010, at the TEDx East in New York City where the subject of his talk was shame. Additionally, he was a guest speaker at the Vibe Wire Youth, Inc. FastBREAK Breakfast Speaker Series in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. In September, Curt will be hosted at the IDEA Festival in Louisville to screen the SBB documentary, facilitate a post-screening audience talk-back, and chair a panel about Shakespeare in corrections.

Curt is the recipient of two distinctive fellowships, from the Fulbright Foundation and the Petra Foundation, for his work with Shakespeare in corrections. Curt’s 2011 Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship took him to Australia where he brought SBB to the Borallon Correctional Centre in Queensland.

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: Redemption, Forgiveness, & Transformation”. 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.

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.