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This project was successfully funded on January 4, 2013

"Globe To Globe Shakespeare Visits Prison, Or, To Whom Does Shakespeare Belong?"

by Steve Rowland


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Shakespeare Changes Lives!

What happens when two time Peabody-award winning producer Steve Rowland brings London’s Globe to Globe International Shakespeare Festival, featuring Shakespeare performances from around the world, to a group of men in a New York State medium security prison?

On January 3-9, 2013, Steve Rowland, in partnership with Rehabilitation Through The Arts, will have the privilege of filming prisoners as they participate in an intensive Shakespeare seminar, viewing and discussing Globe to Globe performances from Nigeria, Mexico and in Chicago-style Hip Hop rhyme.  

Shakespeare belongs to everyone!

This workshop is part of a long-term Shakespeare project ( that, through performance and interviews, explores the rich variety of cultural interpretations of Shakespeare’s work and the universality and accessibility of Shakespeare's themes.  The clothes and language may be foreign, but prisoners are all too familiar with Shakespearian characters’ outsized emotions - hot-headed misunderstandings, passion, loyalty, betrayal and revenge – as relevant in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn as they were in Shakespeare’s day.

The men participating in this seminar are all members of Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA), a unique and innovative non-profit that uses theatre, dance, writing and visual arts to build social and cognitive skills in men and women in NYS maximum and medium security prisons. RTA is a deeply transformational program that welcomes even the self-described “thug in the yard” as long as they are committed to change.

Filming will take place in Woodbourne Correctional Facility, where RTA also runs the only men’s modern dance program in prison, as well as experimental workshops such as personal monologues, devised theatre and improvisation.  The Globe to Globe workshop will be led by Steve Rowland and RTA facilitator and actor/director Josie Whittelsey.

Your support will go towards the production phase (shooting) of this documentary.  The working title is “Globe to Globe Visits Prison, or, To Whom Does Shakespeare Belong?” The film will include discussion of how Shakespeare relates to the lives of this intelligent and dedicated group of men, prompted by three filmed performances from the Globe to Globe festival: The Winter’s Tale from Nigeria in Yoruba language, Henry IV, Part 1 from Mexico in Spanish, and Othello from Chicago in Hip Hop rhyme.  The completed film will also feature excerpts of these Globe to Globe performances, interviews with prisoners, prison reform advocates, Shakespeare scholars, artistic directors and actors.

Topics for discussion will include: -  Domestic violence; What is a ‘real’ man?, what is ‘manhood’?;  Committing crimes, and paying for them; The structure and meaning of each play; Who is Shakespeare "for" -- only educated people or all people?;  Issues of race and class; The way the performance incorporates aspects of another culture; The ways in which the plays are adaptable;  What it means for the plays to be embraced by people of color and people of other cultures;  What does it mean to translate the original poetry; What messages are specific to men in prison?

This documentary will interest anyone exploring the deep moral and ethical questions posed by Shakespeare’s plays. As a demonstration of how Shakespeare can be adapted in many, many ways, it will be of value to Shakespeare teachers all over the world, as well as prison reform advocates and people who believe that education can change lives.

We are grateful to the New York State Department of Corrections & Community Supervision for granting us permission to hold and film the workshop.

RTA Changes Lives.  Shakespeare Changes Lives.

All donations are tax-deductible. Thank you for your kindness and support. 

Match Funds are not currently available.

Previous donations matched by:

    • December 22, 2012 Steve Rowland Artist

      Wow - well I have to deeply thank all 33 people who have donated to this project -- ranging from $10 to $2500. And you know what? Each one has made me so proud and so determined to keep pushing hard to make it all work. The process of putting this all together is quite interesting. Difficult, but interesting. And I'm so wrapped up in all right now. There are so many layers - I'm keeping in touch with the folks at Shakespeare's Globe in London, making sure we have all the videos we need, I'm keeping in touch with all 3 theater directors -- they are all volunteering to send videos I can play for the prisoners - with messages of goodwill, I'm working with my two wonderful cameramen to plan the shoot, I'm working with my co-facilitator, Jose Whittelsey, who is a wonderful actress and teacher, with the folks at RTA to make sure every tiny detail of our admission to the facility goes without a hitch, rounding up equipment - getting loans on some wonderful and expensive gear that will help us tell the story, and of course planning the content of the course for each day. This kind of fundraising is new to me. I usually write grant applications. Asking people to put down money that could easily be spent elsewhere -on gifts, on treats, on travel - is not easy. Actually, I really don't like it at all. On the other hand, having people step up and say "I like this project, and I think it will make a difference, and I want to be part of it" - well, that feels awesome. Really good. It becomes a group effort. And I like this group. The group is made of wonderful people. All the people i just mentioned -- who are making this happen -- no way this is happening without a team of incredible people - and now the team includes you - -just reading this - you are part of the team just be reading this and caring about what we are doing. So thank you for being part of it. Steve

    • December 15, 2012 Ellen Wallenstein Artist

      proud to be your cousin and share in this great project!