Thursday, January 24, 2013


Starting this week, Nick Leair, Megale Taylor, and Jonathan Shailor of The Shakespeare Prison Project begin an on-line exploration of William Shakespeare's great tragedy, ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.

We chose this play because it is one of the lesser-known tragedies, and one that we have been wanting to take a closer look at for quite some time now.

We welcome you to join us as we investigate the play's characters and themes.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Shakespeare Prison Project: BEYOND BARS

Nick Leair embraces his daughter Ally at his Jan 13, 2013 performance

This evening about 40 people attended the very first production of THE SHAKESPEARE PRISON PROJECT - BEYOND BARS at the Rita Tallent Pickens Center for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Nick Leair, a former inmate and participant in the project, joined guest actors to perform scenes from THE TEMPEST and HENRY IV, PART 2.   

Many of Nick's family members were there, including his mother, father-in-law, brothers, and a sister.  Also in attendance:  Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, Dean Yohnk, a consultant to The Shakespeare Prison Project; Wisconsin State Senator John Lehman; and Emeritus Professor of English and Shakespeare scholar Andrew McLean, a consultant to the project who has also offered his own Shakespeare classes behind bars. Roseann Mason, a co-author of the Wisconsin Humanities Council grant that first brought me to Racine Correctional Institution in 1995, was also there.

The actors who performed with Nick were Kelley Ristow of Chicago's Backroom Shakespeare Project, UW-Parkside Theatre Arts major Alex Metalsky, and myself (Shakespeare Prison Project director Jonathan Shailor).

Nick's 12-year-old daughter Ally joined us on stage during the talkback. I asked her what her main impression of her Dad was back in 2007 when she saw him perform for the very first time (which happened to be in prison, where he was serving a 30-year sentence). She looked at me, paused a moment, and then said simply, "He looked happy." 
Then she proudly took the stage and read the prologue from one of her Dad's favorite plays: ROMEO AND JULIET. 
Two other former inmates/Shakespeare Project participants attended the program and joined in the discussion, and another contacted us via email.  All of them are doing well--reconnected with family, employed, and/or in school. They all credit their experience with The Shakespeare Project as an important element in the building of new identities and productive lives.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


This morning WGTD-FM host Greg Berg interviewed Shakespeare Project alumnus Jeff Morarend and Project Director Jonathan Shailor about THE SHAKESPEARE PRISON PROJECT BEYOND BARS.  Click here to listen.