Reflections on Shakespeare behind bars

Words cannot tell you how I was inspired by your article and accompanying photographs ("Acting with Conviction," July 24).

I was transported back to my college days when I studied speech and drama. It was magnificent to see how these prisoners could find some way of loosening their restraints through their participation in Shakespeare's theater, provided to them by Curt Tofteland [the program's director], who so willingly gave of his time and expertise to make life a little different for them. Sometimes, the article brought tears to my eyes when I realized what all this meant, not only to them but to their families as well.

Patricia Adkison Murphy Pittsburgh

I am simply appalled at the eight-page coverage the Monitor gave the "... rapists, murderers, and other offenders" at a Kentucky prison. Here they are, criminals, doing something they're enjoying, while their victims and/or victims' families suffer, their lives forever changed by the actions of these men.

Your photographs of the cast of "Titus" were not in good taste. These men are obviously not ashamed of their crimes, and your paper has glorified, in some distorted way , their criminal past.

Yes, life does go on. Some will have a chance to improve themselves at taxpayers' expense, and others are left to cope with a hurt and pain that will never go away. Maybe you should be more sensitive to your readers, some of whom may have suffered first-hand by one of these men.

Joann Hohensee Harwinton, Conn.

Your stories truly "injure no man, but bless all mankind." Thank you for your humane look at the incarcerated, and thank you for writing about them with compassion and heart. I commend the instructor and the work he does with the inmates. As an author, I believe in the power of literature to help us find our humanity.

Sandra Cisneros San Antonio

The story on the Kentucky prison production is a compelling example of the way in which Shakespeare continues to speak to so many readers today. Thanks for a story which inspires me to rediscover in my own life the enduring richness and vitality of Shakespeare's work.

Alistair Budd Elsah, Ill.

I just read your piece on the men who have been locked up by society like lepers, yet manage to challenge their self-image through Shakespeare. Murderers and rapists usually receive a stilted kind of public attention. It is helpful for people like me, who have never met criminals like that, to get a deeper understanding of their struggles without the usual bias.

Teri Fox Los Angeles

Curt Tofteland is doing in this country what Cicely Berry of the Royal Shakespeare Company has done in England's Dartmoor Prison. When I asked Ms. Berry if the prisoners in Dartmoor could really relate to Shakespeare, she gave me a withering look and replied: "Who would best understand Macbeth?!" Thank you for featuring this inspiring work!

Elizabeth Nash Minneapolis

Department of Theatre Arts University of Minnesota

Being the "Titus" groupie that I am, I was so moved that someone would assign this play under the conditions you described.

And even if T.S. Eliot didn't have the patience or sensibility to stay with it, I am certainly glad the prisoners at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex did.

Victoria Jones Cambridge, Mass.

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