Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


American Studies

Reader 1

Julie Liss

Reader 2

Sue Castagnetto

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© 2015 Olivia G. Buntaine


This thesis discusses the process and value of theatrical and performance-based rehabilitation programming in prisons, specifically focusing on the non-profit organization Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB). SBB has programs in two prisons in which they read, rehearse and produce a Shakespeare play annually. Using performance theories, theories of rehabilitation and personal interviews, this thesis aims to develop an understanding of the way culture functions in prisons, how the act of performance changes that functioning, and how these programs effect incarcerated people. This thesis includes analyzed interviews with Curt Tofteland, founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars and Sammie Byron, a previously incarcerated alumnus of the program.

Ultimately, this project focuses on the possibilities for rehabilitation within incarceration and how performance-based rehabilitation programming offers something unique. SBB creates spaces through performance that allow incarcerated people to reflect on their choices and take responsibility for who they want to become. Central to this thesis and the program it analyzes is the idea of story-telling and allowing incarcerated people to have the access and ability to create their own narratives.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.