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Shakespeare Behind Bars (2005)

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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 307 users   Metascore: 74/100
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Twenty male inmates in a Kentucky prison form an unlikely Shakespearean acting troupe.


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Twenty male inmates in a Kentucky prison form an unlikely Shakespearean acting troupe.

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Release Date:

January 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Shakespeare Atrás das Grades  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,347 (USA) (31 March 2006)


$48,194 (USA) (20 October 2006)

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User Reviews

The bard brightens up prison life
22 May 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

If you're going to put on a play within the prison walls why not go for the top playwright William Shakespeare? And if you are going to choose your cast from a whole lot of criminals serving long sentences for the most heinous crimes, you can be sure there will be plenty of time for rehearsals. In a Kentucky Correctional Prison a courageous project such as this was undertaken with amazing results. This film shows how it was all done….the casting….the rehearsals….the set and costumes…and the final presentation of Shakespeare's play "The Tempest." It had not occurred to me before but there is an analogy between the setting of the play and the correctional prison. In the play the ship-wrecked characters are confined to an island with no contact with the outside world. Prison life too is much like that.

With a simple painted back drop of a surrounding seascape, the characters in a most pleasing assortment of costumes bellow out their lines to an approving audience, may be not quite as Shakespeare intended but with good heart and true sincerity for sure.

More interesting than the play itself were the little cameos of each man behind his character. One inmate saw the play as a lesson in forgiveness another as a redemption of his sins. It was quite moving to see the men wipe away a tear as they spoke of murder, shooting and strangulation. One had the feeling that they would all like to wind back the clock and reconsider their brutal actions. However (as someone said) the past was past, and the present was the beginning of a new future. At least the play gave temporary relief from the depressing thoughts of past events.

The prison authorities should be applauded for allowing the play to take place. Such an event would put Kentucky on the map and hopefully other prisons might follow their good example. It seems to me that everyone stands to benefit…not only the Kentucky prison but the prisoners themselves who need to find new confidence and self esteem and be prepared for the day when they go out on parole.

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