Shakespeare in Prison relies on a skilled, passionate team of facilitators, supporters, and advisors to provide the very best experience for our ensemble members.

This is that team.

Left to right: Frannie Shepherd-Bates, Lauren Montgomery, Kyle Grant, and Matthew Van Meter at DPT’s 3rd Annual Unabashed Ask for Cash Bash. Photo by Chuk Nowak.

Left to right: Frannie Shepherd-Bates, Lauren Montgomery, Kyle Grant, and Matthew Van Meter at DPT’s 3rd Annual Unabashed Ask for Cash Bash. Photo by Chuk Nowak.


Alumni Advisory Council

+ Kyle Grant

Facilitator at WHV

Kyle studied acting and directing at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in Liverpool, England, from 2002-2005, where he received his BA (honours) and was the 2005 recipient of the Paul McCartney Human Spirit Award for service to the community.

From there, he moved to New York City, where he directed and performed in several outdoor Shakespeare productions with the Red Door Theatre and PlayLab NYC. After moving back to Michigan, Kyle worked with Shakespeare in Detroit and taught theatre workshops for high school students with the Creative and Performing Arts program in Livonia and at Belleville High School. He has performed with Water Works Theatre Company in Royal Oak, and at the Marlene Boll Theatre in Detroit.

In 2015, Kyle completed a Master’s Degree in Education in the Urban Environment with the Detroit Teacher Project at the University of Michigan Flint. He then taught mathematics (and a Shakespeare class!) at Henry Ford High School in Detroit and is now teaching mathematics at Ypsilanti High School.

Kyle is passionate about his work with Shakespeare in Prison and is developing ways to assign research-based and data-driven evaluation techniques to the work we do.

+ Lauren Montgomery

Facilitator at WHV

Lauren Montgomery studied acting at Wayne State University from 2003 to 2008, where she earned an Alumi Association award, and was an apprentice and understudy at The Purple Rose Theatre Company from 2008 to 2010. Lauren has designed costumes for many productions in Metro Detroit, earning a Wilde Award nomination for her work on Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company's 2013 production of Soul Mates.

From 2010-2012, Lauren served as a board member for Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, helping organize fundraisers, monitoring yearly budgets, and attending monthly meetings regarding the functioning of the company. Lauren also worked with the children's theatre at Novi Civic Center from 2012-2015 as a stage manager and director. She is currently the wardrobe supervisor for Michigan Shakespeare Festival, where she has also designed Drivng Miss Daisy (2010), Much Ado About Nothing (2011), and Henry IV parts I and II (2015).

Lauren has been a SIP co-facilitator since 2013 and attends meetings once per week throughout each nine-month season. In addition to theatre work, she has an associate's degree in human services, summa cum laude, and is currently studying psychology. She has spent time with Team Wellness Center in Detroit, doing theatre with adults with severe mental illness and cognitive impairments. Lauren has also worked with LGBTQ youth with Affirmations in Ferndale.

+ Frannie Shepherd-Bates

Director and Lead Facilitator

Frannie is the founder, director, and lead facilitator of Shakespeare in Prison. Frannie began Shakespeare in Prison (under the auspices of Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, which she led from 2008-2014) as its sole volunteer facilitator and administrator, personally handling every aspect of the program. Since those early days, Frannie has worked with the women’s ensemble to develop the structure, objectives, and pedagogy of the program. In 2015, SIP moved from Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company as it dissolved to Detroit Public Theatre as it was founded.

In addition to her prison work, Frannie has served as Director of Programs for Detroit Public Theatre and Director of Education and Development for Water Works Theatre Company. She has directed productions and staged readings for Detroit Public Theatre, Williamston Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, Shakespeare in Detroit, Planet Ant Theatre, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Water Works Theatre Company, the Abreact, Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus, and the Roeper School. She has taught, directed, and/or coached for Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Matrix Theatre Company, and Royal Oak High School.

Frannie has been recognized for her work as an artist and arts advocate by the Wilde Awards (Critics' Choice 2013; Best of the Bard 2015; Best Play nomination 2016), the Pulsar Awards (Best Play 2017), and CBS Detroit, and she accepted an Arts Achievement Award on behalf of MGT from WSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance. She has spoken about prison theatre at conferences such as Shakespeare in Prisons (2013), Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (2017), Art X Detroit (2015), and Human Rights Through Education (University of Michigan, 2013). She has been featured numerous times in local, regional, national, and international media for her work in prisons and as an artist.

+ Matthew Van Meter

Assistant Director and Facilitator at WHV and SMT

Matthew Van Meter is an author, journalist, and educator. A graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University School of the Arts, he is overjoyed to return for a fourth season with Shakespeare in Prison. His writing about criminal justice and other topics has appeared in The Atlantic, Longreads, The Awl, Forbes, Friends Journal, Russia Magazine, and others. Currently, he is writing a book about the riveting story behind Duncan v. Louisiana, the landmark Supreme Court case that enshrined the right to jury trial for all, due out in 2019 from Little, Brown.

In addition to his work as a writer, Matthew has been involved for years in prisoner advocacy in Michigan, both with Shakespeare in Prison and the Michigan Criminal Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization. A lifelong Quaker, Matt has worked in various capacities with Quaker groups in Philadelphia.

Matthew has taught high school and college English in the United States and Russia, and taking new, fresh looks at Shakespeare has always been at the heart of his pedagogy.

Facilitator Apprentices

+ Catherine Coffey

Apprentice at SMT

Catherine Coffey began her theatrical career at the age of thirteen as a founding member of the Nebraska Girls Shakespeare Company. Since then she has performed with several companies, including Angels Theatre Company and Flatwater Shakespeare Company, in roles ranging from Juliet in Romeo and Juliet to Glory in Almost, Maine, to Chaperone in The Drowsy Chaperone. Catherine is a musician and has written and performed original music for productions of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Catherine has also worked as a writer, director, and dramaturg for various productions and currently works as a dramaturgical graduate assistant for Eastern Michigan University. Catherine attended Hillsdale College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Theatre and English. While an undergraduate student, she studied Shakespeare’s late romances abroad at Oxford University. She is currently working towards an MFA in Applied Drama at Eastern Michigan University.

+ Emma Rodgers

Apprentice at WHV

Emma is a research lab manager at the University of Michigan who is passionate about human development. In her free time, Emma enjoys instructing indoor cycling classes, going to the public library, and bothering her friends.

+ Maria Tejada

Apprentice at SMT

Maria Tejada is a professional stage manager and lover of Shakespeare’s plays. She is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a BA in Theatre and Spanish. Her favorite productions as a student were performing in Hamlet and Bard To Go: All’s Fair… a traveling show of Shakespeare scenes for high school students.

Maria has worked at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., for six years, traveling with one production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Macau, China. She has also worked at several Michigan Theatres including Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, the Abreact and Planet Ant Theatre.

+ Jessica Christopher

Jessica Christopher is an alumni member of Shakespeare in Prison. While an ensemble member of SIP, Jessica played multiple roles, including Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew, Iago in Othello, and Queen Elizabeth in Richard III. Jessica is currently the teen program coordinator of Extended Grace, a non-profit, grassroots social lab that builds community while solving problems. In the fall of 2019, Jessica will be co-facilitating a Shakespeare program for individuals in the LGBQT community, in which participants will use theatre and the works of Shakespeare to explore what it means to be human.

+ Nichole Frederick

Nichole Frederick is an aspiring actress and alumna of Shakespeare in Prison. She re-discovered her passion for acting during her four years in SIP, with roles such as Trinculo in The Tempest, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew, and Emilia in Othello. Nichole began her professional artistic adventure in 2017. Since then, she has appeared in two commercials, several short films, a Sato48 Hour Film Challenge, and the concept trailer for the upcoming film Vincent's Vow. Nichole is studying acting with Acting for Real in Springfield, Missouri, and is a member of IMDBPRO. She also served in the armed forces for 11 years, culminating in one tour in Iraq.

+ Justin Greenlaw

Justin Greenlaw is an alumni member of Shakespeare in Prison and one of the Original 12, SIP’s founding ensemble at Parnall. During his time with SIP, he played Malcolm in Macbeth and Iago in Othello, becoming a mentor for the ensemble during its exploration of King Lear. Currently, Justin is pursuing his master’s degree in Public Health, intending to explore the intersection of public health, incarceration, and criminal justice issues. He plans to start a consultation business to help incarcerated individuals and their families through challenges of navigating the criminal justice system, including those of physical disability, mental illness, and deafness. Justin is excited to continue his relationship with SIP as a member of the alumni advisory council, offering whatever insight and guidance he can for a program about which he is truly passionate.

+ Asia Johnson

Bio to come!

Program Support

+ Hope Bernard

Support Costumer at SMT

Hope is a California native putting down roots in the Midwest. She has a passion for theatre and education and received her PhD in Theatre from Bowling Green State University.

After teaching theatre at the university level for several years, Hope started to miss the excitement of live theatre and transitioned to working in wardrobe. Hope worked in wardrobe positions at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, and Carowinds Cedar Fair Theme Park in Charlotte, NC. Currently, she is the Wardrobe Supervisor for the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

Hope continues to publish and present academic research about the negotiation of space in performer/spectator relationships and how spatial dynamics make meaning in theatrical moments.

+ Patrick Hanley

Stage Combat Coordinator

Patrick Hanley is a very busy stage manager, fight choreographer, performer, and, now, facilitator with SIP. He earned his B.F.A. in Acting from Wayne State University, where he was on the Varsity fencing team for four years, including two as captain.

Patrick has facilitated at Parnall Correctional Facility and in Youth Arts Alliance workshops—and may do so again! He has worked with many Metro Detroit theatre companies, including Detroit Public Theatre, Matrix Theatre, Planet Ant Theatre, and Shakespeare in Detroit. He is Director of Education with Water Works Theatre Company. Credits also include years of working in educational theatre as fight choreographer, director, and producer.

+ Vanessa Sawson

Associate Facilitator at WHV and SMT

Vanessa Sawson is honored to be working with Shakespeare in Prison Program again after being a co-facilitator a few years ago. She is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association and has had the pleasure of appearing on many stages in Metro Detroit; most recently Tipping Point Theatre (Ripcord!, I Hate Hamlet), Kickshaw Theatre (Or,), and Williamston Theatre (Beau Jest). Her passion for Shakespeare led her to become an ensemble and touring company member/teaching artist with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (The Elephant Man, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet) as well as a touring company member for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks (As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet) and Michigan Shakespeare Festival (Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet). Vanessa holds an MFA in Acting from The Hilberry Theatre at Wayne State University, where she had the opportunity to study abroad at The Moscow Art Theatre School, which inspired her beyond her wildest dreams.

Many, many thanks to past facilitators Elizabeth Barnes, Alastar Dimitrie, Ciara Garrett, Assata Haki, Bethany Hedden, Gaia Klotz, Dominique Lowell, Hannah Manela, Clearie McCarthy, Molly McGuire, Vanessa Sawson, Jamie Weeder, and Emily Wilson-Tobin. Your passion, hard work, and dedication have been absolutely vital as the program has grown.

Thanks to Mary Elizabeth Anderson for facilitating our student program with Wayne State University from 2016-18, to Heather Martin at Youth Arts Alliance for her enthusiastic partnership, to Ashley Lucas of Prison Creative Arts Project for her friendship and support, and to Curt Tofteland  of Shakespeare Behind Bars for the endless advice, support, and inspiration.

Thanks to all of the staff at Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Parnall Correctional Facility, Michigan Department of Corrections, and the youth treatment centers where we work for the incredible amount of support that enables us to keep coming back.

And, most of all, thank you to all of the peoplethose who are still behind bars, and those who are notwho have made this program what it is. We've shown up with books, ideas, and enthusiasm. All of the truly hard work has been yours.

Thank you for the opportunity to work alongside you.