Frannie Shepherd-Bates, Director
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; including expanding meetings from once to twice weekly, defining a season as nine months rather than leaving it open-ended, growing the team of passionate and knowledgeable facilitators, and developing a culture of warmth, openness, professionalism, and dedication. In 2015, the program moved from Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company as it dissolved to Detroit Public Theatre as it was founded.
In addition to her prison work, Frannie serves as Director of Programs for Detroit Public Theatre, as well as 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) 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.
Kyle Grant, Assistant Director
Kyle studied Acting from 2002-2005 and holds a BA from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. In the UK: Directed Julius Caesar with the ISB in Liverpool, appeared in The Catcher in the Rye in the Liverpool City Centre, Brezhnev's Children at the Battersea Art Centre, London. In New York: Directed The Tempest with Playlab NYC, assistant directed Macbeth with The Red Door Theatre. In Michigan: Directed Antony and Cleopatra with Shakespeare in Detroit; and has performed in The Taming of the Shrew and The Merry Wives Of Windsor with Water Works Theatre Company in Royal Oak, as well as The Fever at the Marlene Boll Theatre in Detroit. Kyle has taught various Shakespeare workshops, and directed several productions with Livonia’s CAPA program and at Belleville High School. Kyle recently completed a Master’s in Secondary Education, with an emphasis in the Small Urban Environment at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Lauren Montgomery, Co-Facilitator and Costume Coordinator
Lauren Montgomery studied acting at Wayne State University. She went on on to become an apprentice and understudy at The Purple Rose Theatre Company. She primarily works now as a costume designer, but has also acted, directed, and stage managed. She just completed her 5th season with The Michigan Shakespeare Festival as a part of their costume design team.
Matthew Van Meter, Co-Facilitator
Matthew Van Meter is a writer. His articles about criminal justice have appeared in The Atlantic, Longreads, The Awl, and Friends Journal, and he is currently at work on a book about a landmark Supreme Court case. After joining Shakespeare in Prison for the 2013-2014 season, he took two years off to study creative writing at Columbia University. His M.F.A. done, he is happy to be back at Women's Huron Valley.
Sarah Winkler, Co-Facilitator
Sarah is a Founding Producing Artistic Director of Detroit Public Theatre, Shakespeare in Prison's home company. In 2013, Sarah moved to the Detroit area from New York City, where she was a member of the Epic Theater Ensemble. Among many other credits, Sarah was a teaching artist in Epic's award-winning arts-in-education programs in public schools. She has worked extensively as an actress in off-Broadway and regional theatre, as well as in film, and is happy to be a part of Shakespeare in Prison.
Many, many thanks to past co-facilitators Alastar Dimitrie, Ciara Garrett, Bethany Hedden, Gaia Klotz, Dominique Lowell, Hannah Manela, Clearie McCarthy, Molly McGuire, Vanessa Sawson, and Jamie Weeder. Their 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, to Heather Martin at Youth Arts Alliance! for her enthusiastic partnership, and thanks to Curt Tofteland of Shakespeare Behind Bars for the endless advice 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 people - those who are still behind bars, and those who are not - who 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.