Speaker bios

Introducing the speakers for the National Teacher Conference 2022, Saturday 27 - Sunday 28 August at Pier 2/3, Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.


Actor, author, creative producer

Ben Crystal is an actor, author, and creative producer and explorer of original practices in Shakespeare rehearsal and production. He is a special advisor to the Shakespeare North Playhouse, and a patron of Shakespeare Week. He is the co-author of Shakespeare’s Words (Penguin 2002), The Shakespeare Miscellany (Penguin 2005) and An Illustrated Dictionary of Shakespeare (OUP 2015, shortlisted for the 2016 Educational Writer of the Year Award) with his father, David Crystal. He wrote Springboard Shakespeare - a quartet for Arden Shakespeare / Bloomsbury, and his first solo book, Shakespeare on Toast – Getting a Taste for the Bard (Icon 2008) was shortlisted for the 2010 Educational Writer of the Year Award. He brought together the Passion in Practice Shakespeare Ensemble and was invited with his father to explore original pronunciation (OP) in the newly finished Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe over 2014-2016.

He founded theShakespeareEnsemble.com, an international ensemble who make full-scale productions of Shakespeare plays in 3 days or less, exploring a fusion of Elizabethan rehearsal methods and modern physical theatre techniques. They create work that responds to the environment, the community, and the space they find themselves playing in. He is passionate about making theatre in non-English-speaking communities from inner-city warehouses to remote mountain-tops. He gave the English Council Lecture at the British Council on Speaking the bright and beautiful English of Shakespeare. His TEDx talk was called Original Practices: Shakespeare's Craft.

He tweets from @bencrystal and gives workshops & talks on performing Shakespeare around the world.


Founder, Shakespeare Behind Bars

Curt L. Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars program, bringing with him 40+ years of professional theatre experience as director, actor, producer, playwright, writer, teacher, and program developer. Since 1995, he has been working as a prison arts practitioner throughout the United States and around the world, creating circles with at-risk youth and adults who are White, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color who identify their gender as masculine, feminine, or non-binary, as well as those who identify with the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ communities. He is a recognized authority on creating Transformative Circles of Truth.

Philomath Films' documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and at more than 40 film festivals around the world winning 11 film awards. Curt has shared his experience at film screenings and discussions and served as a guest speaker and master teacher at 70 colleges and universities across the United States.

Curt is an in-demand speaker and workshop facilitator having visited 70+ colleges and universities, completed four TEDx Talks, delivered keynotes at American conferences including the Shakespeare in Prison Network, Shakespeare Association of America, Modern Language Association, as well as internationally at Stratford, Canada; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Kolkata, India; Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Warsaw, Poland. He is a published poet and essayist and for 20 seasons served as producing artistic director of Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. He received two Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowships in Australia, two Doctor of Humane Letters from Oakland University and Bellarmine University, he was named a Creative Fellow at the University of Auckland, a Petra Foundation Fellowship, an Al Smith Fellowship in playwriting from the Kentucky Arts Council, the Sidney Berger Award from the Shakespeare Theatre Association, the Fleur-de-lis Award from the Louisville Forum, the Mildred A. Dougherty Award for communication from the Greater Louisville English Council, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota, where he received his M.F.A. in Acting. Curt is a published poet and essayist writing about the transformative power of the arts to make us more human.

KYLIE BRACKNELL [Kaarljilba Kaardn]

Actor, writer, director

Kylie Bracknell (formerly Kylie Farmer) is a 2020 recipient of Australia’s prestigious Sydney Myer Performing Arts Award. She is an accomplished actor, theatre maker, writer, producer, and director.

Bracknell is highly respected for her award-winning stage adaptation, co-translation, and direction of Hecate – a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the endangered Noongar language of southwestern Australia, Bracknell’s mother tongue. The play was produced by Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company in association with Bell Shakespeare. She received critical acclaim for her ground-breaking language reclamation film Fist of Fury Noongar Daa – the first feature to be dubbed in an original language from Australia.

Kylie has long been a face of Indigenous language survival in Australia, hosting the early childhood television program Waabiny Time, performing her Noongar translations of Shakespearean sonnets at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, and again on national television in Australia for the ABC’s ‘Shakespeare special’ program on Q&A – the first time Noongar language was heard on mainstream television. She has also delivered a TEDx talk to raise awareness of Australia’s Indigenous languages.

Bracknell dedicated her adolescent years to learning Noongar language and culture before training as an actor. She received an industry nomination for ‘best-newcomer’ for her performance as Judith in the play Aliwa, and has appeared in various Australian theatre productions, including roles Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Kay (The Sapphires), Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and Rose Jones in Black is the New White for Sydney Theatre Company.

Kylie landed roles in landmark Australian television programs The Gods of Wheat Street and Redfern Now. She plays Amiya in the award-winning feature film I Met a Girl, Annie in the short thriller Ace of Spades, and Donna in the first feature length Aboriginal Australian comedy film Stone Bros. She has recently completed filming the first season of Irreverent for Peacock TV playing Piper, her first lead role in a television series.

Kylie’s voice is featured on Fist of Fury Noongar Daa, the award-winning animation series Little J and Big Cuz (English and Noongar versions) and Ivan Sen’s feature film Mystery Road.

Bracknell frequently consults on Indigenous arts projects in Australia and has coordinated and managed a variety of theatre, film and television, and radio industry programs. She worked as Program Manager of the Media and Screen Industry Indigenous Employment Program for Screen Australia, and Program Manager of the Indigenous Department at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

Kylie is currently working as an additional writer alongside Monty Franklin, John Cleese and Rob Schneider on the upcoming Hollywood comedy feature The Great Emu War, a Robyn Kershaw Production. She was recently awarded the 2022 Deutsche Bank Fellowship for First Nations Film Creatives (Sydney Film Festival) which will support her development as co-producer alongside Robyn Kershaw.


Actor and academic

Jane Montgomery Griffiths is an award-winning actor, playwright and academic. She has performed in over 15 professional productions of Shakespeare in the UK and Australia, including - for Bell Shakespeare, Goneril in King Lear, Titus in Titus Andronicus, and most recently Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. As an academic, she has held teaching positions at Cambridge, La Trobe and York St John's Universities, and was for many years Director of the Centre for Theatre and Performance and Professor of Performance Practice at Monash University. She has recently been appointed as Head of the School of Performing Arts at Collarts (The Australian College of the Arts, VIC).



Kate Flaherty is a Senior Lecturer in English and Drama at the Australian National University. She teaches Shakespeare and early modern drama and poetry. Her book, Ours as we play it: Australia plays Shakespeare (UWAP, 2011) was the first book-length study of Australian Shakespeare. Other topics in cultural history on which Kate has published articles and chapter include theatre rivalry and riots, war commemoration, and education—all in connection with Shakespeare’s plays. She is currently working on a book which investigates the influence exerted by touring actresses upon political change in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Kate is a founding member of Shakespeare Reloaded—a cross-sector project which produces research and resources for Shakespeare education at school and university. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academia and winner of multiple teaching awards, including the 2019 ANU Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Education.


Artistic Director, Bell Shakespeare

Australian born and New Zealand raised Peter Evans was appointed Co-Artistic Director by Founding Artistic Director John Bell in 2012. He is the first person to share, and then take on in 2016, the Artistic Director title and duties since Bell Shakespeare was founded in 1990. Evans first came to John Bell’s attention after he began his career directing at the University of Auckland, before moving to Australia to study at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). At the age of 25, Bell invited Evans to assist Steven Berkoff, the legendary English director, writer and actor, who was about to direct Bell in Coriolanus in 1996. Subsequently he was asked to direct Macbeth for Bell Shakespeare’s first regional tour in 1997, which aided in establishing the Company’s national ambitions.

For Bell Shakespeare Evans has directed Two Gentleman of Verona, The Tempest Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Phèdre, Tartuffe, The Dream, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Richard 3, Antony and Cleopatra, The Miser and Hamlet. His directing work for other companies includes Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, New Zealand's Court Theatre and Melbourne Theatre Company where Evans was Associate Director for four years.


Associate Director, Bell Shakespeare

James Evans is Associate Director at Bell Shakespeare. He is a graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (Acting) and holds a Master of Arts (English) from the University of Sydney. For Bell Shakespeare James directed the national touring productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Julius Caesar, as well as Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Bell Shakespeare's education program at Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne. As an actor he has appeared in Hamlet, Richard 3, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Henry IV and Actors At Work. He is the host of Bell Shakespeare’s podcast Speak The Speech.

James co-wrote and presented the acclaimed iPad App Starting Shakespeare (named Best New App by Apple in 17 countries) and co-directed the ABC Splash online series Shakespeare Unbound. He has been a visiting artist at the University of San Diego, as well as presenting a series of Shakespeare seminars in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Mumbai and Singapore. James’ work with Bell Shakespeare in juvenile detention centres is the subject of the feature film Kings of Baxter, winner of Best Australian Documentary at the 2017 Antenna Documentary Film Festival and the Supreme Jury Prize at the 2018 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.


Resident Artist in Education, Bell Shakespeare

Huw McKinnon is Bell Shakespeare’s Resident Teaching Artist. Huw is a trained actor (Nepean) and has appeared on the Bell Shakespeare mainstage in Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Othello. In 2019 he co-directed the Bell Shakespeare production of Macbeth for high school students at Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne. Huw first joined Bell Shakespeare in 2004 as an actor, touring schools around the country in Actors at Work (now The Players). Since then Huw has fostered a passion for teaching Shakespeare and has become involved in the delivery of almost every aspect of Bell Shakespeare’s education program. Over the last nine years he has been central to Bell Shakespeare’s Juvenile Justice program, delivering Shakespeare focused workshops in youth detention centres across NSW and Victoria. His work with young people in detention was the focus of the award-winning documentary Kings of Baxter (Grumpy Sailor, 2018), winner of Best Australian Documentary at the 2017 Antenna Documentary Film Festival and the Supreme Jury Prize at the 2018 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Huw regularly tours Australia, often to the most remote locations, helping teachers inspire an enthusiasm for Shakespeare in their students and helping young people see the plays in a whole new light. Huw is a key part of Bell Shakespeare’s Regional Teacher Mentorship and finds great satisfaction in being able to give teachers from all over Australia the tools and confidence they need to bring Shakespeare to life in their classrooms.


Head of Education, Bell Shakespeare

Joanna Erskine is an award-winning playwright, teacher, producer and arts education specialist. She is Head of Education at Bell Shakespeare, working with the company for fourteen years, overseeing artistic direction and delivery of its renowned national education program reaching 80,000+ students and teachers face to face each year. For Bell Shakespeare Joanna is the writer of The Players’ in school performances, established the primary Shakespeare program, co-wrote the award-winning app Starting Shakespeare, expanded digital activity and increased the Company's commitment to teachers through the Regional Teacher Mentorship. Under her direction, Bell Shakespeare’s acclaimed Juvenile Justice program has expanded into multiple states and regional centres. She has pioneered many Shakespeare programs for marginalised Australians, including the Women in Shakespeare program for Western Sydney girls' schools.