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2021 Plenary Speakers

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Don Francis

Founder & CEO

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Aileen Gonsalves


Aileen trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama for over 25 years and works professionally in film, theatre, television and radio. She has worked extensively for over 15 years at the RSC as an actor, writer, director, dramaturge and education practitioner.


She founded and is Artistic Director of Butterfly Theatre Company. Butterfly Theatre specialise in site responsive, immersive, and accessible Shakespeare in extraordinary locations such as caves and castles across Europe. Butterfly Online focuses on creating innovative, interactive productions for online platforms for international audiences and Butterfly Training shares the insights and practises of the companies unique working method which enables truthful, authentic, responsive acting, the ‘Gonsalves Method.’ Useful for actors, directors, teachers, doctors, lawyers and other corporate and real world applications in communication.


In April 2021 she launched Shakespeare and Meisner for Bloomsbury/Arden cowritten with Dr Tracy Irish which outlines her pioneering authentic acting method,  the ‘Gonsalves Method’ which she teaches globally. She is launching a new immersive acting school this year and she recently got 5 star reviews for a new play - No Strings Attached (winner of the Adrian Pagan award) for the Kings Head in London.

She was Head of the MA in Acting course 2011-2015 at ArtsEd and Head of Acting at Drama Studio London. 2018-19. She is an associate director at Kali theatre.

Ashley Jones

Tech Lead

Write a bio for each team member. Make it short and informative to keep your visitors engaged.




Tracy Irish



Tracy Irish is an experienced education practitioner and scholar with a specialism in Shakespeare. She has worked with a wide range of schools and cultural organisations in the UK and internationally and works regularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick. Her particular interests are in using theatre-based practice to develop communication skills and cultural intelligence in young people. She has written a range of articles and resources including the recently published Shakespeare and Meisner, co-authored with Aileen Gonsalves for the Arden Performance Series. Other recent publications include: ‘Theatre, education, and embodied cognition: young women in the changing world’ in the Palgrave History of Women on Stage and RSC School Shakespeare editions for OUP.

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Ewan Fernie

EWAN FERNIE is Director of the major, lottery-funded ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project to revitalise the world’s first great Shakespeare library with the people and communities of Birmingham, as well as Chair, Professor and Fellow of the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute. His latest book is Shakespeare for Freedom: Why the Plays Matter (Cambridge University Press), shortlisted for the biannual European Society for the Study of English Prize and a Times Higher Education Supplement Book of the Year. His other books include Shame in Shakespeare, The Demonic: Literature and Experience, and (with Simon Palfrey) the experimental novel, Macbeth, Macbeth, which Slavoj Žižek called ‘a miracle, an instant classic’. In 2011, his progressive civic liturgy for St George’s Day was profiled in The Guardian, performed in major UK cathedrals, and adopted by the Royal Shakespeare Company; it also sparked a BNP protest. In July 2018, Fernie hosted ‘Radical Mischief: A Conference Inviting Experiment in Thought, Theatre and Politics’ with Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, at the RSC’s studio theatre, The Other Place.  He has been Visiting Scholar at Eton College, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies in the University of Munich, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Malmö, as well as (twice) at the University of Queensland, Australia.




Dr Erin Sullivan


Dr Erin Sullivan is Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on the interestion of emotional experience and Shakespeare’s plays, both in the past and present. She’s currently finishing a book on Shakespeare and Digital Performance and co-editing a collection about Lockdown Shakespeare.

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Ruben Espinosa


Ruben Espinosa is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University and Associate Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He is the author of Shakespeare on the Shades of Racism (2021), Masculinity and Marian Efficacy in Shakespeare’s England (2011), and co-editor of Shakespeare and Immigration (2014). He was a Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America (2018-2021), and he serves on the Editorial Boards of Shakespeare Quarterly, Exemplaria: Medieval, Early Modern, Theory, and Palgrave’s “Early Modern Cultural Studies” series. He is currently at work on his next monograph, Shakespeare on the Border: Language, Legitimacy and La Frontera.  



Jeffrey R. Wilson



Jeffrey R. Wilson is a faculty member in the Writing Program at Harvard University, where he teaches the

“Why Shakespeare?” section of the university’s first-year writing course. He is the author of three books,

Shakespeare and Trump (2020), Shakespeare and Game of Thrones (2021), and Richard III’s Bodies from Medieval England to Modernity: Shakespeare and Disability History (forthcoming in 2022). His work has appeared in journals such as Modern Language Quarterly, Genre, and College Literature, and been featured in public venues including National Public Radio, Zocalo Public Square, and MLA’s Profession.

On Twitter @DrJeffreyWilson.

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Rob Myles

Rob is a multi-award-winning actor, writer and director, and a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association.


Over thirteen years as an actor, he has played a wide range of Shakespearean leading roles in national touring productions. His experiences led him to create The Shakespeare Deck - a powerful, portable toolkit for classical actors to engage meaningfully with the text - sold to date in the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and in the Royal Court Bookshop in London. 


In 2020, Rob created The Show Must Go Online. directing Shakespeare’s complete First Folio plays in the order they were believed to have been written, one a week every week for 36 weeks. Over that span, Rob worked with 500 actors and creatives from around the world, including veterans of the RSC, Shakespeare's Globe, Broadway, Hollywood and more, attracting 250,000+ audience members from 60 countries, winning three awards from OffWestEnd including the 5th OneOff Award ever given.

Rob has given talks at Harvard University, Kings College London, Rhodes, Cincinnati, and more, and has taught Shakespeare at East 15 drama school. His Cracking The Shakespeare Code workshops sold out in London, Glasgow, and Online.


James Shapiro

James Shapiro is the Larry Miller Professor of English at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1985.  His most recent book is Shakespeare in a Divided America (2020).  His other books include Shakespeare and the Jews (1996); 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005) which won the Samuel Johnson Prize; Contested Will (2010); and The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 (2015), which won the James Tait Black Prize. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH Public Scholar Award.  He serves on the Board of Directors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, is Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at New York’s Public Theater, and has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Dr. Carol Mejia LaPerle


Dr. Carol Mejia LaPerle is Professor and Honors Advisor for the English Department of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. In addition to publishing on topics related to Renaissance theatre and contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare, she teaches and writes about renaissance rhetoric, philosophies of will, theories of affect, and constructions of race and gender in early modern culture. Her projects have been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Ohio Humanities, The National Humanities Center, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. She is editor of a forthcoming collection of essays entitled Race and Affect in Early Modern English Literature and is completing a monograph, Shakespearean Ill-Will: Racialized Volition in the Social Contract, which examines philosophies of will and formations of race.

Brandi K. Adams


Brandi K. Adams is an assistant professor of English at Arizona State University. Her research interests include the history of reading, the history of the book, premodern critical race theory of early modern England as well as modern editorial practices of early modern English drama. She has recently published on unbookishness in Othello and Keith Hamilton Cobb’s American Moor in the journal Shakespeare, and has a forthcoming chapter in the volume Shakespeare/Text edited by Claire M.L. Bourne for Contemporary Readings in Textual Studies, Editing and Performance. She has begun working on her first monograph tentatively titled Representations of Books and Readers in Early Modern English Drama.

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