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Ashley Lucas to speak in El Paso on June 27, 2013

14 Jun

Doin’ Time: Families and Incarceration
A public lecture and performance
by Ashley Lucas

Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 7 PM
Hanks High School Theater
El Paso, Texas

Proceeds from this event benefit Community Solutions of El Paso (an organization that provides services to prisoners’ children) and the Prisoners Family Conference

Tickets: Adults $20, Students & Children $7

Click here to see the poster.

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Upcoming Performances of Excerpts of Doin’ Time

16 Nov

My friend and colleague Professor Kathy Perkins is hosting a performance of excerpts from my one-woman show Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass at the end of this month.  Kathy is a renowned lighting designer, and her students this semester needed something to light for their final project.  I will perform about half an hour of my play in conjunction with an hour-long student performance directed by Joseph Megel, who is also the director of Doin’ Time.  The performances are free and open to the public.  Please join us if you are in the area!

 

Drama 468 (Lighting Design) cordially invites you to our final design presentation on Nov. 29th (Thursday) at 5:00pm & Nov. 30th  (Friday) at 7:00pm in the Kenan Theatre where we will present:

 

Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass, a one woman show, written and performed by DDA faculty

member Professor Ashley Lucas.  Through a series of monologues, Lucas will perform excerpts from her play

that examine the impact of incarceration on families.

 

AND

 

“RITES OF SPRING” – PERFORMING MODERNISM                  DEVISED BY COMM 263 CLASS

Using the historic rupture of the opening performance of the Rite of Spring as a prism, this performance of modernist

prose and poetry includes the works of  James Joyce, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolfe, T.S. Elliot, William Carlos Williams,

Marianne Moore and Samuel Beckett.

Both performances will be directed by Joseph Megel -Artist in Residence Department of Communication Studies

Radio story about Illinois performance of Doin’ Time

4 Oct

Readers,
I sincerely apologize for not yet finding a moment to write about the incredible experiences I had performing Doin’ Time last month at Illinois State University and at Lincoln Correctional Center, but I promise to provide an update soon.  In the mean time, here is a link to a radio interview I did with the local NPR station in Bloomington just prior to my performances there.
Please note that at the end of the radio interview I stated the wrong name of the activist organization I was describing.  The organization I’m actually describing at this moment in the interview is Our Children’s Place, which is an amazing group of folks in North Carolina who provide support for the children of prisoners.  The organization I named instead is another great activist organization called All of Us or None, which serves prisoners and reentrants nationwide.  Both groups are doing vital and difficult work, and I am proud to support their efforts.

More soon. . .

Performing at Illinois State Univ. and Lincoln Correctional for Women Sept. 19 and 21

15 Sep

About a year ago, a woman named Sherrin Fitzer contacted me out of the blue, asking if she could get a copy of the script of my play Doin’ Time to share with a group of women in an Illinois prison.  Sherrin works at Lincoln Correctional Center for Women and leads a theatre troupe comprised of incarcerated women; they call their ensemble Acting Out.  Sherrin and I exchanged many emails and conjured up a plan to collaborate.  Janet Wilson, director of the School of Theatre and Dance at Illinois State University in Bloomington, has collaborated with Sherrin and the women of Acting Out for many years, and Janet extended an invitation to me to perform Doin’ Time on her campus.  With support from many corners of the university, including the School of Theatre and Dance, Latino Studies, Crossroad’s Project, Honor’s Program, School of Social Work and the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences, Janet and Sherrin arranged a week-long residency for me:

My time at Illinois State will be very exciting, but what will happen at Lincoln Correctional later that week is the most amazing opportunity I’ve had in eight years of touring with this play.  The women in the Acting Out troupe have read my script and written their own monologues about visitation and families.  Sherrin has been emailing me drafts of their monologues, and in this manner the women and I have been able to respond to one another’s work.  They have written some very powerful pieces, which they’ve been rehearsing with Sherrin.  Doin’ Time‘s director, the incomparable Joseph Megel, will travel to Illinois with me, and we’ll spend all day on Thursday, September 20th in rehearsals inside the prison with the women of Acting Out.  We’ll weave their eleven monologues into my play, and we’ll all perform together on the afternoon of Friday, September 21st for an audience of 150 to 200 incarcerated women.  Two more incarcerated women will run the tech cues for the show.
I have performed in a handful of prisons now in the U.S., Ireland, and Canada, and I’ve seen prisoners perform plays of their own in Michigan, North Carolina, and Louisiana.  I’ve also conducted and participated in improvisational theatre workshops in quite a few prisons, but this will be the first time that I’ve actually performed in a play with incarcerated theatre makers and the first time that anyone ever wrote or performed new material in response to my play Doin’ Time.  I have never performed Doin’ Time with other actors, and though I haven’t yet met any of the women of Acting Out, I am already deeply moved by their words and their willingness to enter into this adventure with me.
If you are going to be near Bloomington this week, please come to the show!  I’ll be posting more about my time in Illinois after my trip there.

 

Lucas to Give 2012 Merle Kling Undergraduate Lecture at Washington University in St. Louis on March 26

11 Mar

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, offers an undergraduate fellowship to five of its top students to encourage them to engage in high quality research throughout their academic careers.  The Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship provides students with the mentoring and support to conduct independent research on topics of their choosing.  One of the current Kling fellows, Ezelle Sanford, III, came to my home institution, UNC Chapel Hill, in the summer of 2011 to participate in the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (MURAP), where I taught him in a public speaking workshop that is part of the program’s roster of activities designed to prepare minority undergraduates for doctoral study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.  Working under the direction of Dr. Reginald Hildebrand, Ezelle wrote a very fine research paper about community hospitals for African Americans in Durham, North Carolina, which he presented at one of the weekly MURAP seminars.  This school year Ezelle nominated me to be the annual speaker for the Merle Kling Fellowship, and I am humbled by the invitation and delighted to be able to visit Washington University and meet Ezelle’s mentors and colleagues.  The talk will take place on March 26, 2012 at 4 PM.

The 2012 Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship presents
Prisoners, Families, and Performance: Community Engagement Through the Arts
A lecture/performance by Ashley Lucas

The United States currently incarcerates 2.3 million people, yet seldom do politicians, the media, or other forms of public discourse address what happens to the families, neighborhoods, and communities which are disrupted by the displacement of this extraordinary number of people.  Women disproportionately bear the brunt of maintaining families which have lost income, stability, and continuity due to the imprisonment of loved ones.  In an attempt to open up spaces for community dialogue about these issues, scholar, activist, and theatre maker Ashley Lucas developed an interview-based play, Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass, about the families of prisoners, which she has toured as a one-woman performance since 2004.  This talk blends moments of performance with scholarly analysis of the effects of the prison industrial complex on women and families and argues that the arts can enable types of civic engagement and community dialogue which neither activism nor scholarship alone can engender.


The Pendulum Foundation, Seth Ford, and the New Age of Community Organizing; a post by Ashley Lucas

28 Feb

On the morning of the first day of the 2012 Prisoner’s Family Conference in Albuquerque I had the good fortune to sit down next to really smart and very kind man named Seth Ford.  He’s a social media consultant who spent five years as a political lobbyist.  A series of events in his personal life led him to become concerned about the toll that violence and incarceration take on so many communities in the United States.  He now lives in Denver and works for an amazing organization called the Pendulum Foundation, which works to end juvenile life without parole in Colorado.  He also blogs about this and other juvenile justice issues on his website PolitiVisor.com.

From 1992 to 2005, kids could be given a sentence of life without parole in the state of Colorado.  The legislature came to its senses in 2006 and ended this barbaric sentencing practice, but because the change in law was not retroactive, the fifty children who had already been sentenced to life without parole remain in the system.  Now all of them are adults who have never lived independently outside a prison.  What kind of nation believes that people who are too young to be trusted to vote, drink, or serve in the military should be judged unfit to live among us for the rest of their lives?  As I wrote in an earlier post about the sentencing of Laurence Lovette, giving life sentences to young people is a poor investment in the future of our children, our country, and our public safety.  The Pendulum Foundation’s battle against juvenile life without parole is vital.

At the Prisoner’s Family Conference Seth Ford led a workshop entitled “Community Organizing.”  I’ve always prided myself on knowing a thing or two about community organizing.  I’ve marched, demonstrated, leafleted, petitioned, been to sit-ins, and done my share of street theatre.  I can sing “We Shall Overcome” with the best of them, but I had no idea how to do the kind of community organizing that Ford was teaching at this conference.  He showed an enraptured (and Luddite) audience how to use Twitter to reach an audience as broad as a local news outlet, which is precisely what he’s done for the Pendulum Foundation.  His Twitter handle is @PolitiComm, and thanks to him I’m now @razorwirewoman.  I have a deep mistrust of the sound byte levelof information that can be conveyed in 140 characters, but I have learned that tweets can lead folks to sources of information that provide more context, like blogs and other websites.

I’m still a deep believer in the power of live interaction, in sitting in and demonstrating for justice, but I’m learning the power of electronic media to connect us to those whom we cannot reach directly.  Thanks, Seth.  The next time you need a friend to march beside you I’ll repay the favor.

Prisoner’s Family Conference and NM Secretary of Corrections Commit to Strengthening Family Ties; a post by Ashley Lucas

25 Feb

The fourth annual Prisoner’s Family Conference, which was held over the last three days in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been more productive and more moving than any conference I have ever previously attended.  An activist, rather than a scholarly, gathering, this conference brought together prisoners’ families, academics, prison ministry folks, lawyers, and advocates from all over the United States.  This small but highly diverse group of people is doing remarkable work in a wide variety of prison-related settings, and both individually and in the aggregate I found them to be highly intelligent, painfully honest, and overwhelmingly likable people.  Despite my eight years of performance and activist work connected to prisoners and families, I have never before been in a space where so many prisoners’ family members had gathered to support one another, and I greatly wish that many of my loved ones, including my mother, my father, and my friend and collaborator Jodie Lawston, could have been here to bear witness to all that transpired at the conference this week.  (Jodie was slated to attend the conference but could not because of an illness.  She is very disappointed to have missed the conference.)

At the opening session of the conference on Wednesday morning, Carolyn Esparza, the conference’s founder and chair, spoke about the challenges that she had see prisoners’ families face in Texas.  She described a mother and children who drive over three hundred miles one-way from their home to a prison once a month to visit their husband and father; the officials at this prison decided that the family was visiting “too regularly” and has further restricted their ability to see one another, despite the fact that no one in this family violated any of the prison’s rules.  Esparza also told another story about a man incarcerated in Texas who was bending over to retrieve his clothing after a routine strip search when a guard inserted the antenna of his transistor radio into the prisoner’s anus.  The prisoner filed a complaint, and his family hired a lawyer.  The warden on this unit tried to force the prisoner to sign a false confession saying he had fabricated this story of sexual violence, and when the prisoner refused, he was routinely punished by guards until the family’s attorney was able to get him moved to another prison, where he continued to experience restrictions on his visitation and phone calls because of sanctions put in place against him at the prison where he’d filed his complaint.  Esparza hears these kinds of reports from prisoners’ families because she runs a nonprofit called Community Solutions of El Paso, which helps families and children cope with the ongoing trauma and challenges caused by having an incarcerated family member.  She and her staff accomplish a great deal of good with very few resources.

New Mexico Secretary of Corrections Gregg Marcantel

After Esparza’s opening remarks, the first keynote speaker of the conference took the stage: Gregg Marcantel, the Secretary of Corrections for the State of New Mexico.  Secretary Marcantel was appointed to this post just a few months ago, after having spent decades in law enforcement as a Marine and a police officer.  The message of his address at the Prisoner’s Family Conference was that he understands the importance of preservation of family ties during incarceration and family reunification afterwards as key components in preventing recidivism among reentrants.  He expressed a strong belief that the vast majority of incarcerated people can safely return to their homes and communities if they have the right kind of support, and we, the attendees of the Prisoner’s Family Conference, offered to help him implement policies and programming to strengthen families divided by incarceration.  We promised him that first day of the conference that we would be working together both during the conference and afterwards to draft a Prisoners’ Families Bill of Rights and that we would deliver it to him when it was done.  We asked Secretary Marcantel if he would receive the document from us and work with us to create programming for prisoners’ families in New Mexico, and he immediately replied in the affirmative.  We are grateful to Secretary Marcantel’s commitment to preserving the rights of families, and over the course of two nights with over thirty conference attendees meeting as a working group, we crafted a first draft of the Prisoners’ Families Bill of Rights, which we will further revise before delivering it to Secretary Marcantel and his staff.  We will also make that document public on this website and as many others as we can in hopes that state and federal prison systems, community advocates, and legislators throughout the U.S. will find ways to use it productively.

Far more exciting things took place at this conference than I can report in a single blog post, and I will be posting more in the days to come.  Stay tuned.

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