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Shakespeare in Prisons Conference, Nov. 15-16, 2013

28 May

Shakespeare at Notre Dame is pleased to announce the Shakespeare in Prisons Conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame on Friday, November 15, and Saturday, November 16, 2013.

Featuring keynote addresses and film screenings by Curt Tofteland (founding director of Shakespeare Behind Bars) and Tom Magill (founder of the Educational Shakespeare Center and director of the Irish film Mickey B ), the conference aims to bring together artists and educators engaged in transformational arts programs using Shakespeare in prisons across the USA (and the world) for an exploration and study of the effects such programming has on prison populations. The goal is to promote a collaborative learning forum where participants will be exposed to a diverse array of programs that all strive for a common result: the habilitation of the inmate’s mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Departing from the traditional academic conference structure, the Shakespeare in Prisons conference will focus on the craft and experiences of the practitioner—while allowing ample time for one-on-one networking and collaboration.

In addition to the keynotes and film screenings (and Q&A’s), attendees are invited to participate in workshops that explore innovative methodologies, as well as panel discussions that are designed to stimulate discussion about practitioner experiences and best practices within the industrial prison complex.

Registration is $25 and includes a dinner/reception on Friday night, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and admission to all workshops and film screenings. Online registration begins on Monday, June 10 via www.conferences.nd.edu . More information regarding the conference schedule, lodging information, and the availability of a limited number of bursaries to help with attendee expenses will be made available on June 10. In the meantime, please contact Scott Jackson at scottjackson@nd.edu  for more information.

We hope that you will join us for this unique gathering of like-minded individuals.

All the very best–

Scott Jackson, Peter Holland, and Curt Tofteland

—————–

About the speakers and host:

Curt L. Tofteland  is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. SBB has twelve programs in Kentucky and Michigan. He currently facilitates the adult Shakespeare Behind Bars/Michigan program at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights and SBB’s first co-gender, court-ordered, juvenile Shakespeare Behind/Beyond Bars programs at the Ottawa County Juvenile Detention Center and the Juvenile Justice Institute. From 1995-2008, he facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, producing and directing fourteen Shakespeare productions. His 2003 SBB/KY production of The Tempest  was chronicled by Philomath Films, producing the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars , which premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be screened at 40+ film festivals worldwide, winning eleven awards. He is a national and international speaker, having lectured at over forty colleges and universities across the United States and at TEDx Berkeley, TEDxEast (NYC), and TEDx Macatowa. For his work as a Prison Arts Practitioner he was awarded fellowships from the Fulbright and Petra Foundations, as well as a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bellarmine University. He is a founding member and past president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association, an international service organization for theatres that produce the works of William Shakespeare. He is a published essayist and poet, currently authoring the book, Behind the Bard-Wire: Reflection, Responsibility, Redemption, & Forgiveness…The Transformative Power of Art, Theatre, and Shakespeare.  From 1989-2008, he served as producing artistic director of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, producing fifty Shakespeare productions, directing twenty-five, and acting in eight. A trailer for Shakespeare Behind Bars  can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2kr5wV_AiQ More information on Curt’s work can be found at http://www.shakespearebehindbars.org/

Tom Magill  is an ex-prisoner who transformed his life through arts education while in prison for violence. While incarcerated he met his enemy—and his enemy became his teacher. On release he earned a B.A. (Hons) in Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Birmingham and an M.A. in Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. He is an award-winning filmmaker, drama facilitator, actor, writer, director, and producer. He specializes in utilizing Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed” methodology and the works of William Shakespeare in transforming community and prison settings. After training with Michael Bogdanov, he became his and Augusto Boal’s personal representative in Northern Ireland. In 1999 he founded the Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC) to develop drama and film with prisoners and ex-prisoners. ESC is an award-winning arts education charity, empowering marginalized people to find their voice and tell their stories through film. In 2007 he directed Mickey B , an award-winning feature film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth  cast with prisoners from Maghaberry maximum-security prison. For his film direction he has received the 2011 Justice in the Community Award (from the Northern Ireland Department of Justice), the 2008 Roger Graef Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film at the Koestler Awards (for Mickey B ), the Arthur Koestler Award for Prison Drama in 2004 and 2006 (for Inside Job  and The Big Question , respectively), and the Impetus Human Rights Award in 2005, 2006, and 2007 (for Bridging the Divide ). He has presented his film work in Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Nigeria, South Korea, and the United States. More information on Tom’s work can be found at http://esc-film.com/ A trailer of Mickey B  can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFKMIswx5VY Peter Holland  holds the McMeel Family Chair in Shakespeare Studies and is the Associate Dean for the Arts at the University of Notre Dame. He is one of the central figures in performance-oriented Shakespeare criticism, served as Director of the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon before coming to Notre Dame in 2002. He is editor of Shakespeare Survey  as well as a number of other series. Among his books are English Shakespeares: Shakespeare on the English Stage in the 1990s  and a major study of Restoration drama The Ornament of Action . He has also edited many Shakespeare plays, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream  for the Oxford Shakespeare series. In 2007, he completed publication of a five volume series of collections of essays entitled Rethinking British Theatre History . In 2007-08, he served as President of the Shakespeare Association of America. He was elected an honorary fellow at Trinity Hall, his alma mater and one of the 31 colleges that comprise the University of Cambridge. His Arden edition of Coriolanus  was released in early 2013.

Shakespeare at Notre Dame  is a program that recognizes the centrality of the study of Shakespeare in humanistic pedagogy at the University of Notre Dame. The creation of the “Shakespeare Initiative” in 2001 sought to broaden the Shakespeare offerings on campus and establish the permanence of this new tradition for an audience of students, faculty, the South Bend community at-large, and a national and international audience. To that end, the current programs and future prospects that comprise Shakespeare at Notre Dame have created a regional center for Shakespearean scholarship, production, educational outreach, and academic research by enmeshing programs as far-reaching and diverse as Actors From The London Stage, the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, visiting guest artists and lecturers, touring productions, and new media library collections; ensuring Notre Dame’s status as a nationally visible—and the Midwest’s pre-eminent—venue for Shakespeare Studies. Find out more at http://shakespeare.nd.edu/

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Straight Talk: A Support Group for Prisoners’ Families in Durham, NC

13 May

Despite the fact that we number in the millions in the U.S. alone, prisoners’ families do not have very many opportunities to come together to share our experiences.  Fortunately, some folks in Durham, North Carolina, have formed an organization to support one another.  Read more about it here.

Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, Vol. 5

7 May

 

PCAP_2013_Cover225COPY

Every year for the last five years students at the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) have volunteered to undertake the incredibly unwieldy task of soliciting, receiving, reviewing, and responding to creative writing submissions from hundreds of prisoners throughout the state of Michigan.  Every single person who submits writing receives personalized feedback on his or her work; PCAP sends no form rejection letters.  The result is a remarkable collection of writing called the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, published annually in conjunction with the PCAP Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners.  This year’s review is a particularly good one, and I highly recommend it to those of you might be looking for prisoner writing to teach in your courses next year and to those of you who just want something great to read.

To order this year’s review or one from a previous year, use this order form.  Each copy of the review is only $15, and all proceeds go directly back into making the next year’s review.

StoryCorps Interview with a Formerly Incarcerated Mother and Her Daughter

23 Feb

A few years ago I had the privilege of directing an undergraduate honors thesis written by Anita Rao, who was then a senior at UNC Chapel Hill.  Anita took on an ambitious original research project, interviewing formerly incarcerated women in the Triangle Area of North Carolina about the time they spent as part of an arts workshop in a women’s prison in Raleigh.  Anita’s senior thesis was awarded highest honors and now sits in bound form in the UNC library.  Her research inspired me to write an article about the same prison arts workshop for a forthcoming special issue of the academic journal American Music.

After graduating from UNC, Anita went to work for National Public Radio’s StoryCorps program, where I know she is doing wonderful things.  She recently sent me an email with this link to a StoryCorps clip in which a formerly incarcerated mother and her daughter interview one another about their experiences of the mother’s imprisonment.

Thank you, Anita, for the great work you are doing!  We need many more thoughtful young people like you to help bring stories of women and families’ experiences of incarceration to light.

New Beginnings: The Prison Creative Arts Project and the University of Michigan

21 Feb

Those of you who know something about the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) might recognize at least one of the very silly people in this picture.

Buzz & Ash

Buzz Alexander–the taller of us–founded PCAP in 1990 at the University of Michigan, and in the years that followed Buzz built this extraordinary program into the largest organization in the U.S. (and perhaps the world) that links university students and incarcerated youth and adults through arts programming.  PCAP sends undergraduates into Michigan prisons, juvenile detention centers, and urban high schools to facilitate arts workshops.  PCAP also hosts the Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners, which displays over four hundred works of visual art from every prison in the Michigan Department of Corrections.  PCAP’s annual literary review publishes writing by Michigan prisoners, and the organizations many workshops host dozens of performances each year.  In fact, last week PCAP celebrated the performance of its 600th play.

Now I have the honor of succeeding Buzz in running this incredible organization.  As of January 1, 2013, I am a new Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama at the University of Michigan and the Director of PCAP, and I am deeply grateful to Buzz and to Janie Paul (the other long-serving member of the PCAP faculty and Buzz’s wife) for the years of preparations that went into the process of getting me hired at Michigan.  Many other people worked very hard to get me to Michigan, including Priscilla Lindsay, chair of the Dept. of Theatre & Drama; Dean Christopher Kendall of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, & Dance; and Angela Dillard, chair of the Residential College.  Half of my faculty appointment at Michigan is in Theatre & Drama (the field in which I was trained), and the other half is in the Residential College (RC) where PCAP will soon be moving.

PCAP has long lived in Michigan’s English Department because that’s where Buzz founded it.  Though PCAP will maintain connections to the English Department through Buzz and my husband Phil Christman, who will be teaching as a lecturer in the first year writing program in English, the PCAP’s administrative operations will move into the RC in Fall 2013. The PCAP staff–Sari Adelson, Shannon Deasy, and Vanessa Mayesky–and I will all have offices in the RC, while Buzz and Phil will be the PCAP faculty with offices  in English.  I also have an office in Theatre, and Janie, of course, has an office in Art & Design, which gives PCAP a strong presence on North Campus as well.

Buzz is considering retirement in the coming years but has not set a date for his retirement.  We hope to have a few semesters or years of working together before he stops teaching, though he will never truly leave PCAP or stop participating in its activities. (Thank goodness!)  Though I will undoubtedly do many things differently than Buzz has in the past–because I could never hope to fill his shoes completely–I endeavor to honor the incredible work that he has done and continues to do with hundreds of students, volunteers, and incarcerated people.  Buzz’s main purpose in bringing me to Michigan, and mine in coming here, is to protect PCAP’s sustainability so that this organization can thrive for twenty more years and beyond.

My husband Phil–a writer and former lecturer at North Carolina Central University–will play a significant role at PCAP as well.  Starting with the 2014 issue, he will be the editor of PCAP’s annual Review of Literature by Michigan Prisoners.

We have taken up residence in Ann Arbor, though neither of us will start teaching until Fall 2013.  Though we already miss many friends and colleagues at UNC, we are very happy to be at Michigan and plan to be here for years to come.  The PCAPers, colleagues at Michigan, and our neighbors have done much to welcome us and make us feel at home here. We are grateful for all the good will and kindness that is being shown to us, and we look forward to meeting all of the current PCAPers and to teaching our first Michigan students in the Fall.

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.

 

Support Resistencia Bookstore in Austin, TX

30 Jun

raulrsalinas and Ashley Lucas

My favorite bookstore in the whole world is a little place called Resistencia in Austin, Texas.  They have a fantastic selection of rare and out of print books as well as a wide variety of titles by Native American, Latina/o, and black authors.  They specialize in literature by people of color, poetry, Southwestern writers, and nonfiction on social justice issues, particularly incarceration.  (Those of you who know me can see clearly why this is my kind of bookstore!)  The books are just the beginning.  A very active and progressive community organization called Red Salmon Arts also resides in this bookstore (which is in truth more of a community center than anything else) and hosts a ton of really exciting readings and social justice events.  If I lived anywhere near Austin, I would be there all the time.

Resistencia’s founder, raulrsalinas (also sometimes written as Raul R. Salinas) was one of the greatest human beings I have ever known, and his life and legacy are honored every day by the work of the good folks who keep Resistencia and its programming going every day.

I first encountered raul’s poetry when I was in high school–about a year and a half after my father entered prison. raul spent many years in prisons all across the US and wrote some of the most enduring poetry of the Chicano Movement from solitary confinement, including his landmark poem “Un Trip Through the Mind Jail.”  His poems were the first pieces of writing that helped me begin to understand what my father experiences every day behind the walls.  raul’s strength, fortitude, and passion for life gave me hope that my father and our family might be able to endure this particular form of devastation.  After he got out of prison, he went home to Austin and spent the rest of his life doing work that served others–those in prison, struggling youth, and the people of his beloved Austin.

I cannot do raul justice through mere description.  Here’s a taste of him performing some of his poetry:

My senior honors thesis when I was an undergraduate at Yale dealt with the subject of poetry written by Latina/o prison–a project inspired by raul’s writings.

By the time I actually met raul in person, I was a graduate student at UC San Diego, living in Sherman Heights–a historic Chicana/o neighborhood in the heart of the city.  The next neighborhood over from mine hosted a Barrio Book Fair in 2004, and raul was one of many distinguished speakers.  I introduced myself to him and told him how much his work had shaped my understanding of incarceration and its impact on communities.  By the end of the day, he had invited me to perform my then very new play about the families of prisoners, Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass, at Resistencia. He was one of the earliest and strongest supporters of the play, and in  hosting my performance, he not only provided opportunities for my work to grow but also introduced me to the incredible community of folks who make up Resistencia and Red Salmon Arts.

raul left this earth in 2008, and those of us who loved him continue to raise his name and honor his life by doing the kinds of community work he taught us to do.  The folks at Resistencia do an unfathomable amount of service for the people of Austin, for youth, for the queer community, African Americans, immigrants, Chicana/os, Native Americans, prisoners, and a whole bunch of other gente, and now in these tough economic times they need our support.  Here are a few things you can do:

  • BUY THEIR BOOKS!  You don’t have to be in Austin to do that.  I order books from them through the mail on a regular basis.  You can also order by phone: (512) 416-8885.  If you are lucky enough to be in Austin, check them out in person:

Resistencia Bookstore
1801-A South First St.
Austin, TX 78704

  •  GET THEIR EMAIL NEWSLETTER! I often learn of new book titles from the newsletter, which is awesome.  It also provides listings of all the exciting events happening in connection with Red Salmon and Resistencia. Like I said, if I lived within driving distance of Austin, I’d be there every week.  Send an email to revolu@swbell.net to sign up for the newsletter.
  • DONATE TO SUPPORT THEIR WORK.  You can mail a check made out to Resistencia Bookstore to the above address or use their PayPal account.

Pa’ la gente de Resistencia, with gratitude and admiration.

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