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Experiences of Misogyny and Machismo in Latin America, a post by Lisa Garcia

3 Jun
Olá gente!
My name is Lisa, and last month I graduated with a B.A. in international studies. I came to PCAP after watching Ashley’s performance of her play, Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass. It was such a touching topic and an incredible performance that I decided I needed to meet this woman and be her friend ASAP. I visited her office, she told me all about her work with PCAP, and a few weeks later I was enrolled in her Winter class. I spent second semester co-facilitating a theatre workshop at the federal men’s prison in Milan. Throughout this time I learned a lot about the complexities of prison bureaucracy, disorganization, overcrowding, and understaffing. As a volunteer, I saw that we were the last priority because of these and lots more forces working together. I also experienced firsthand what theatre can do in spaces that don’t allow space for vulnerability and creative expression.
I wanted to come do this work here in Brazil because I genuinely believe in PCAP’s values and mission, and because my heart is in Latin America. I was born in Guatemala, so I’ve had the privilege of traveling in and experiencing several Latin American and Caribbean countries. The University has also allowed me these opportunities through study abroad programs.
In every community I enter I am always very aware of how patriarchy affects women. Coming to Brazil, I felt no different. In my experience of my own, as well as other Latin American cultures, machismo and misogyny are pervasive in social life. Women and LGBTQ folks are, in a lot of similar and different ways to the U.S., treated unjustly and violently. However, I’ve had a few refreshing experiences here in Rio, as well as in Florianópolis, that I wanted to share. I believe other patriarchal societies, not just in Latin America and the Caribbean, can learn from these practices.
 
When we visited the women’s prison in Floripa I learned that, by law, women’s prisons can only have female staff for the safety of the incarcerated women. Men’s facilities don’t have any similar rules, so anyone can work there. Although it would be better if none of the men or women were locked away and forgotten in the first place, I was at least relieved to know that male staff don’t pose a threat to the incarcerated women of Brazil. 
 
In Rio, while riding the metro, I noticed that there’s a pink line behind the yellow safety line on the platform, but only for the length of two metro cars. Upon asking, I learned that there are metro cars reserved exclusively for women during morning and evening rush hours. I thought about how much safer I would feel if I rode a New York subway car with no men on it. I was impressed with how this city is trying to provide protection for women in public spaces. However, this is not the case largely throughout Brazil. The metro only runs through the wealthier parts of Rio, so relatively few people have access to it at all. This is not to invalidate that the system is inspiringly progressive in the first place.
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The experience that stayed with me the most, though, was facilitating a theatre workshop on Friday for trans women in a men’s prison. In spite of their identity, these women are still locked up at the men’s facility. Julia, Kym, and I accompanied five UniRio students to their relatively new workshop: it’s only been happening since December 2018 (less than six months). It took a very long time for the staff to let us in because Friday is also the day when families of the incarcerated persons can come drop off food and hygiene supplies for their loved ones. This is not allowed in U.S. prisons, but because food and resources in Brazilian prisons are so poor in quantity and quality, some families must trek long distances to make sure their incarcerated loved one has access to decent necessities. There was a long line of mainly women; some held Bibles, all held giant, heavy bags of supplies. After an hour and a half of waiting outside, we finally made it into our workshop space. As the women slowly arrived, I noticed that we had a trans staff member participating in the workshop, and the rest of the women seemed to have a friendly relationship with her. This would never happen in U.S. prisons, so it was refreshing and also comforting – in a twisted way – knowing that these women had a sort of ally among their jailers.
Once we were all seated in a circle we did introductions and talked about PCAP and how our work connects to the work we are doing in Brazil. The women had a lot of great questions about PCAP, our motives for coming to Brazilian prisons, and about the U.S. prison system. This was humbling and encouraging to me because they didn’t merely accept that these Americans were here to teach them some theatre, but made everyone in the space think critically about each of our positionality and the greater impact our work has on incarcerated people, women, and the LGBTQ community. This start made our workshop feel a lot more vulnerable and safe. Though we only had time to play one game, I was able to teach them a PCAP favorite, “Funky Chicken,” in the Portuguese that I’ve been working on, which was a personally proud moment. We each had a turn at dancing our funky chicken, laughing, and encouraging each other. By the end we were all hot, tired, and sweaty, but also filled with joy. We ended with a circle, holding hands, rotating, singing and dancing a beautiful song about community and solidarity. I continue to be amazed by how the arts can transcend physical walls and iron bars, but also cultural and language barriers. Our hugs and kisses goodbye were so heartfelt and genuine; I’ll never forget them. I was sad that we only had forty minutes with these marvelous women, but so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet them and tell you all about them. Maybe you’ll feel like telling these stories, too, about the beautiful humans we so inhumanely imprison and forget about, and about how it should be different and more compassionate.
With love and hope,
Lisa

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.

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.


NWSA Conference Update by Ashley Lucas

12 Nov

We are still in Atlanta and enjoying the National Women’s Studies Association Conference and getting ready for my performance of Doin’ Time at 8 PM tonight.  Yesterday we had a book signing event, and SUNY Press is doing great things to promote our book.  We’ll sign books again tonight after the show.  Hope to see you there!

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