Finally Free

The Otter Creek Players, a creative arts group at the Otter Creek Correctional Facility in Wheelwright, KY, produced an original play this summer called Finally Free, which explored the themes of confinement and freedom.

Finally Free was produced through the Thousand Kites Project at Appalshop.  We were fortunate enough to be able to create an audio recording of the production at Otter Creek. Listen to the opening segment here, in which every woman in the group is heard:

Finally Free

Check out the Thousand Kites website to learn more about the project at Otter Creek, and to download a copy of the script.

One woman in the group wrote this poem in connection with the play:

This Fabulous View

I have this fabulous view from my narrow, bullet-proof plexi-glass rectangle.

I only see the beauty of the trees; the wonder of all living things I am encircled by, and the awe that it inspires within me.

I choose not to see the barbed and razor-wire, rough and sharply surrounding the “compound.”

You see, even though they have taken custody of this body, my mind is free to roam and wander to wherever I choose; beyond any physical limitations I may have.

I refuse to let them have the last word, the last laugh, the last of my sanity…

In my world, I can decide what I will allow to be or not to be. I’m the boss and you’re not, so don’t think you’re the boss of me…I control what is and what will be.

In my world, there is no such thing as captivity.

Highlights of Kennedy Center “From Prison to the Stage” Show 2009

On September 5, 2009 the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC will explode with the finest plays and music written by prisoners across America. This year’s edition of “From Prison to the Stage” will be the best yet with the help of faculty and theater students of the George Washington University Theater and Dance Department, under the direction of Jodi Kanter, author of “Performing Loss” about prison theater.

The following plays have been selected for presentation this year at the Kennedy Center. Mark your calendar so that you won’t miss this FREE evening of riveting theater. If you are a justice professional or part of a justice organization who would like to participate in the program in some way, including being on stage to introduce one of the plays or having your materials at our literature table, please email or call 202-393-1511.

Here are the plays that will be presented:

1.  The Love That Divides by Hakim M. Abdul-Wasi, Music by Inner Voices
“A man returns home to his Christian family after converting to Islam while away, only to find his family upset and unaccepting of his new beliefs.”

2. One Fine Day in Inferior Court by Alex Friedman
“A wacky judge, a clueless defense attorney, a bloodthirsty prosecutor and a hapless defendant trip over each other in this courtroom farce.”

3. I Am a Woman on Death Row by Kathleen O’Shea,  Music by Lorri Carter
“Not one woman but dozens on death row in America today tell their story as a collage of experiences.”

4. Reading Slim by Raymond McGee
“A hostile prisoner resists taking advantage of educational opportunities in his prison to hide his inadequacies, including a shameful secret from his past.”

5. Homeward Bound by Richard Dyches,
Music by Dennis Sobin
“About to leave his correctional institution, a prisoner finds that his shortcomings are still in need of correction as he prepares to face his wary wife and confused son.”

6. Time In by Judy Dworin Performance Ensemble and the women of York Correctional Institution.
“Story, song and dance about the heartaches and triumphs of women in prison.

“The Safe Streets Arts Foundation, incorporating both the Prisons Foundation and the Victims Foundation, is proud to sponsor the annual From-Prison-to-The-Stage Show at the Kennedy Center and the Prison Art Gallery at 1600 K Street. NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC, three blocks from the White House.”

CASES Insight Project Begins a New Cycle


The Insight Project is a comprehensive theatre-making class offered by the Court Employment Project (CEP), an alternative-to-incarceration program addressing the needs of court-involved youth at CASES. Following the success of the company’s first and second cycle productions of the original plays Bird’s Eye View and Brazil at Theatre Row Studios on 42nd Street, the Insight Project will focus its next cycle on bringing these productions into the community.

Bird’s Eye View raises challenging questions about becoming an adult while negotiating family loyalty, ethical and legal behavior. Brazil explores the impact of a single act of violence and the struggles of those affected to make sense of the incident. Both scripts are original pieces, written in the course of the Insight Project’s work by the participants and Writer-in-Residence Todd Pate, and inspired by the participants’ life experiences.

The Insight Project’s third cycle will bring project alumni together with professional actors and new CEP participants to revive these two powerful performances as a repertory company. Our goal is to use these performances to engage communities in a conversation on the underlying issues of offending behavior and a dialogue on the value of community-based alternatives to incarceration. Accordingly, performances will be accompanied by a curriculum guide for interested high school and undergraduate institutions, and will be followed in all cases by a talkback, in which audiences will engage directly with performers about the play’s content and their individual perspectives on these issues.

Institutions interested in hosting a performance of Bird’s Eye View or Brazil in May or June of 2009 should contact Insight Project Director Dan Stageman. There is no charge for the performance – an appropriate venue (with minimal production values) and an engaged audience are the only requirements. Performance scripts and curriculum guides are available upon request.



The mission of CASES is to increase the use and understanding of community sanctions that are fair, affordable, and consistent with public safety.


Contact Information:
Daniel Stageman
Director, Insight Project.
Telephone: (347) 885 8222
Fax: (212) 571 0292

Art Behind Bars

Matt Kelly, the Communications Manager at the Innocence Project writes the following blog entry for’s Criminal Justice Blog.  Check out the site for more articles from a national criminal justice reform campaign:

Art Behind Bars

Published November 23, 2008 @ 10:48AM PST

This weekend I visited Sing Sing Prison in New York to see the play “In the Silence of the Heart,” performed and staged by inmates. It was an excellent show, performed twice last week for inmates and a third time for guests on Friday night. The play was made possible by the nonprofit organization Prison Communities International and their project Rehabilitation Through the Arts. (The image above is from a previous RTA play at Sing Sing)

The play reminded me of the importance of art behind bars. Art and performance programs are critical pieces of prison education systems, but they are often the first to go when budgets get tight, and much of the creative education in prisons today is fostered by nonprofits like RTA.

Continue reading “Art Behind Bars”