Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Prison Studies Group


Theater Behind Bars:

A conversation with Brent Buell

Thursday, April 7 at 4:30pm – GC Room 5409

CUNY Graduate Center · 365 Fifth Avenue · NY NY 10016

Theater producer and director Brent Buell volunteered for ten years with the non-profit organization Rehabilitation Through the Arts, directing theater in several New York medium- and maximum-security prisons. There his productions of plays, ranging from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to three original works by prisoners, have earned praise from critics, including from The New York Times. His Breakin’ the Mummy’s Code premiered at Sing Sing and was the subject of a feature article in Esquire by bestselling author, John Richardson. His experiences provided the basis for his chapter “Drama in the Big House” in the book Performing New Lives, Prison Theater by Jonathan Shailor.

A passionate prison activist, Buell has used theater to educate people about the more than 2.5 million human beings this nation has locked behind bars. He took the creative and directorial helm on From Sing Sing to Broadway, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons in NYC—starring eight men who had been incarcerated. He teamed with three former prisoners to write and produce Wood Bars for the opening of John Buffalo Mailer and Tom Kail’s Back House Productions.

He is currently directing Iyaba Ibo Mandingo’s unFRAMED. His company, Doing Life Productions is co-producing the show with Double Play Connections and TONY Award-winning executive producer, Jane Dubin. Website:

Brent will be speaking about his experiences as a prison volunteer, will show clips from some of the films he’s made inside prisons, and will address current issues facing prison reform activists. He says, “I love theater. I think that it is one of the most powerful forces for social change that exists. For ten years I’ve witnessed how magnificently theater—just theater, no therapy, no sociodrama, no psychological agendas—can touch and renew the human spirit—even in the darkest of prisons. It’s the greatest single gift my art has given me. I am sure that other approaches have their place, but for me the process of theater is all that is needed to touch and begin to transform anyone.”

The Prison Studies Group is a chartered organization of the Doctoral Student Council at the CUNY Graduate Center. To join the listserv, please email

Tuesday, March 1, 2011



A Conversation with Artists Behind Bars on the Power and Potential of Prison Theatre

Thursday, March 17, 6:30 – 8:30pm

The Actor’s Company Theatre Studio, 900 Broadway, Suite 905

$25 in advance/$30 at the door; $10 Students/Unemployed

Across the United States — behind bars and mostly under the radar — artists, educators and activists are working with prisoners to create exciting and varied theatre: plays by Shakespeare and Becket, Greek tragedies, modern classics, and original pieces woven together from the stories and experiences of the prisoners themselves. Now, for the first time, a collection of essays has been published that documents this work on a broad scale: Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). The book is a collection of 17 essays representing 14 programs across the country. Editor/author Jonathan Shailor and eight other contributors to this volume (all of them facilitators of prison theatre programs) will share stories of their work, engage the audience in dialogue, and sign copies of the book, which will be available at a discount.


Brent Buell is a New York City author, actor, director, and social activist who worked for many years with Rehabilitation Through the Arts at Sing Sing and two other prisons. Judy Dworin has been developing collaborative multi-arts residencies at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT for the past seven years through her Hartford-based non-profit, the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP). Sharon Lajoie is an actress, director and professor of theatre who for many years taught theatre classes and staged productions at New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord. John McCabe-Juhnke facilitates Theater Arts Workshops for Arts in Prison, Inc. and Prison Arts Project at the Lansing and Hutchinson Correctional Facilities in Kansas. Meade Palidofsky, playwright, lyricist, director and youth development specialist, is the founding Artistic Director of Storycatchers Theatre in Chicago. Palidofsky’s work with girls in prison is the subject of an Emmy Award-winning documentary, Girls on the Wall. Teya Sepinuck is the founder and director of Theatre of Witness, which gives voice to those who have been marginalized or are “invisible” in society. She has worked with men serving life sentences at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution in Chester. Jonathan Shailor created The Shakespeare Prison Project at Racine Correctional Institution in Wisconsin, and has facilitated theatre programs in prisons for over 15 years. Julia Taylor has facilitated theatre and creative writing workshops in both men’s and women’s prisons and in juvenile facilities as a member of the Prison Creative Arts Project. Jean Trounstine has been teaching and directing plays with women in prison and on probation since 1986. She is the author of Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison.

To register, go to and click on “Events,” or contact Melissa Meyer, 212.941.8906, ext 304,