Monday, November 30, 2009

Rap Battle of the Conscious: Incarcerated Youth

It's Sunday night at Maple Lane, a medium/maximum security long-term juvenile facility, where youth are freestyling their "moment of truth". One youth sits in the middle of two others who represent his good and bad conscious. The youth in the middle initiates the action by asking himself "should I _____?" Then the good conscious and bad conscious rap battle, and at the end, a moment of truth occurs when the seated young man decides his course of action.
Some of the youth I knew from the workshop I did there in April 2009 on my heArtwrench tour. "Though I'm not glad your still in here, it is nice to see you again."
I'm always honored to collaborate with Gateways for Incarcerated Youth. Gateways offers cultural identity groups, college prep classes, monthly cultural events and they bring guest speakers for the youth in Maple Lane and Green Hill facilities. Check out the book gateways put out: Through the Eyes of the Judged.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shakespeare in San Quinton

Today I went to San Quinton State Prison. The wind was full force pelting me with sideways rain as I approached the castle looking structure. As I waited for an escort into the caged institution the clouds parted and a large rainbow arched over the facility.
I was there to work with Suraya Keating's class she teaches through Marin Shakespeare Company for inmates serving life sentences. The class was also hosting 2 other visiters from the outside: Deborah French Frisher & Gary Roucher (Drama Therapy Professors from CIIS).
Check out this video from the production these guys did June 15th 2009:

When I arrived the men were working on Tableau's depicting aspects Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. After the tableaus I facilitated a rhythmic variation of complete the image. I asked one of the men to start a "stomp and clap" beat, then the rest of us joined in. I stepped into the middle of the circle & struck a pose I saw one of the men take during a tableau. Next I invited someone else to step into the circle & place there body in relation to mine "completing" the image. I stepped out & let another man complete the image. After a few transformations of the image I invited the men in the middle of the circle to hold their positions and freestyle a dialogue to the
stomp and clap" beat. This was fresh, as the men were quite spontaneous with freestyle's that touched on core concepts of Romeo and Juliet.

I spoke with one of the men after the class who told me about the work he does with youth groups from the inner city who visit the facility. He told me how he encourages youth to think critically about "the game" and I was reminded of
Stanley Tookie Williams who was executed at San Quinton on 12/13/05. The man I was speaking with said "that was a sad day" ... RIP TOOKIE

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Drama Therapy Conference in New York

At the National Association for Drama Therapy's annual conference Suraya Keating (pictured above - right), Nicki Koethner and I presented on our work with Drama Therapy groups for men incarcerated for violent crimes within the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP) at San Francisco County Jail. The theatre work was informed by the theories of manalive. This presentation was similar to the one we made at the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association's Annual Conference at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA this summer. (see post)

This time we were joined by John Bergman(pictured above, center), who was one of the founders of the RSVP program and has done a lot of work using drama therapy with people incarcerated for violent crimes and he has published a fair amount. I recommend :
Challenging Experience, (2003) by Bergman J and Hewish S
Published by Woods 'n Barnes. Oklahoma.