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Performing New Lives

Performing New Lives

Prison Theatre

Jonathan Shailor
Foreword by Evelyn Ploumis-Devick

Paperback: £24.99 / $38.95

2010, 234mm x 156mm / 9.25in x 6in, 304pp
ISBN: 978-1-84905-823-0, BIC 2: MQTC JKVQ1

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Performing New Lives draws together some of the most original and innovative programs in contemporary prison theatre. Leading prison theatre directors and practitioners discuss the prison theatre experience first-hand, and offer valuable insights into its role, function, and implementation.

A wide range of prison theatre initiatives are discussed, from long-running, high-profile programs such as Curt Tofteland's "Shakespeare Behind Bars" in LaGrange, Kentucky, to fledgling efforts like Jodi Jinks' "ArtsAloud" project in Austin, Texas. The book offers unique insights into the many dimensions of the prison theatre experience, including: negotiating the rules and restrictions of the prison environment; establishing trust, teaching performance skills and managing crises; building relationships and dealing with conflicts; and negotiating public performances and public perceptions. Excerpts of interviews with inmates, and a conversation between practitioners in the final chapter, reveal the impact that prison theatre programs have on the performers themselves, as well as audience members, and the wider community.

Exploring prison theatre processes and theory with insights into how it works in practice, and how to replicate it, this book is essential reading for drama therapists, theatre artists, and prison educators, as well as academics.

Blog posts

Shakespeare behind bars: An Interview with Curt Tofteland, contributor to ‘Performing New Lives’

21 April 2011

"My personal passion for continuing this work with the incarcerated is driven by my bearing witness to the transformational awakening of the empathic humanity within inmates who were unaware of the innate goodness that dwelt within them, awaiting discovery."

Rehabilitation Through the Arts at Sing Sing: An Interview with Brent Buell, contributor to ‘Performing New Lives’

23 March 2011

"We all spend much of our lives building up defenses against an unfriendly world, an uncomprehending universe. That surely is true of the men I met and taught in prison. They were like me. They were tough guys hoping that someone somewhere could reach that almost-forgotten part of them, break it loose, set it free and let them feel human again. After all, to portray a character is to find that character’s heart—and in the process to find your own."

Salvation through Shakespeare: An Interview with Laura Bates, contributor to ‘Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre’

25 January 2011

"When I was invited to contribute a chapter to this important anthology, I knew that I wanted to focus on one prisoner [Larry]...[T]he second half of the chapter...relates his transformational journey through the works of Shakespeare, using his analysis of the characters to provide a self-analysis that was truly life-altering. As one example, we focus on the character of Macbeth, examining some parallels between that character and Larry’s early criminal experiences. While some of those parallels are disturbing, the chapter concludes with the celebration of Larry’s 'salvation through Shakespeare.'"

Video: Watch the Book Trailer for ‘Performing New Lives’ by Jonathan Shailor

7 December 2010

This moving video about the new JKP book, Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre, was made by author Jonathan Shailor, and chronicles the uplifting and profound experiences of leading prison theatre directors and practitioners discussed at length in the book. Learn more about Performing New Lives. Jonathan Shailor Jonathan Shailor is an Associate Professor of Communication at...

JKP author Jonathan Shailor on the benefits of prison theatre and his new book ‘Performing New Lives’

24 November 2010

"Prison theatre works because it provides a sanctuary apart from the harsh prison environment, where it is safer to be vulnerable, to self-disclose, and to experiment with new ways of expressing oneself and relating to other people. There is both support, and structure. We have a play to perform. We are accountable to one another. In programs that culminate with performances for prison audiences, and (especially) public audiences, there is an opportunity for prisoners to display and celebrate the culmination of their weeks or months of hard work. They can show themselves to themselves in the mirror of the audience, as people of value, as people who can make a contribution."