Target: Anna Clark, University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project
Goal: Recognize improvisational theater workshops to strengthen inmates’ creative expression
Inspiring people to exercise their imagination, the freedom of improv theater can be a powerful form of therapy for incarcerated individuals. Sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), freelance writer and editor Anna Clark’s workshops feature games that inspire unscripted collaboration among inmates in a medium-security state prison outside Detroit. For an hour and a half, she and her friend Matt Erickson actually follow the leadership of the inmates themselves, the older ones in the group encouraging newcomers and even coming up with their own games. Thank Ms. Clark for providing these individuals with an opportunity to express themselves creatively and find a sense of freedom.
Having led prison poetry groups for years, Clark is concerned less about her own security than with taking on the nerve-racking challenge of improv theater. By contrast, for many inmates, namely the prison’s 350 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life in prison without parole, dealing with apprehension and uncertainty is an ongoing struggle. Though the Supreme Court has declared this kind of sentence to be unconstitutional, as of December 2014 Michigan has refused to implement the ruling retroactively, though the debate on whether to re-sentence the 350 “juvenile lifers” continues, according to Clark’s article in the New York Times.
Clark has no illusions about the members of her group, pointing out that many are incarcerated for violent crimes. Nevertheless, her theater workshops inmates can channel their frustration and anxiety toward a constructive, transportive experience, one which may even help inmates who eventually gain their freedom to reintegrate into the community, to adapt to the changed world that meets them and discover the new role that they must play.
By signing the petition below, you can recognize this unique demonstration of the transformative power of the performing arts and the value of inviting others to enjoy it.
Dear Ms. Clark,
I am writing to thank you for bringing the transformative power of improv theater to inmates at Macomb Correctional Facility. You have found an innovative way to help them cope with any frustration and anxiety they feel, facilitating their discovery of a sense of freedom even as their freedom is in most ways restricted.
Through your work with the inmates and your own writing, you are raising awareness of the larger issues at work in the criminal justice system of Michigan, particularly in how municipalities facilitate the re-entry of previously incarcerated individuals into the community. Most importantly, thank you for empowering these persons to make the best of their situation and, for some, adapt to life beyond prison.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: OpenClips via Pixabay