THEA 205: Prison Outreach

Course Description: Students will have the opportunity to put social activism into practice through working on theater projects in community settings. One of the course’s projects will include teaching Shakespeare and other plays to incarcerated persons using methods described in Jean Trounstine’s Shakespeare Behind Bars. Students will also have the opportunity to create “invisible theater” events on themes of social justice inspired by the work of Augusto Boal, the Brazilian actor/politician/activist whose book (Theater of the Oppressed) proposes ways in which theater can be used to achieve social change. Students need no theatrical experience but can use whatever artistic interests they possess (acting, puppetry, drawing, writing, storytelling, vocal and instrumental music) in collective work with other students.

Past Projects

  • 2010: Inferno

    Students worked with inmates at Gates Correctional Institution in analyzing, adapting, and performing excerpts from Dante’s Inferno. Three former inmates from York Correctional Institution who had taken part in the previous years’ theater workshops were invited to participate as teaching assistants. The theatrical adaptations of the Gates men were shared in a later workshop at New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

    Watch excerpts of the Gates men’s adapted work presented by Wesleyan students and York women:

    Read an article about the Dante Project featured in the New York Times:

    “Dante’s Hell, With Those Who Can Relate” (10/24/10)

  • 2007: The Tempest

    Students worked with juveniles at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School/Walter G. Cady High.

    Inmates and Wesleyan students together worked on theater exercises, improvisation, and prepared works including Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

    For an articles featured in the Hartford Courant:

    “Wesleyan Students, Youthful Offenders Collaborate In Theater Project” (5/27/08)

    “Shakespeare’s Words Resonate With ‘Thugs'” (5/4/08) (written by Prof. Ron Jenkins)