Broadway World study cites success of Marin Shakespeare’s prison programs

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Detroit Public Theatre’s Shakespeare In Prison Program Awarded

Detroit Public Theatre's Shakespeare In Prison Program AwardedDetroit Public Theatre is proud to announce that its Shakespeare in Prison program is the recipient of grants from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Michigan Humanities Council. Shakespeare in Prison (SIP) is a five-year-old program that works with inmates at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV) in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Through the power of Shakespeare, participants become empowered with new experiences, perspectives, and skills such as literacy, conflict resolution and collaboration that enable them make positive changes in their lives and communities. Participants also gain hard skills such as the ability to speak confidently in front of an audience and improved reading. Most importantly they learn to work as a team toward a common goal and how to attain that goal while expressing their opinions, trust the group enough to express deep emotion and find comradeship in a place where it is severely lacking. Working specifically with Shakespeare gives them an opportunity to take on what seems like an enormous challenge and prove to themselves and others in their lives that they are very capable of doing this seemingly impossible task.

Programs like Shakespeare in Prison have established records of alumni with dramatically lower rates of recidivism than state and national rates with a positive effect on life within prisons, including for those with life sentences. Examples of this success include the 22-year old Shakespeare Behind Bars (Kentucky and western Michigan), which has a recidivism rate of 5.1%. After five years of programming, Shakespeare in Prison’s alumni who have been discharged or are on parole (27 women) have a recidivism rate of 7.4%, as contrasted with Michigan’s 29% rate and the national average of 60%. A 2014 study by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice found that, in addition to the outcomes in skills and self awareness listed above, programs facilitated by The Actors’ Gang and Marin Shakespeare in California prisons resulted in a 29% reduction in the disciplinary rate for participants.

Inmates who volunteer for Detroit Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in Prison program form a tight ensemble working for nine months culminating with the performance of a fully staged work by Shakespeare at the end of the session. After profoundly successful seasons exploring Scenes and Monologues, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, and Othello, the 2016-17 ensemble chose to explore Richard III and will perform it for the prison community in June 2017. Thanks to the support of The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Shakespeare in Prison has been able to sustain and grow its impactful work.

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development and civic affairs. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed nearly $902 million through more than 60,000 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties. For more information, please visit www.cfsem.org.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, Detroit Public Theatre is partnering with Youth Arts Alliance to expand the program, working with juveniles in treatment and/or detention. This pilot of The Shakespeare Workshop is a 12-week model, taking into account the needs of youth in the juvenile justice system, which differ from adults, and the facility in which the workshop takes place. More on the Michigan Humanities Council is available at www.michiganhumanities.org and more on the Youth Arts Alliance can be found online at https://youthartsalliance.com.

Shakespeare in Prison is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this press release do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment of the Humanities or the Michigan Humanities Council. About Detroit Public Theatre
Detroit Public Theatre is a non-profit organization producing world-class plays and programs with world-class writers, directors, actors and designers in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s thriving cultural district. Fearless, fresh and made in Detroit, the company’s productions strive to illuminate the thrills, joys and challenges of our shared human experience. More information on Detroit Public Theatre and its productions, programs and tickets is available online at www.detroitpublictheatre.org or by calling (313) 974-7918.