In prisons and facilities for at-risk youth, our ground-breaking social justice programs motivate change. Our flagship Shakespeare class, launched in San Quentin State Prison in 2003, has expanded across California because of its impact on individuals and prison communities. We now serve 14 California state prisons for men, women and youth with classes that provide opportunities for self-exploration and growth. Actors who are incarcerated have shown increased mental health and decreased disciplinary write-ups. They have dropped out of gangs, pursued higher education, reunited with family members, and not one has returned to prison upon release. Equally important, thousands of community members have attended plays and workshops, witnessing firsthand the intelligence, skill, wisdom, and compassion of the imprisoned, bringing awareness to the national shame of mass incarceration and the systemic racism that feeds it, and encouraging a passion to fixour prison system.
What We Believe
We believe that the power of theatre can benefit just about anyone, from youth to adults to people with special needs. Theatre skills are life skills – the ability to focus, to work together as a team, to communicate expressively, to be in contact with our emotions, to combine discipline with creative inspiration, to problem-solve individually and as part of a group, to celebrate our victories, and learn from our mistakes.
Theatre breaks down social barriers, creates friendships, reduces stress, and builds bridges between people who might not otherwise have had reasons to interact and learn about each other.
Theatre teaches us empathy, as we imagine other people’s lives. It teaches us to recognize what is similar and what is different between our own lives and the lives of other real and imagined people. It encourages to us reflect about our place in society and in history. The study of acting is the study of the choices we make – who we choose to be, how we choose to act in the world, how we choose to spend our time.
Particularly in an institutional setting, theatre classes can become a life-changing and life-affirming practice. Many of the people who end up in an institution have not had as many opportunities to benefit from theatre and art instruction and practice, so encounter the power of theatre as something new and perspective-shifting. For this reason, teaching in institutions can have tremendous personal rewards for students and teachers alike.
Shakespeare in Prison Overview
Biographies & Key Personnel
Articles about Shakespeare for Social Justice on our Blog
Learning Resources – Resources for learning about social justice issues
Prison Programs – An overview of the programs we provide
Attend a Performance in Prison – A calendar of upcoming performances; pre-clearance is required.
Programs for At-risk Youth
Videos – links to videos of performances by actors who are incarcerated, including Shakespeare plays, Autobiographical Story-telling, Veterans plays, interviews and more. Enjoy inspiring performances and hear about the impact of our programs directly from participants. These can also be found on our YouTube channel.
Creative Writing from Inside – Poems, scenes, and creative letters by artists who are incarcerated.
Success Stories – coming soon
Research about the Effectiveness of Arts in Corrections
San Quentin News – Written by the Incarcerated. Advancing Social Justice.
Teacher Training for people interested in learning our methodology – this is recommended for anyone interested in volunteering with one of our programs. We offer Internship Opportunities to volunteer and learn – ask us how to get involved!
To find out about how to train to work with our programs, click here.
To make a donation in support of Shakespeare for Social Justice, click here