improv opens futures

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Andy Goldsworthy

“The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that makes it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks the imagination because the imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of the imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” – Walter Brueggemann from the ‘Prophetic Imagination, p 40)

We can see this in our nation today and even sharper focus in America’s prison system. Facilities called “reformatories”, or “penitentiaries” are misnomers as they are designed for punishment and not rehabilitation.

Two actors – Tim Robbins and Sabra Williams – decided to step into an idea, not knowing how it would pan out.

You can imagine how this idea was received 10 years ago, but here’s the pitch: A tenacious British actress teams up with Oscar winner Tim Robbins to bring acting classes to maximum-security prisons. And not just any acting classes, but improv workshops that ask Crips and Bloods and convicted murderers and white supremacists to sit together, wear makeup and masks, and maybe even pretend to be women sometimes. (Read more here http://nymag.com/vindicated/2016/11/tim-robbins-proves-acting-classes-for-inmates-work.html )

 

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It’s called the Actors Gang Prison Project And here’s the current problem:

In California, six out of ten people will return to prison within three years of release.  More than 90% of people currently housed in California prisons will eventually be back in our communities.  Many of these men and women lack the vital skills to help them succeed on the outside.  The Actors’ Gang Prison Project is working to change that.( http://theactorsgang.com/prison-project/ ).

For graduates of their program the recidivism rate is a mere 10.6%.

In this fiscal year 2016-2017 California has $6 million budgeted for Arts in Correction. Ten years ago this line item did not exist.

This is becoming a time where creativity, imagination, and art are required. What seed of an idea are you conjuring? Step in, and show up, even and especially if you don’t know how it will unfold.

“This class really gives the tools to change. Myself, I’ve been wanting to change for a while and a lot of guys in here want to change, but we don’t have the tools. It’s like we are standing on the ground waiting to find a way to get on the roof and then here you guys come with a ladder . ”

Former Student
Inmate Participant in the Actors Gang Prison Project

 

 

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