Reading of HOME IS A VERB to Featuring Victor Almanzar, Maurice McRae, and More

Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA) will present a reading of Home is a Verb, a new play by Melissa Cooper based on true stories about the challenges faced when returning home after prison. Directed by Richard Hamburger, this one-night-only presentation of Home is a Verb will benefit RTA, whose mission is to use the transformative power of the arts to develop social and cognitive skills that prisoners need for successful reintegration into the community, while raising public awareness of the humanity behind prison walls. The evening will conclude with a post-reading Q&A with the formerly-incarcerated RTA alumni whose stories helped shape the play. Acclaimed actor Michael K. Williams (Omar on HBO's "The Wire," 12 Years a Slave) is also scheduled to appear that evening as a special guest. Home is a Verb will take place on Monday, February 5, 2018 beginning at 6:30 p.m. (7:00 p.m. curtain) Off-Broadway at The Mainstage Theater (416 West 42nd Street).

The cast of Home is a Verb includes Victor Almanzar (Lucille Award-nominee for Between Riverside and Crazy - Atlantic Theater, Second Stage Theater and Steppenwolf Theater), Will Badgett (Target Margin Theatre member, The Talking Band), RJ Brown ("Tycoon," "The Carrie Diaries"), Bjorn DuPaty ("Madoff," "Alpha House," All Together Now at 52nd Street Project), Jaime Lincoln Smith (Holler If Ya Hear Me, LCT’s Pipeline) and Maurice McRae (Broadway: Sweat; Off-Broadway: Spill, Collapse, Wild With Happy). Albert Fermin, who is an RTA alumnus and a member of the Reentry Project, will be reading stage directions.

After working inside the prison system for over 20 years, RTA has a significant community of alumni who have participated in their programs inside and have since been released (while the national recidivism rate is nearly 60%, less than 7% of RTA members return to prison). Over the past three years, a group of RTA alumni have met regularly to share their stories detailing the challenges of reentry, from which writer Melissa Cooper drew inspiration for this full-length play.

Home is a Verb highlights years of hopes and dreams as they slam painfully against reality. When you return from prison, you are a different person. Home is a different place. One man returning from 32 years in prison needs help crossing the street; another is brought to tears when he loses sight of his wife in Walmart. The play explores reentry issues large and small (How do I submit a resume online and, by the way, how do I account for those missing years? A hamburger now costs HOW MUCH?!) with the goal of creating a better understanding of the importance of effective rehabilitation and support through the process of reentry.

Playwright Melissa Cooper has written numerous award-winning plays and adaptations commissioned and produced at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Dallas Theater Center, Portland Stage Company, East Los Angeles Classic Theater and San Diego Repertory. As Resident Dramaturg/Artistic Associate at Dallas Theater Center and Portland Stage Company, Ms. Cooper co-founded and produced two long-running annual festivals of new and experimental theater: Dallas's Big D Festival of the Unexpected and Portland's "a little festival of the unexpected." She has taught or directed at Amherst, Smith, University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke, Boston University Theater Institute and Southern Methodist University.

Director Richard Hamburger spent fifteen years as Artistic Director at Dallas Theater Center and five years as Artistic Director of the Portland Stage Company. He is the author of two plays produced at American Place Theatre and O'Neill Center's National Playwrights Conference, was awarded a Rockefeller Grant in playwriting and has served on faculties of Juilliard, Circle in the Square and Swarthmore College. In 2014 he directed Clifford Odets' Golden Boy for RTA at Sing Sing and has led RTA writing workshops in other maximum security prisons.

Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA) began in 1996 as a small theatre group in Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Today, RTA works in five New York State prisons, directly serving over 200 incarcerated men and women with 34 professional teaching artists. RTA's mission is to use the transformative power of the arts to develop social and cognitive skills prisoners need for a more productive life inside the walls and in the community when released. RTA also seeks to raise public awareness of the humanity behind prison walls and the ability for its members to return to society as law-biding, tax-paying and contributing members of society. Through innovative workshops and productions in theatre, dance, music, creative writing and visual arts, RTA participants build life skills such as problem solving, teamwork, discipline and confidence. These skills are critical to functioning in all aspects of life, both inside and out of prison.

While the national recidivism rate is nearly 60%, less than 7% of RTA members return to prison. The effectiveness of RTA participation has also been shown in two recently published research studies conducted in collaboration with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision: researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice showed that RTA participants demonstrated improved behavior and anger management and better disciplinary records compared to a control group, and another study by researchers at SUNY/Purchase College showed that participation in RTA led to achieving a high school equivalency diploma earlier in the sentence and a three-fold increase in post high school academics, compared to a carefully matched sample.

RTA currently operates in five maximum and medium-security New York State correctional facilities within a 100-mile radius of New York City: Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Bedford Hills, Westchester County; Fishkill Correctional Facility, Beacon, Dutchess County; Green Haven Correctional Facility, Stormville, Dutchess County; Woodbourne Correctional Facility, Woodbourne, Sullivan County; and Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, Westchester County.

Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA) will present a one-night-only staged reading of Home is a Verb on Monday, February 5, 2018 at The Mainstage Theater (416 West 42nd Street, NYC). A pre-show reception will begin at 6:30pm, the performance is scheduled to begin at 7:00pm. There will be a post-show Q&A with alumni, followed by another reception at 9:30pm. General reserved seats are priced at $150, and VIP reserved seats are $250 (both ticket levels include performance, Q&A and pre- and post- reception refreshments). Visit www.rta-arts.org/benefit to purchase tickets.

For more information on Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA), visit www.rta-arts.org. Contact RTA via email at info@rta-arts.org.

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