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BEYOND PRISON WALLS Performed Online April 22-24

Produced by Playwrights Project and San Diego State University.

BEYOND PRISON WALLS Performed Online April 22-24

Beyond Prison Walls is the 9th year of this unique partnership, in which SDSU theatre students perform plays written by writers in underrepresented communities who have taken part in programs with local nonprofit Playwrights Project.

Beyond Prison Walls' short plays, monologues, and even a song were written by playwrights from Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, Centinela State Prison, Male Community Reentry Program, and a Returned Writers Circle through Playwrights Project's Out of the Yard playwriting program. Playwrights Project's Executive Director Cecelia Kouma and Theatre Professor Peter Cirino have teamed up as co-producers to present past productions in SDSU's Experimental theatre and the last two seasons online via Zoom.

This year's scripts highlight the successes, challenges, and, yes, even hilarity of returning home after incarceration. Kouma shared, "Our writers explore the concept of returning to the community after they've done their time. There are many lessons and much to celebrate in their stories... the strength of the human spirit, the importance of connection, and the hope and healing needed to make change."

Each performance is unique and features two to four short plays or monologues performed by San Diego State University Theatre students or the writers themselves. Each performance is followed by an interactive talkback with the returned writers and their casts. Audience members are invited to discuss the themes presented in the plays and learn more about rehabilitative arts programs.

Saturday night features a panel of returned writers for a discussion of Transformative Arts programs, facilitated by Wayne Cook, a nationally recognized teaching artist and advisor of theatre programs in carceral settings. Attendees will gain insight into the challenges of reentry and what is needed to support a successful transition.

Admission to all three presentations is free, with online reservations required.

Playwrights Project initiated its Out of the Yard program at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in 2014. The program supports individuals in creating fictional plays that examine hardships and explore positive peaceful solutions. Participants are empowered to redefine themselves beyond the labels imposed by past choices. Through this exploration, participants further their rehabilitation by developing skills in literacy, communication, self-reflection, and problem solving, as they create a community of support where empathy and encouragement flourish.

Bringing these works to the students at SDSU and the community at large, provides an opportunity for the playwrights to have a positive impact on the community and for students to gain a deeper understanding of varying perspectives and experiences and our shared humanity.

Dr. Heather Greenwald, Chief of Mental Health at Donovan, called Out of the Yard "transformative."

"What this team brings (to the residents at Donovan) is the reflection of their value... And for the moments that they are all together they are not in prison, they are playwrights, they are actors, they are creators, and they are making something beautiful."

For reservations and information visit: http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/community/


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