Winner! Prison Production: Amplifying Hidden Histories

Awarded $500 grant at FEAST #12, January 21, 2012

Prison Production: Amplifying Hidden Histories

Prison Production will be a 5-6 week Theater-in-Education residency at Wadleigh Secondary School in Harlem. Two 12th grade economics classes will focus on developing an economic analysis of the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex. Five actor-teachers will use theater (in-class dramas, and student role play), to create dialogue and draw connections to history.

Wadleigh is a performing arts school located in a community whose struggle with racial justice has earned historic attention, and whose pioneering spirit in the arts has captured the imaginations of generations of US performers. Today, Harlem faces problems of over-policing, racially-targeted stop-and-frisk policies, and high rates of incarceration. Despite a lack of difference in drug use between racial groups in New York, people of color, and especially black men, are more frequently arrested for drug crimes, and convicted more harshly, than their white counterparts. Meanwhile, private prisons that house these folks are being subsidized by tax dollars to alleviate poverty in largely white upstate communities. Educators and academics have tended to ignore this history, which has been decades in the making.

Prison Production will amplify the urban historical narrative of the US prison industry, particularly its infrequently criticized role in maintaining poverty and racial segregation of the poor for the benefit of the rich.

Wadleigh High School: