Performance + Music Arts
October 29, 2016
Film Forum, Schwartz Center for Performing Arts
Presented by the Association of Graduates in Theatre (AGIT)
From Cell to Cell: The Prison in Television and Performance is a one-day conference gathering scholars, artists, and activists to explore the intersections between theatre and performance-based prison work, especially in relation to different forms of activism and televisual representations of incarceration. This free and public event interrogates the stories, affects, and knowledges that pass from “cell to cell”: from the overcrowded cells that incarcerate 1 in 100 people in the United States, to the media cells of the televisual projections of prisons across the world, to the individual cells of the body politic itself. In order to reckon with and transform the criminal justice system, it’s necessary to examine, critique, and perhaps undo the network of images and media representations of imprisonment; without changing the imagination, it’s impossible to change reality. Academics and performance-makers approach this project in a variety of ways, and this conference focuses on two of them in particular: those who critique television’s role in circulating particular ideas of punitive justice and the experience of imprisonment, and those who cross the prison threshold in order to directly assist the incarcerated in using theatre and performance to incite transformation from the inside out. What are the different ways in which scholars and practitioners approach these processes? What might these socially-engaged rejoinders to mass incarceration gain by being examined in tandem? Other topics addressed include issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability in incarceration; the role the arts play in rehabilitation; the history of prison in television and other media; and the role of art works generated by incarcerated people in the history of modern theatre.
Speakers include prison media scholar Michelle Brown, author of The Culture of Punishment: Prison, Society, and Spectacle; scholars of prison in television Aurora Wallace and Bill Yousman, author of Prime Time Prisons on U.S. TV: Representation of Incarceration; along with prison theatre practitioner-scholars Lisa Biggs and Ashley Lucas, Director of the Prison Creative Arts Project, one of the largest arts-in-corrections organizations in the world.
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