For the fourth straight year, UM professor Ashley Lucas, director of the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), has led the GCC Brazil—Theatre and Incarceration program to Rio de Janeiro, where UM students become participant observers in theater work not only in prisons but in underprivileged neighborhoods and hospitals. They learn about what theater can accomplish beyond entertainment in non-traditional settings and why people engage in performance practices in these challenging contexts.
The Prison Creative Arts Project trains students to facilitate arts workshops in prisons, juvenile detention centers, and community settings, bringing together crime victims, former prisoners, and their families. The nation of Brazil has a long history of using theatre as a vehicle to discuss and promote social justice causes. PCAP began an exchange program in 2013 with theatre faculty and students at the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UniRio).
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"Arts and performing are strong tools for social change. Theater allows us to come up with new ideas, produce new stories in a safe and protective way. We are exposed without being
—Ashley Lucas, UM Professor and Director of PCAP
"When we are on stage, we feel free. We forget we are in prison,"
—Edson Sodré, Inmate-Artist
“At first, I wasn’t sure if our presence was helping or hurting them until their sobs turned into cries of joy. I couldn’t believe how strong of an impact I can have on people just by doing something that
I do everyday—singing and dancing.”
—Layla Sareini, Michigan and GCC Brazil alum
"In prison, you lose your individuality, you become just a number and have few opportunities to express yourself. Art then creates an ideal space for these people, where they can speak and, mostly importantly, be heard. It is a perfect way to develop empathy on both sides."
—Leia Squillace, student in the UM School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and a PCAP member