Art in prisons is the subject of a new documentary from our partner university in Brazil

The mini-documentary was produced by the Center for the Arts (Ceart) of the Santa Catarina State University (Udesc).
by Fernanda Pires

ANN ARBOR—The short documentary—Theatre in Prison— or Teatro na Prisão, in Portuguese, addresses the importance of bringing art and culture to people who are in seclusion.

Questioning some aspects of the traditional incarceration system, the eight-minute doc also explores actions of the program “Theatre Pedagogy and Creation Processes.” The project "Theatre in Prison" was launched in 2017 by the Department of Performing Arts of Udesc, in partnership with the University of Michigan's  Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP). The workshops happen at the Florianópolis Women's Prison. 

The Brazil Exchange Program completed its seventh straight year in 2019. U-M associate professor Ashley Lucas, PCAP's former director, brings U-M students to Florianópolis and Rio de Janeiro to be participant observers in the theatre work not just in prisons but also in underprivileged neighborhoods and hospitals. They learn about what theatre can accomplish beyond entertainment in non-traditional settings and why people engage in performance practices in these challenging contexts.

“Arts and performing are strong tools for social change. Theatre allows us to come up with new ideas, produce new stories in a safe and protective way. We are exposed without being in danger,” Lucas said.

In the short-doc, UDESC professor Vicente Concilio, U-M assistant professor José Casas, who joined the trip for the first time this year, and Lucas stress the importance of the arts workshops, that aim to give back the incarcerated participants’ individuality and oppressed voices, at least during the activities, and help with their personal development. The professors also talk about how the current system precludes people's expression, undermining the purpose of resocialization after serving a sentence.

In addition, the audiovisual production portrays testimonials written by the participants in their diaries for the drama classes and show how positive the program has been for those who are excluded from the society. The participants recognize arts and performing as strong tools for social change. Theatre allows them to come up with new ideas, produce new stories in a safe and protective way.

To watch, click HERE.

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