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Center for World Performance Studies | PERFORMANCE TALKS

Gelsey Bell & Erik Ruin: Prisoner's Song
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
6:00-7:30 PM
Room 1405 East Quadrangle Map
Prisoner's Song, a critically acclaimed multimedia performance about the experience of the incarcerated in America, will be presented at four different Detroit venues this September, free of charge and open to the general public. University of Michigan's Center for World Performance Studies presents a Performance Talk with Gelsey Bell and Erik Ruin, on Tuesday, Sept. 18th at 6pm. Prisoner's Song is the recipient of a Knight Arts Challenge Grant.

Prisoner’s Song is an hour-long performance comprised of ten chapters based on various primary sources, approached in an array of performance styles. The performance, by New York-based composer Gelsey Bell and Philadelphia-based (and Detroit-raised) visual artist Erik Ruin, uses shadow puppets, projections, and a variety of musical idioms to portray the prison experience. For instance, the 19th-century British folk ballad “Adieu To All Judges and Juries” tells the tale of a woman yearning for her lover who has been forcibly exiled, set to an original arrangement by Bell and illustrated by an intricate paper-cut scroll 10.5 feet in length. In contrast, an inventory of prisoners’ personal possessions from the Eastern State Penitentiary in the 1930s is performed as an abrupt sequence of voices and percussion, with the silhouettes of found objects starkly flickering across the screen.

By drawing on historic ballads, poetry, audio interviews with people who have spent time in prison, and other primary sources, Prisoner's Song allows audiences to encounter the states of mind and heart that prison engenders. The New York Times calls Prisoner’s Song“uncomfortably powerful … evoking the restrictive and impoverished reality of incarceration even as it pays tribute to the resilience, ingenuity and poetry that can transcend it.”

Prisoner's Song is presented free through the contributions of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Carrie Morris Arts Production, the U-M Center for World Performance Studies, the U-M Prison Creative Arts Project, Power House Productions, and through the generosity of many individual donors.

Detroit Performances of Prisoner's Song:
Wednesday, Sept. 19, 7pm | Light Box
Thursday, Sept. 20, 7pm | Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corporation Community Center
Friday, Sept. 21, 8pm | Play House
Saturday, Sept. 22, 8pm | Trumbullplex
Building: East Quadrangle
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Activism, Free, Humanities, Interdisciplinary, Music, Social Impact, Social Justice, Storytelling, Visual Arts
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for World Performance Studies, Residential College, Prison Creative Arts Project, The