The earliest documents that begin to germinate the ideas for PPTG begin late 2008. Even in this very early proposal the creative passion and desire to establish their own “redemptive and transformative” process that will mark the group’s future endeavors is evident. It is summed up in the introduction to the first proposal drafted by Michael Rhynes and Clifton Williamson
How do the incarcerated grow awareness of a theatre endeavor? How do they reach towards the audacity of the possibility of a theatre group? They start voicing their vision. Calling upon innate creativity, somehow the universe responds–even to those incarcerated behind mile high walls.
We seek to transcend our labels and criminality through personal development: empathy and compassion for others, awareness of our obligations to fellow human beings, and self-love/respect.
This first full proposal for the group, with a rudimentary flow chart and description of goals and duties for those involved, shows a clear sense of organizational abilities. At this point, the founders are thinking of performing traditional theatrical productions along with workshops to further their knowledge of the “art of theatre.”
Our ultimate goal is to be able to do a full theatre production for the prison population and approved members of society. As a secondary goal, and essentially, a fundamental prerequisite, we would like to establish a workshop forum where incarcerated people engage with, learn from and are influenced by the Art of theatre.
A second, more detailed proposal was drafted and submitted to the Auburn Correctional Facility for approval, with the name changed to Phoenix Players Theatre Group. It contains a copy of Flames, by Michael Rhynes, as a kind of preamble. It also brings forward a mission statement that recognizes that, in order to transform themselves, PPTG members would also have to shed the negative labels put on them by society. In order to do that, PPTG members needed “witnesses” to their transformation.
The awareness acquired through thinking and acting beyond self-interest becomes the catalysis for choosing to live from one’s higher nature. This experience significantly increases incarcerated people’s chances of transcending the negative labels and histories of criminality that define them within the greater society.