Stephen Cole was the first facilitator to work with PPTG. A retired theatre professor from Cornell who worked with many Hollywood actors and taught at the IM School of Healing Arts, he began working with PPTG in October of 2009. Cole’s emphasis was on transformative characterology as an experienced act. At the request of the men of PPTG, this work focused on the healing process of transformative experience. The work is rooted in bioenergetic categories of psychological defenses. This allowed the men to examine their own defenses while attempting to inhabit these defense systems. This work is equally applicable to the redemptive goals of the men of PPTG as well as to actor training.
After some months Cole invited Paula Murray Cole, a theatre professor at Ithaca College, to join as a facilitator to expand the modalities of expression available to the members of the group. Paula Cole led workshops in Laban training, a well-known system of movement dynamics, which explores the psychological dimensions of movement in space and time. From Laban, Ms. Cole led the group in explorations of psychological emotions through training in rasaboxes– a psychophysical technique that trains actors and others to work with the body-mind imagination, emotional sensation and its physical expression.
In an effort to bring all the work forward into a performance mode, Cole discussed the PPTG group with Bruce Levitt, theatre professor, professional director and former chair of the Theater Department at Cornell University who specializes in Shakespeare and Solo Performance. Levitt joined the workshop in October of 2010 and led the members of PPTG in the creation of autobiographical performance pieces that called upon their own experiences as well as the techniques practiced from October 2009.
The solo performance work resulted in the creation of a script entitled Inside/Out, which was performed at Auburn Correctional Facility in April of 2011. Participants included Juliana Kleist-Mendez and Jeremy Flynn, two students from Cornell, who collaborated in the creation of the piece and joined the men of PPTG in performance. Some seventy people from outside the facility attended the performance. Excerpts from Inside/Out were published in the Fall 2011 and Winter/Spring 2012 editions of Aaduna Press (www.aaduna.org). This performance was followed in June of 2012 with the performance of Maximum Will, which combined soliloquies from Shakespeare with original reflective writings by the men of PPTG. Judy Levitt and Danielle Frimer joined David, Shane, Michael, along with Efraim Diaz and Kenneth Brown in that performance.
After the 2012 Performance of Maximum Will, the group admitted new “second generation” members Demetrius “Meat” Molina, Nathan Powell, and Leroy Lebron Taylor. After a period of training with PPTG, members began preparation for what became the performance of An Indeterminate Life, performed on May, 2014, which showcased the work of the founding members still residing at Auburn, Michael Rhynes and David Bendezu, along with Leroy, Meat, and Nate. Students Sandra Oyeneyin and Blaize Hall, along with facilitators Judy Levitt and Nick Fesette joined the men of PPTG in performance.
During this period, too, Stephen Cole and Paula Murray Cole left as facilitators of the group. Levitt had earlier recruited Alison Van Dyke, retired Senior Lecturer and acting, speech and dialects teacher at Cornell and Judy Levitt, actor, acting teacher and theatre faculty member at Ithaca College to join PPTG. Both, along with Stephen Cole, collaborated with Levitt in the preparation of Maximum Will.
PPTG’s third performance, An Indeterminate Life, was presented in April of 2014. “Second Generation” members Leroy Lebron Taylor, Demetrius Molina, and Nathan Powell joined the group in creating and performing that piece. Two additional facilitators joined the group in preparation for this production. Chris Seeds, a composer, performer, and theater enthusiast joined “the playwrights and poets of PPTG” as a facilitator in the fall of 2013 along with Nick Fesette, a theatre-maker and Ph.D. student at Cornell University. Nick’s interests are in critical prison studies and embodied performance. Nick also performed in An Indeterminate Life (2014) , This Incarcerated Life (2016), and The Strength of Our convictions: The Auburn Redemption in 2018.
After An Indeterminate Life, two additional facilitators joined the ensemble. Norm Johnson had just retired from teaching movement and scene study at Ithaca College. He has worked as a puppeteer and puppet-maker, mask-maker, theatre director and performer. He is currently the President of the board of directors for the Civic Ensemble.
Mary Rolland had a life-long commitment to her spiritual journey. She has lived in Zen Buddhist monasteries where she was a postulant nun. Mary attended the IM School of Healing arts, where she was one of Steven Cole’s teachers.
During the summer of 2014, PPTG admitted its “third generation” of members, Raymond Van Clief, Adam Roberts, and Sheldon Johnson. They performed with PPTG for the first time in 2016. Phil Miller, another “third generation” member was released before the May 2016 performance of THIS INCARCERATED LIFE.
A second Cornell PH.D. student joined the PPTG facilitators in 2017. Jayme Kilburn is the Founding Artistic Director of the Strand Theater Company in Baltimore City. She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara and NYU.
Fourth generation members Robert Lawrence, Mark Thompson and Jerome Walker joined second and third generation members in The Strength of Our Convictions: The Auburn Redemption, performed May 24th, 2018.
After the 2018 performance, Mary Rolland left as a facilitator to pursue other avenues of assisting the members of PPTG. Both Christopher Seeds and Nick Fesette completed their Ph.D degrees and moved onto teaching positions; Seeds at the University of California, Irvine and Fesette at Oxford College outside Atlanta, Georgia. Just prior to the 2018 performance, second generation PPTG member, Nathan Powell, was released from incarceration.