The Phoenix Players Theatre Group was founded in 2009 at Auburn Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Auburn New York, by a small group of incarcerated men dedicated to the idea that theatre work, combined with group inner healing work, is a true opportunity for them to connect and to become more fully human.
Michael Rhynes has been incarcerated for over 34 years. He originally named the group the Auburn Phoenix Players but, along with his co-founder, Clifton Williamson, came to the conclusion that while they were both “in” Auburn, they were not “of “ Auburn. Phoenix was selected because, to Michael, the Phoenix represented transformation and rehabilitation. PPTG is interested in transformation. For Michael, rehabilitation is about other people having control over your life while transformation is about taking your own life in your own hands.
The members of PPTG consider “Flames”, written by Michael Rhynes, to be their declaration of action and their faith in the possibility of transformation and redemption.
After each cycle of training, which can run anywhere from fourteen to eighteen months, the facilitators, in collaboration with PPTG members, devise a performance. The Executive Committee at Auburn has been very supportive of PPTG and permits the group to invite an audience of “civilians” to “witness” the performance as part of the transformative process so central to PPTG.