“Prison Theatre and the Possibilities of Transformation” is a course that is an elective within Cornell’s minor in Crime, Prison, Education and Justice. First offered during the spring semester of 2017, Professor and PPTG facilitator, Bruce Levitt, in collaboration with the men of The Phoenix Players Theatre Group, created the course. Students attended the Friday evening PPTG workshops at Auburn Correctional Facility, going through the workshop training regimen with the men, receiving coaching and support from other PPTG facilitators and participating in improvisations and scenarios alongside the members of PPTG.
Each Monday morning the class met on campus to discuss assigned texts, to conduct Skype interviews with other prison theatre practitioners around the country, and to reflect on the past Friday’s session. The final project for the semester’s work was to structure a piece around the theme of Convergence/Divergence. Five groups of three workshop members–one student and two PPTG members–spent two Friday sessions exploring their lives to discover where their journeys converged, or were similar, and where they diverged or were dissimilar. During a third session, each team of three rehearsed and staged the piece they had created. On the fourth Friday, the group presented their pieces to the other members of the workshop. The six short three-minute videos in this section record the students’ final reflections on their fifteen-week experience with The Phoenix Players, interwoven with moments from the presentations of Convergence/Divergence.