The first year of Voices Unbarred was amazing. We couldn't have done it without your support, so I wanted to share a few highlights from the year with you.
We completed our first workshop in the prison on February 8, 2018. We met 36 insightful, funny, and charismatic men that day who were willing to give us a try. By the end of our eight sessions, we had delved deep into their experiences with the prison system and our participants had created an original script examining issues of reentry. They performed their original script for both staff and others incarcerated at the prison. Two of our participants even created shirts to wear with a Voices Unbarred logo they had drawn in marker and pencil. The community we created through theatre and open discussion was astounding. Participants' feedback centered on how great it was to be treated as a human and with respect by us. It was really tough to leave that day, but our hearts were full with pride and respect for the men we had journeyed with.
Their script was performed by returned citizens twice during the summer. Our first performance was at Anacostia Arts Center on a Tuesday evening. The formerly incarcerated individuals we hired as our actors brought our participants' words to life and even added some of their own. The audience was able to jump in at certain points in the script and try out different solutions to the problems presented. The dialogue exchanged between the audience and the returned citizens and our participants' words really showed me the power of this work. We truly were offering a platform for our participants to reach a wider audience and affect change.
Our first performance was covered by WTOP news, which led The Kennedy Center to reach out and offer us a spot at their Page to Stage Festival! We were able to present a fuller version of the script at this performance to a packed house. The significance of formerly incarcerated individuals performing at a national cultural center and our participants being able to say their play was performed at The Kennedy Center was not lost on me. The men were so excited to hear how it went and what the audience thought of their work.
This summer, we also partnered with Literacy Volunteers and Advocates to create a performance around adult illiteracy. While they don't work in the prison system, the adults they work with have been separated from society and don't always have a platform for their voices to be heard, so our missions overlapped well. Our participants were able to perform their original play and celebrate their growth twice over the summer and fall.
In the fall of 2018, we were invited back to the prison a second time and completed another eight-week session with a new cohort of men. Again, we found insightful, funny, and creative men who were eager to share their thoughts with the world and make a change in their community. Their play is about the perception of inmates versus the reality. They performed for staff and others incarcerated in the prison and got excellent feedback!
Up next for us, is a community performance of this second play. We can't wait to share their amazing words with you! Join our email list and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on those performance details. We also have been asked to return for a third round in the prison!
Again, I want to say thank you so much for all your support--whether it was a kind word, coming to see a show, donating, or volunteering with us. We couldn't have had such a successful year without you, and your generosity means so much to me.
We are energized for 2019 and plan to continue offering a platform for our participants' voices to be heard. We look forward to your continued support as we push forward and make sure people who are incarcerated get to be heard!
With so much gratitude,