Confinements, May 16

By: Aurora Ricardo,  Department of Performing & Media Arts
May 11, 2021

The Department of Performing & Media Arts (PMA) is excited to announce CONFINEMENTS, a theatre performance created from the original writings of the Just/Us Coalition, a collaboration between Cornell undergraduates and several graduates of the Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP). The show will screen online Sunday, May 16 at 2:00 p.m., followed by a live Q&A, and is free and open to the public. Reserve your free ticket at schwartztickets.com.

CONFINEMENTS explores the many ways we are cut off from full participation in life—from physical confinement to afflictions of the body; from the expectations of family to the habits of mind; and from social norms to the foundations of our identities.

This original theatre piece showcases a collaboration between two groups of individuals who have experienced confinement in both drastically different and very similar ways. The creators/performers in the Just/Us Coalition are comprised of five Cornell undergraduate students and three CPEP graduates. Together, over a semester’s work, they have created a piece of theatre that is moving, insightful, warm, funny and provocative.

Near the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic Betsye Violette, the senior coordinator for CPEP, started a monthly Zoom meeting with a group of CPEP alumni who had recently returned home from Cayuga Correctional Facility. Wanting to do more, she approached PMA professor Bruce Levitt, who is the lead facilitator for the Phoenix Players Theatre Group (PPTG), an organization founded by incarcerated men at Auburn Maximum Security Prison.

Levitt explained: “Betsye wondered if we could create something for these men that would employ the Phoenix Players Theatre Group’s techniques for transformation so that members of her newly formed group might expand skills in self-presentation and interpersonal relationships. I proposed that we create a class with Cornell undergraduates and that her CPEP alumni collaborate with the students and devise a scripted performance.”

The result was a three-credit advanced acting class titled PMA 4801: Advanced Studies in Acting—Devising Re-Entry, and CPEP participants were registered in collaboration with Cornell’s School of Continuing Education.

“The structure of this collaboration is based on work done with the Phoenix Players where students enroll in my Prison Theatre class and spend each Friday evening during the semester at Auburn Correctional Facility working with the men in the group.”

Co-sponsored by the Department of Performing and Media Arts, Cornell University Office of Engagement Initiatives, Cornell Prison Education Program, the Phoenix Players Theatre Group, and Cornell School of Continuing Education.

CONFINEMENTS poster graphic featuring an aesthetic array of windows, some with the silhouette of a lone person outlined in front