Herman’s House Screening

Thanks to all who joined We Players on Alcatraz Island on May 19, 2013, to view and discuss this new documentary film about the relationship between a prisoner and an artist, and the dream home of a man who has spent 40 years in solitary. http://hermanshousethefilm.com/

Learn about current realities and consider getting involved with the issue of solitary confinement in California prisons – http://www.stoptortureca.org

Herman’s House Screening on Alcatraz

Join We Players to view and discuss this new documentary film about the relationship between a prisoner and an artist, and the dream home of a man who has spent 40 years in solitary.

Sunday, May 19 – Alcatraz Island, 5:30-10pm

Screening, panel discussion with director Angad Singh Bhalla (a past player with WE!) and other special guests, walking tour, and viewing of a current art exhibit in the New Industries Building.

For more information on the film, visit http://hermanshousethefilm.com/

CLICK HERE TO PLACE YOUR RESERVATION

hermans-house-poster

Alcatraz Symposium

justic_freedom 13

thank you for joining WE on The Rock this past weekend.

The Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom was a fitting closure to We Players’ three year residency in partnership with the National Park Service.

I witnessed inspiring creativity, deep emotion, meaningful conversation, cross-pollination of communities, and the forging of new relationships.

Please share your stories from the weekend here!

Alcatraz Cell House Dance Theatre

This evening program allowed audiences to explore the cell house and witness movement metaphors representative of the history of Alcatraz and current prison realities; moving through emotion and grief with participatory music and dance; and feeling cleansing, purification, and transformation as we viewed bright-burning coals dance in the open air with the San Francisco skyline as our back drop.


Curated by Lauren D. Chavez

Cell House Dance Theatre Collaborators:

Laurel Butler
Lauren D. Chavez
Amie Dowling
Ava Roy

Musicians:

Ajayi Jackson
Paris King
Paul Rucker
Josh Tower
and other guest musicians

Coals Dance: The Tea Dancers, Natta Haotzima and Mayra Enriquez

……….Location: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
……….Dates: October 23rd, 2011

Alcatraz Cell House Dance Theatre was part of We Players 2011 Alcatraz Series during the company’s three year residency on Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom

Thursday – Sunday, October 20-23, 2011

In programmatic partnership with the National Park Service, We Players created site-specific arts events addressing the themes of incarceration, isolation, justice and redemption on Alcatraz Island from 2009-11. The company concluded this historic three-year artistic residency with a four day symposium exploring justice and freedom through diverse media. Symposium events occurred throughout the island and included: performance art, music, dance, visual art exhibitions, ritual, and panel discussions with formerly incarcerated artists as well as victim awareness activists.

PROJECT DESCRIPTIONS

Dance Theatre Evening Program in the Cell House, Hospital and Parade Ground

The evening program is a three part event, where the audience will: explore the cell house and witness movement metaphors representative of the history of Alcatraz and current prison realities; move through emotion and grief with participatory music and dance; and feel cleansing, purification, and transformation as we view bright-burning coals dancing in the open air with the San Francisco skyline as our back drop.

Evening Program Curator: Lauren D. Chavez
Cell House Dance Theatre Collaborators: Laurel Butler, Lauren D. Chavez, Amie Dowling, Ava Roy
Musicians: Ajayi Jackson, Paris King, Paul Rucker, Josh Tower and other guests
Coals Dance: The Tea Dancers, Natta Haotzima and Mayra Enriquez

Poetic Justice Project’s “Women Behind The Walls” in the Hospital

Women Behind the Walls was written from improvisations with the women of Chowchilla prison, the largest women’s prison in the world. A multiracial cast of five women in a unique and gripping play that moves audiences from laughter to tears as they confront the women behind the walls. This play has been produced in many multi-cultural theaters throughout the US. http://www.poeticjusticeproject.org/

Visual Art and live cello performances in the New Industries Building

Seth Armstrong

I was recently arrested for “strong armed robbery” while protecting my own personal property in Oakland, CA.  These three paintings help tell the story.  They are as follows:  “A View Of the Jail From the Courtroom Lobby”, “The Interior Of the Cell” (painted from memory), and “The Douchebag That Put Me There” (based on the so called “victim’s” Facebook profile picture).

Evan Bissell

Meditation on Hunger Strikes and Public Fasts

The site specific installation by artist Evan Bissell looks at the uses, gains and spiritual grounding of people who have engaged in hunger strikes and public fasts for self-determination and freedom throughout history.  Created with salt, water and military issue dishware from Alcatraz, the interactive piece is a meditation on impermanence, interconnectedness and sacrifice – the belief that one’s life, and how it is lived contributes to a greater body that will continue past the death of one of its parts.

The Knotted Line (in-process)

The Knotted Line is a participatory, internet-based project investigating the history of incarceration and its relationship to education and labor in the United States from 1495-2025.  The Knotted Line weaves together a dynamic, narrative painting of over 75 historical moments with an evolving online interface to create an interactive historical laboratory and container for the sharing of visitors’ personal experiences as related to incarceration.  When completed in Spring of 2012, The Knotted Line will also include a book version and free curricula for high school classes and community organizations.  Shown on Alcatraz will be over 30 miniature paintings of key historical moments.

Monica Lundy

In 1895, 19 Hopi men were imprisoned on Alcatraz Island for refusing to accept the American government’s program of forced education and assimilation. With an interest in social histories, Monica Lundy’s most recent project focuses on the 19th century imprisonment of Native Americans on Alcatraz Island, long before the infamous prison we currently know as Alcatraz Prison was built. This series of site-specific paintings reference Alcatraz’s history while simultaneously incorporating existing elements of the deteriorating architecture into the artwork itself, resulting in a direct collaboration between the history of the site and the artist.

Paul Rucker

Proliferation

Art can tell stories. For years I would talk about injustice by reciting numbers and statistics. When you say, “We have over 2.3 million people in prison,” it’s a large number to comprehend. I did research at a prison issues-themed residency at the Blue Mountain Center in New York, and found some maps that I felt could help tell the story. The project is an animated mapping – using different colors to indicate prison construction in different eras, showing the proliferation of the US prison system from a celestial point of view.  The viewer can clearly see the astonishing growth of this system over time.

Live Cello Performances

Spaces contains residue from the past.  You can feel this on Alcatraz.  The New Industries/ Laundry is simultaneously a site of privilege (it was a privilege for prisoners to work) and exploitation (prison labor is not  regulated under the same laws as free labor). All my work is inspired by that which moves me. Every object has a sound. I enjoy performing in galleries and creating live, improvised sonic interpretations of artwork. The music I create on cello involves extended technique, prepared cello and electronics.

I thought I’ve seen humans… Interactive performance in the Hospital

Mabel Negrete/ Counter Narrative Society (CNS)

CNS is presenting a new para-fictional multimedia participatory performance at the former hospital of the Alcatraz Federal Prison which unpacks the immaterial qualities of Negrete’s new proposition: “I thought I’ve seen humans.” As part of her long-term project, “When the Invisible Punishing Machine is Everywhere, The Weight I Carry with Me”, she has designed an immersive performance for audiences to witness the rigid architecture of the hospital which upholds nightmarish notions about safety and eugenic technologies, and synergistically to witness the transformation of some intangible stories she carries as a wounded witness.

Guided viewing of “Images from the Inside” exhibition in the Band Practice Room

Join gallery curators Patrick Gillespie (We Players) and Carol Newborg (William James Association) for discussion on the inmate-produced fine art works in We Players final visual art installation of the 2011 gallery series.  On Sunday, several previously incarcerated artists (whose work is displayed) will also join for this gallery viewing, prior to the panel discussion with ex-inmate artists, moderated by Larry Brewster.

Panel Discussion – Restorative Justice and Victim Awareness in the Dining Room

Moderated by: Patrick Gillespie
Panelists: Reggie Daniels, Rose Elizondo, Richard Kamler and Sonya Shah

“Process Orientation of the Creative Arts and Healing; Product Orientation of our Current Prison System”

A panel of Restorative Justice practitioners, artists, and performers will discuss the theories and methods of Restorative Justice and Victim Awareness.  The discussion will explore how the creative arts intersect with these practices to facilitate healing and transformation, and raise awareness for both the general public and the prison population.  In addition, the panel will explore the differences and overlap of Social Justice and artistic practices.

Community Grief Ritual on the Parade Ground

Part of We Players intention for the culminating symposium, is holding space for an energetic acknowledgement and release of the great pain we notice embedded in the rocks of Alcatraz, and weaving through society as a result of historical injustices and the current prison system.  This community grieving ritual engaged our bodies, hearts, minds and spirit to experience and move through our grief, transforming the energy and freeing ourselves and society to move forward with enhanced openness and creativity.

Panel Discussion – Ex-Inmate Artists in the Dining Room

Moderated by: Prof. Larry Brewster
Panelists: Willie Bermudez, Larry Calderon, Ronnie Goodman, Mickey Magic

“Arts in Corrections: From the Inside”

A panel of artists, craftspeople and performers will discuss how arts in corrections helped them turn their lives around and keep them out of prison. Moderated by Dr. Larry Brewster of USF who has studied California’s Arts-in-Corrections program for over 25 years.

 

COLLABORATING ARTIST BIOS

Seth Armstrong (visual art presenter) Seth Armstrong was born and raised in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles, Ca.  After studying painting in northern Holland, he received a BFA from the California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco.  Seth has exhibited his work extensively in the Bay Area, as well as in London and the Netherlands.  He now lives and works in Los Angeles.

Claire Braz-Valentine (playwright, Women Behind the Walls) Claire is a widely published poet, a freelance writer of both children’s and adult fiction and nonfiction, and an award winning playwright. Her poems have been featured in many anthologies. Her plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and across the United States, and in Finland, Greece, and Canada. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, on CNN Television, and broadcast on BBC radio. She has worked for years with youth at risk and incarcerated adults, as part of the California Arts in Corrections Program, creating plays, monologues, and poetry anthologies and installation art with convicted felons.

Evan Bissell (visual & interactive art presenter)Artist Evan Bissell designs and facilitates sites of collaborative dialogue that support self-determination and visions of community and society based in love. Through processes that incorporate radical pedagogy, participatory research, ethnography and meditation, the results include collaboratively designed, larger-than-life paintings, multi-media participatory exhibitions, public installations, workshops, and free publications.

Larry Brewster (previously incarcerated artist panel moderator)Larry Brewster served as dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco (1999-2007) and served for two years as acting dean of the School of Education (2002-2004). Before joining USF, he was academic dean at Menlo College, and has served as dean at Golden Gate University and professor of Political Science in the California State University system.

Dr. Brewster regularly consults in public policy and organizational development and has industry experience as former Director of Market Research for BT Tymnet, an international data and telecommunications company. He recently coauthored California Politics, 2nd ed., Wadsworth & Co., 2004, and The Public Agenda: Issues in American Politics, 5th ed., Wadsworth & Co., 2004. He earned his doctorate at the University of Southern California and currently is Professor of Public Administration in the School of Management.

Dr. Brewster first evaluated the California Arts-in-Corrections in 1983 when he conducted a cost-benefit study of the program. He found that the program’s quantitative and qualitative benefits exceeded program costs. In the past three years, Professor Brewster has interviewed formerly incarcerated men and women who had participated in the Arts-in-Corrections program to learn what impact the program had on their lives while inside and since their release from prison. Several themes have emerged through these interviews, including self-discovery, discipline, confidence and self-esteem while “doing their time” meaningfully through the artistic process; learning the value of hard work and completing projects; reconnecting with family through their art; giving back to society; and finding a safe haven in the art program where men of different races and background work side by side as artists.

Laurel Butler (choreographer)Laurel Butler is the Youth Arts Manager and Education/Engagement Specialist at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Before moving to the Bay Area earlier this year, Laurel served as the Artistic Director of The Actor Inside Program, facilitating theater and dance workshops with inmates and juvenile offenders in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She directed the theatre program for Comienzos, Inc. exploring principles of non-violent communication and conflict resolution through theatre with adults at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. The production of “Lucid Dreaming/Sonando Lucido”, an original work collaboratively written by the Comienzos participants, debuted as part of the Revolutions International Theatre Festival this January.  As a member of the Keshet Dance Company outreach faculty, Laurel taught dance classes inside the New Mexico Youth Diagnostic and Development Center post-adjudicated youth facility. She also managed the ScOutreach Juvenile Diversion Program, collaborating with the State of New Mexico Child Youth and Families Division to incorporate principles of restorative justice and community healing into after-school programming for repeating youth offenders. She has served as an educator for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, as executive director of Theater-in-the-Making, and as founder/director of the Albuquerque Street Theatre Brigade. Laurel has an M.A. in theater education and community outreach from the University of New Mexico, where she was the instructor of Theater for Education and Social Change, and a B.A. in performance pedagogy and community cultural development from Hampshire College.  Her newest dance project, Make/Shift/Performance, will debut its first work at CounterPULSE this November.

Amie Dowling (choreographer)Amie Dowling is a full-time faculty member in the Performing Arts and Social Justice Department at the University of San Francisco, where she serves as the Coordinator of the Dance Program, and an Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Jails. Her choreography has been presented by the American Dance Festival, the Kennedy Center, Painted Bride, Jacob’s Pillow, and Ponderosa Dance Festival, as well as numerous colleges and universities.  Prior to moving to California, Dowling was a guest artist in the Five College Dance Department and taught at Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges.  From 1986 to 1993, Dowling toured with the Liz Lerman/Dance Exchange and subsequently went to Chiang Mai, Thailand to assist in the creation a Performing Arts Department at Payap University and work with NGOs that assisted women who were leaving the sex-trade industry. In 2001, Ms. Dowling co-founded The Performance Project, which develops original works of movement and theater through a collaboration of professional artists and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women.

Natta Haotzima (coals dancer)Mexican-born dancer/poetess. She transmits simplicity, harmony and peaceful community living through her varied art expressions.

From an early age, Natta has been interested in healing and she studied the Holographic Repatterning System, which identifies unconscious patterns and energy restrictions, and is established by renown Scientist Chloe Wordsworth.  Later on in life, Natta studied other healing therapies such Sound Frequency Therapy, Education Kinesiology, Reiki, Healing Movements and Yin Shin Acupressure Points. Natta Haotzima studied at the Choreography School of UNAM, the National University of Mexico, as well as at  the James Carte’s Ecole de Danse in Toulouse, France, and the D’Jonibas Center in New York City. Her dance credits include dancing with the “Street Theater and Circus Production” in Mexico, the National School of Quebec (who are the co-founders of the Cirque du Soleil), with “Aerial Dance & Precarious Balance,” with Humanicorp Dance Company, at the National Institute of Arts (Bellas Artes), and with the Circus School of Barcelona, Spain. Locally, Natta has studied with Project Bandaloop and the Vertical Dance Workshops.  She has performed with Lulacruza, Elizabeth Mendana Productions, and Diana Suarez. In term of multimedia art, she has exhibited in different museums in Morelos, Mexico such as The Museum of the City of Cuernavaca, “Jardines del Sol” in Ocotitlan, Ex-convento de Tepoztlan and Auditorio Ilhucalli; in Chiapas at the Auditorio de Tuxtla Gutierrez; in San Francisco at The Mission Cultural Center, at De Young Museum and in Oakland at The Mills College Theater. Natta once confessed that her favorite magic place to dance is on any nation’s street. At this moment, Natta is teaching aerial dance in conjunction with Studio 12 in Berkeley, and following Buddhism at Hua Zang Si Temple in San Francisco.

Mayra Hua Qiao (coals dancer)Mayra is a multifaceted dancer. Her first incursions in dance were with fire dancing and street performing in Mexico City. And it was here that she decided to begin formal dance training in West African Dance which she passionately pursued for more than ten years while working and teaching. As part of this commitment,  she traveled to Guinea, in West Africa to deepen her studies and techniques of traditional Guinean dances. She was able to enrich her repertoire as a folklorist of African descent expressions with a variety of dances such as Afro Cuban, Sabar, Congolese, Mexican Folklore, and Afro Brazilian. Later, after an encounter with Modern Dance, style was transformed to a purely alternative concept. her Parallel to studies in dance, she also has a strong fitness-training background. She studied various forms of body awareness in Mexico City and San Francisco. In this quest, she was captivated by Yoga and Pilates techniques, and become a certified instructor in both. Today she has four certifications and five years of teaching experience and practice. Mayra has conducted many  dance workshops and Master classes in different places such as Nativa and Epicentro dance schools, ITESO and UNISON Universities in Mexico City. She has danced with dance groups such as Bakan, Gaia Ceiba and Raiz Negra from Mexico.  At this moment, she is dancing with the Liberation Dance Theater Company with Jacinta Blanch, Opera Muerta by John J. Leanos and building the project “The Tea Dancers / El Ballet de la Compasión” with Natta Haotzima in The Bay Area.

Monica Lundy (visual art presenter)Born in Portland, Oregon in 1974, Monica Lundy spent her childhood between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  Her extensive childhood travels culminated in diverse experiences with different cultures and their traditions. These experiences began shaping her awareness of, and curiosity about, divisions in cultural perceptions.  She went on to receive a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996.  In 2001 she spent a year in Florence, Italy, where she was invited to study painting under the mentorship of a local artist.  She received a MFA from Mills College in 2010 and was a recipient of the 2010 Jay DeFeo Award.  Among other publications, her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Visual Art Source and the San Francisco Chronicle.  She currently lives and works in Oakland, California.

Mabel Negrete (multi-media & performance art presenter)Mabel was born in Chile and about 20 years ago she made the USA her home (in the Bay area of San Francisco). In 2007, she founded the Counter Narrative Society (CNS) , a research unit that works to initiate counter narratives about bio-power, urbanism, culture and technology. In 2009, she joined the MIT program in Art, Culture and Technology and under the CNS started to ask the question, what is mass punishment?

From this major question, presently she is developing a multifaceted long-term dialogical and performative fieldwork called …when the invisible punishing machine is everywhere…The Weight I Carry with Me. It consists of organizing and creating para-fictional actions and nomadic encounters to interrogate intimately how punishment, alienation and  social-urban control in the terrain of the  USA has affected her  family,  her friends, herself and the community at large who have suffered the invisible effects of state control, incarceration and inequality.

Mabel is also a recipient of several recognitions including MIT Presidential Award 2009-2010 and MIT Architecture Department Fellowship 2009-2011, Zellerbach Family Foundation & W.A. Gerbode Foundation 2006, and Osher Memorial Merit Scholarship – San Francisco Art Institute 2003-2006.

Paul Rucker (multi-media presenter & cellist)Paul Rucker has received numerous grants for the creation of visual art and music from 4Culture, Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, South Carolina Arts Commission, Washington State Arts Commission, King County Site Specific, Photo Center NW, and Artist Trust. Rucker has created public artwork for the Museum of Flight in Seattle, 4Culture, and the City of Tacoma.

He has also been awarded residencies to Blue Mountain Center, Ucross Foundation, Art OMI, Banff Centre, Pilchuck Glass School, and the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy. As a musician and director Rucker plays in various situations from solo cellist to leading his LARGE ENSEMBLE of twenty-two musicians. Rucker was named Best Emerging Artist of 2004 from Earshot, 2005 Jazz Artist of the Year from the Seattle Music Awards, and Outside Jazz Ensemble of the Year in 2008. In 2007, he was invited by legendary filmmaker David Lynch to perform for the opening of Lynch’s film, Inland Empire.

Molly Williams Stuckey (director, Women Behind the Walls)Molly Williams Stuckey is proud to be directing the original piece Women Behind the Wallswith Poetic Justice Project. She holds a BA in theater from Union University and a MA in theology of the Arts from Fuller. Molly is a SAG eligible actress from Los Angeles and was one of the founding members of the The Fuller Company. As a director, Molly’s two biggest accomplishments were assistant directing the world premier of Serenade, the new musical from the Tony Winning author Rachel Sheinkin. Molly also directed the documentary The Answer Myth. Her goal is to one day have a theater company that raises money for social justice issues around the world, combining her love of the arts and humanity. A complete list of Molly’s work can be found at www.mollystuckey.com

Symposium Schedule

THURSDAY, FRIDAY AND SATURDAY 5-9pm
Dance Theatre Program:
Cell house dance theatre by Laurel Butler, Lauren Chavez, Amie Dowling and Ava Roy
Blues jam with Ajayi Jackson, Paris King, Paul Rucker, Josh Tower and other guests
(intermission)
Coals dance by The Tea Dancers

FRIDAY 2:10-5:50pm
Poetic Justice Project: Women Behind the Walls
Dinner and conversation with Women Behind the Walls director Molly Williams Stuckey and actors

SATURDAY 9:50am-5:50pm
Opening Ceremony
Guided tours of visual artworks by Seth Armstrong, Evan Bissel, Monica Lundy
Proliferation screenings and live cello performances by Paul Rucker
Interactive Art Installations by Mabel Negrete
Walking tour and conversation with We Players artistic director, Ava Roy
Panel discussion – victim awareness & restorative justice

SUNDAY 11:50am-5:50pm
Guided tours of visual artworks by Evan Bissel and Monica Lundy
Proliferation screenings and live cello performances by Paul Rucker
Interactive Art Installations by Mabel Negrete
Walking tour and conversation with We Players artistic director, Ava Roy
Guided viewing of We Players current exhibition – Images from the Inside
Panel discussion – previously incarcerated artists, moderated by Larry Brewster Closing Ceremony

The Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom was Produced by We Players
Lauren Dietrich Chavez, Managing Director
Patrick Gillespie, Visual Arts Director
Ava Roy, Artistic Director

Images from the Inside

The final exhibit in We Players’ 2011 Alcatraz series, is the most comprehensive gathering of inmate-produced visual artwork in the Bay Area in over 30 years. The National Park Service and We Players invited the Prison Arts Project, which sponsors on-going art classes at San Quentin through the William James Association, to exhibit outstanding examples of its work in our Alcatraz cell house gallery space. The exhibit also included work from the former California Arts-in-Corrections program – now collected by UCLA Library’s Prison Arts Archiving Project and WJA.

Images from the Inside was installed in the Cell House Gallery, Alcatraz, August 27 – November 11, 2011.

The successful collaboration of the public and the inmate population is one of the foundations of Arts-in-Corrections, which existed from 1980-2010 in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. That model was started in 1977 by the initial Prison Arts Project, which used professional artists, writers, and performers as teachers and role models of discipline, skill and commitment to growth and hard work. Participation in Arts-in-Corrections correlates to a lower recidivism rate, thus significantly reducing costs for the state and helping people to stay out of prison upon their release. A university study found that participants in the AIC program had a 27% lower recidivism rate than the general prison population. Ninety percent of inmates will return to life outside the prison walls, and arts and educational programming helps address the challenges of re-entry through public collaboration and creative growth. (click here for links to study)

The exhibition-opening event on August 27th included a panel discussion representing a significant gathering of minds in prison arts programming in the Bay Area.

Panelists included:

Larry Brewster, Professor, USF
Laurie Brooks, Executive Director, William James Association
Steve Emerick, former Arts-in-Corrections Artist/Facilitator; recipient of Dalai Lama’s Compassion Award
Patrick Maloney, San Quentin art teacher for 23 years
Katya McCulloch, San Quentin art teacher for 6 years
Carol Newborg, Exhibit Organizer for WJA, former AIC teacher
Panel was moderated by: Patrick Gillespie, We Players Gallery Curator

Another panel, moderated by Larry Brewster, and comprised of ex-inmate artists, followed a tour of the Images from the Inside exhibit during We Players’ Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom.

Join us for Images from the Inside opening event!

We Players is proud to announce our final exhibit in the 2011 Alcatraz series, Images from the Inside, which is the most comprehensive gathering of inmate-produced visual artwork in the Bay Area in 30 years.

August 27th “Images from the Inside”Opening Event 1-4pm on Alcatraz

Meet at Pier 33 by 12:50 to claim your place.

This event is free. Reservations are required. Suggested donation, $20-30.

Click here for reservations.

letter to Ancestor highlights

going through the JJC students’ letters to ancestors with a fine tooth comb… I find gems that sparkle with hope, yet even more dark rocks of truth, crumbling from our current realities.

Selections will be printed and all original letters will be presented in We Players third exhibition on Alcatraz, opening June 11th.

If you’d like to be involved with our July 23rd Youth Conference, please contact Lauren.

Dear Ancestor,

Would you rather live in my time or your time if you had a choice?

How did you guys survive through wars, riots, crises and depressions? I am only 16 and I’ve been through a lot. I have a daughter and I’ve been shot. The one think that keeps me motivated is my mother.
– A

In the times that we are living in now it is worse than everything you went through. Young black people are dying everyday. We come from a community where there is no unity. I would rather walk in the shoes you walked in to replace all the tragic memories I suffer from seeing all my family and close friends die.

Being whipped by a Caucasian slave master wouldn’t hurt me as much as being shot by a brother of the same age and same color.

So many people are very heartless where I come from. I wonder if it was the same when you were growing up.
-Kishawn

I know you worked hard in your days because my family works hard now.

How many kids did you have or did you have kids? What did they get in trouble for and what were the consequences? Because I got beat with a belt.
– Don

There is so much technology in our society today that people believe it will destroy the human population and the world will soon come to an end. Our nation has been at war for so long that I believe there is truth to some of it.

Life in here is nothing compared to real jail, so I’m fortunate. But there is nothing funny about not having your freedom and getting told what to do.
– Amarion

I was doing good, following all the rules. I had some rough times, but I always managed to pull it together. Then I made one mistake by going to a place I had no business going to. Now that place has me wearing a green sweater and khaki pants again, county underwear, socks that millions of people had on. Who am I really? Why was I put on this earth to go through this struggle?
– Jamariea

Most of the family are living in housing projects and struggling to find a job. Most of the young ones in the family are getting caught up with the law. How do we stop this and move on to a better life?
– Thomas

I’m not in the best position today because I’m incarcerated. But I won’t let our family’s hardwork be in vain.
– Jon

I’ll see you in maybe 30 years.
– Anonymous

Ancestor, you would be mad at us because of the way we act. And the way we’re killing our own people. We’re going to jail and you fought for us to be free. You fought for us to get an education. Now people our age don’t go to school. We don’t do anything our ancestors fought for.
-E’zahna

A lot of people have lost that family unity. People don’t respect their elders.
– DeNeal

I’m not going to do anything but be dead or in jail. At least that’s what the judge says. But when I get to this group home I’m going to prove her wrong.

The system is not cool. Once you’re in they don’t want to let you out and they are always trying to send me off, so I guess they don’t want to see me do anything good with myself.
– Zaybang

My grandfather told me, “time waits for no man, man just wasts time or uses it best as he can. Life goes on without a meaning or a purpose, but if you life it, then when the time comes to die, you’ll know that it was worth it.”
– Joshua

Even though we have freedom and rights, we are still going through hard times. I feel that we aren’t really free. And it drives me crazy.
– Lamont

Here in America there are barely any African Americans who know their native background. Everything here is usually technology-based, cutting out traditional things like cooking, reading, hunting, etc. Our people are sometimes discriminated against due to stereotypes and certain people who have done stupid things in the past. Today they have systems that can take away your freedom and rights no matter what age you are. I am currently in Juvenile Hall, which means I have no freedom or rights.
– S.M.

Today there are more youth dying because of what neighborhood they stay in, or because of the people they know. Today there are a lot more gangs because teenagers don’t have anyone to look up to.
– Diamonique

First off, I would like to apologize for disgracing your family name. I realize that I am the first and only person in our bloodline that has been incarcerated, but I vow to make it up to you and make you proud of me.

The world is a mess right now. Maybe it always was? Maybe it’s just more obvious now?
– Ashton

I remember I used to love.
I’m not that person anymore.
Reality has changed me.
– Carey

People think that my life is going good, but it’s not. People nowadays judge you for all you got, how you look, and what you wear.
– Shakari

orange blossoms

Thank you Evan Bissell for leading a wonderful workshop on Alcatraz this past Saturday, June 4th!

Despite the rain, an intimate group of participants gathered at Pier 33 to ride the ferry through the gray day to Alcatraz.  The scent of our oranges, which we used in awareness and drawing exercises, lifted the cold weight of the prison walls with the burst of imagined earth and scented blossoms.  We wrote letters to our ancestors, some specific, some vague and imagined, to capture a slice of the present moment in time and perhaps connect with our sense of self in the great stream of time.  This workshop was the same starting point Evan used when developing the portraits with the men and youth featured in the artworks displayed in the most recent exhibit on Alcatraz.

We Players borrowed this same exercise during our workshop at the SF Juvenile Justice Center.  Masks and letters to ancestors that grew out of the weeks with the youth at the JJC will be featured in our next exhibit on the Rock. We are excited to host a Youth Conference on July 23 and are inviting teens and young adults from a wide array of backgrounds to join us that Saturday afternoon! If you know someone, or group of teens, who may be interested in a unique trip to Alcatraz, please contact we players at: alcatraz@weplayers.org

Thanks friends!

IN VISIBLE CATEGORIES: INVISIBLE PEOPLE

In Visible Categories: Invisible People

This exhibition explores the Alcatraz themes through the lens of identity, specifically looking at how the prison system frames the identity of prisoners, and influences personal identity for prisoners, their families, and others who have not had a direct relationship with incarceration. Visual arts and the prison system both produce symbolic representations of individuals. Correctional symbolism can be viewed as a form of disciplinary action, reducing the color, depth and personality of an individual’s identity to an anonymous number. Visual art has its own use of symbolism that allows identities and personal experience to become legible, and move into public concern.

On Display in the Alcatraz Cell House Gallery, April 9-June 4, 2011
– Select portraits from Monica Lundy’s Women of San Quentin series
– Select portraits from Evan Bissell’s What Cannot be Taken Away: Families and Prisons Project
– Interactive reflection station

Read more about the events We Players held associated with this exhibit.

Participating Artists

Monica Lundy PaintingMonica Lundy’s paintings reveal the evolution of mug shots within the California prison system.  She is a frequent visitor to the Sacramento archives and researches how the correctional system files and categorizes a civilian into the prison population.  Her displayed artwork, excerpts from her Women of San Quentin series, shows the evolving efficiency of mug shots – a penalty that reduces personal history to a number, date, and a crime.

Monica is interested in the immense social history that catalogues those who have passed through institutional systems and out of memory.  She presents this interest through a method of painting that is a kind of entropy; she allows the image to build itself through the natural movement of mediums, alluding to decay and the degrading walls of old institutions.  She frames a unique moment of transformation through her paintings of fresh prisoners, first introduced into the system, and subsequently passed out of memory.

Evan Bissell Painting

Evan Bissell engages in collaborative art making, utilizing creativity to access unseen realities and generating creative expressions of personal and community truths.  His contributions to this exhibition, a portion of the larger project What Cannot Be Taken Away, were created in partnership with multiple programs of Community Works West.

Evan worked collaboratively with a group of prisoners and an unrelated group of youth who have parents in prison, facilitating dialogue between the two groups on the impact of incarceration on families, and developing large-scale self-portraits of each of the eight participant. Over a five month period, through writing, art making, audio conversation and meditation, each participant began to clarify the impact of the prison system on their identity and sketch out ideas for their final portraits, ultimately painted by Evan. The symbols and compositions, designed by the participants and Evan, represent reflections on transformation.  The collaborative act of creating these portraits revealed a deep understanding of how prison affected the individual’s concept of self and what it means to change, for each individual involved with the project

Associated Events

On April 9, 2011, We Players and the National Park Service presented a guided tour, gallery viewing, and panel discussion (in the historic Alcatraz Hospital) on transformation of identity, restorative justice, and the methodology of state produced inmate portraiture.

On June 4, 2011, We Players and the National Park Service presented a closing workshop for In Visible Categories: Invisible People.

The event included: a guided walk and informal conversation with We Players on Alcatraz 2011 collaborators; gallery viewing (final opportunity before deinstall!); a workshop on relational identity with artist Evan Bissell; discussion; and exhibition-closing remarks.

More details on the workshop with Evan Bissell
Using oranges, mirrored paper, pens and memory, visitors will engage in the opening exercise of the 5 month collaborative process of What Cannot Be Taken Away: Families and Prisons Project. The one and a half hour workshop will combine elements of meditation, drawing and writing to reflect on the complex legacies, experiences and circumstances that have created our present day lives. The workshop culminates with participants writing a letter to an ancestor they have never met.

IN VISIBLE CATEGORIES: INVISIBLE PEOPLE

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 4.21.03 PM

Thank you wonderful people for such a fantastic day on Saturday, April 9th at We Players’ second gallery opening event on Alcatraz.

Huge applause for artists Evan Bissell and Monica Lundy, your work is fantastic. Regular park visitors are filling the Band Practice Room to absorb your art. Very powerful to drop in these images, these ideas just before they exit through the gift shop…
Thank you Patrick Gillespie for your great work curating this exhibit and moderating Saturday’s panel discussion.
Thank you Sujatha Baliga for your insights and for bringing your heart and deep knowledge to the conversation.
Jim Breeden, thank you for your ongoing commitment to skillful, comprehensive interpretation on Alcatraz.
Thank YOU all for joining WE and sharing in this charged conversation.
More soon…
* we

Panel Discussion: Restorative Justice & Victim Awareness

Moderated by: Patrick Gillespie
Panelists: Reggie Daniels, Rose Elizondo, Richard Kamler and Sonya Shah

“Process Orientation of the Creative Arts and Healing; Product Orientation of our Current Prison System”

A panel of Restorative Justice practitioners, artists, and performers discussed the theories and methods of Restorative Justice and Victim Awareness. The discussion explored how the creative arts intersect with these practices to facilitate healing and transformation, and raises awareness for both the general public and the prison population. In addition, the panel explored the differences and overlap of Social Justice and artistic practices.

Hamlet on Alcatraz Outreach

Anna Martine Whitehead and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department

While We Players rehearsed Hamlet over the demanding Alcatraz terrain, new and returning artists at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department spent Summer 2010 building giant puppets and banners that address Hamlet’s themes – including isolation, redemption, and loss. Over the course of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet finds himself more and more alone within a court of panderers, backstabbers, adulterers, and murderers. He struggles with the moral question of how to avenge his father’s death, increasingly aware of the cycle of violence and limitations of reason. He becomes morose, and in the process loses not only his father, but his mother, a sense of family,  his love, and ultimately his own life.

These same themes of loss, isolation, and redemption are felt keenly by the 260,000 people incarcerated in California jails and prisons, and the over 446,000 California residents on probation, parole, or supervision. Setting the trend for the nation, incarceration has become an epidemic in California.

The artists who designed the work here are all on probation, parole, or supervision and a few have served time at San Quentin State Prison, directly across the Bay. They have experienced the loss of friends, family, childhood, social standing or a sense of self to violence, drugs, AIDS, and incarceration.

For those who repeatedly showed up to make artwork, several times a week for over twelve weeks, the manipulation of raw material into identifiable images of salvation and remembrance (ghosts, fists raised in the air, and crosses, among other things) was a critical step in their ongoing process of redemption and self-forgiveness. Their lived experience of these themes, as well as their commitment to the art of personal expression, informed We Players’ generative process.


Puppeteers:

Franky Alfaro
John F. Earle
James L. Ellis II
Michael Goodwin
LeRoy Hoggis
Alma Johnson
Allen, Alex, Alberto (Cuba), Mike, Oliver and Richard

Banner artists:

Lejhaun Bowden
Daniel Chesnutt
Darinell Collier
Rashawna Dixon
Mariana Duran
Lacresha Foster
Celina Gallardo
Trina Glover
Vinh Hoang
Pamela Watson
Shaun Webb
Keith Williams
Marcella M. Wiltz
Cornell, and Semaj (Doh)

……….Location: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
……….Dates: January 29 – April 2, 2011 

Anna Martine Whitehead Artist Statement
I use video, puppets, sound, and movement to address disremembered histories. My history-telling performances are an extension of my investment in transformative performance traditions, my commitment to disidentificatory countermemory, and my penchant for retelling trauma as fantasy. I uncover the buried histories of space and identity formation to tell new stories of self-actualization. Working within thematic discourses of diaspora, memory, melancholia, and desire, my practice narrativizes those invisible and unwritten moments where hybrid identities and collective knowledges meet.

Biographies for 4/9 Panel Discussion

We Players is honored to facilitate discussion on the transformation of identity, restorative justice, and the methodology of state produced inmate portraiture are the primary themes for the exhibition on Alcatraz this Saturday.  Bios for our participating artists and practitioners of interpretation and restorative justice are below.  We extend our thanks for their talent and dedication to justice and forgiveness.

Reservations are filled for our exhibition opening event this Saturday, but our experience with offering free reservations is that there is usually space for at least a hand full of wait list admissions.  If you’d really like to join us and haven’t yet made your reservation, just arrive at Pier 33 between 12:30-12:45, follow the We Players signs to our reservations table, and add your name to the waiting list.

Sujatha Baliga

Sujatha’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to victims and persons accused of crime.  Sujatha earned her A.B. from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.  She has held federal clerkships with the Honorable William K. Sessions, III, Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and with the Honorable Martha Vázquez. Sujatha has served as a consultant to the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and taught Restorative Justice at New College School of Law and at the California Institute for Integral Studies. In 2008, Sujatha was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship, which she used to spearhead a successful restorative juvenile diversion program in Alameda County.

She is the Director of Community Works’ newest initiative, Community Justice Works, where she continues to implement and expand the restorative juvenile diversion program she began through her Soros Fellowship.  Sujatha is also the Founder and Executive Director of The Paragate Project, an organization dedicated to exploring forgiveness. An emerging national voice in restorative justice, she was recently honored as Northeastern University Law School’s Daynard Fellow.  Sujatha’s personal and research interests include victims’ voices in restorative practices, the forgiveness of seemingly unforgivable acts, and Tibetan notions of justice.

Evan Bissell

Evan Bissell is a Bay Area artist and educator whose work is a project-based practice of creating structures of collaborative dialogue and expressions of personal and community truths. Working with groups of people, Bissell facilitates educational, auto-ethnographic and contemplative processes of interviews, research, listening, writing and art-making.  In the last five years he has created and publicly installed over 50 original paintings and murals with Bay Area residents on themes ranging from love, to education to incarceration.  He has had solo exhibitions at SOMArts Cultural Center, Intersection for the Arts and Marcus Books, and created the original set for the play Mirrors in Every Corner. Evan currently teaches art at El Cerrito High School in the Teen Alive program – combining art with critical group discussion on masculinity and violence.

Jim Breeden

Jim Breeden has been an Interpreter on Alcatraz for nearly three years. He has done groundbreaking research in what is described as Alcatraz’s first escape attempt, recasting the event in an entirely different light. He is currently preparing for a future display on Alcatraz, which involves comparing Alcatraz to modern American prisons and illuminating alternative approaches to incarceration such as restorative justice.

Monica Lundy

Born in Portland, Oregon in 1974, Monica Lundy spent her childhood between Oregon, California and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. She received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. In 2001 she moved to Florence, Italy, where she studied painting independently under the mentorship of Jules Maidoff, founder of Studio Art Centers International.  Monica received a MFA from Mills College in 2010 and was also a recipient of the 2010 Jay DeFeo Award in painting and sculpture.  She currently lives and works in Oakland, California.

IN VISIBLE CATEGORIES: INVISIBLE PEOPLE

Alcatraz Gallery Opening Event #2
IN VISIBLE CATEGORIES: INVISIBLE PEOPLE
Saturday, April 9th, 2011
1pm – 5pm
We Players is proud to announce Monica Lundy and Evan Bissell as participating artists in our second 2011 exhibition on Alcatraz Island, IN VISIBLE CATEGORIES: INVISIBLE PEOPLE.
Join us on April 9th for the gallery unveiling and a panel discussion on the transformation of identity, restorative justice, and the methodology of state produced portraiture.
We Players’ gallery curator Patrick Gillespie will moderate the discussion with participating artists, guest speakers, and YOU!
Reservations for April 9th are required. Invited donation is $30.
All donations will support We Players’ performance residency on Alcatraz.
WE thank you for your contribution!

On display in the Alcatraz Cell House Gallery, April 9 – June 4:

– Select portraits by Monica Lundy from her Women of San Quentin series

– Select portraits by Evan Bissell from his collaborative What Cannot be Take Away: Families and Prisons Project

Please join us in continuing this conversation, inspired by the history and present life of Alcatraz.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY:
We Players is seeking a couple additional volunteers to help things run smoothly on Saturday, April 9th. If you’re available in the morning for final set up, and/or to help as an audience guide in the afternoon, please reply to info@weplayers.org and let us know.

OUR PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: 
Monica Lundy’s paintings reveal the evolution of mug shots within the California prison system. She is a frequent visitor to the Sacramento archives and researches how the correctional system files and categorizes a civilian into the prison population. Her displayed artwork, excerpts from her Women of San Quentin series, shows the evolving efficiency of mug shots – a penalty that reduces personal history to a number, date, and a crime. Monica is interested in the immense social history that catalogues those who have passed through institutional systems and out of memory. She presents this interest through a method of painting that is a kind of entropy; she allows the image to build itself through the natural movement of mediums, alluding to decay and the degrading walls of old institutions. She frames a unique moment of transformation through her paintings of fresh prisoners, first introduced into the system, and subsequently passed out of memory.

Evan Bissell engages in collaborative art making, utilizing creativity to access unseen realities and generating creative expressions of personal and community truths. His contributions to this exhibition, a portion of the larger project What Cannot Be Taken Away, were created in partnership with multiple programs of Community Works West. Evan worked collaboratively with a group of prisoners and an unrelated group of youth who have parents in prison, facilitating dialogue between the two groups on the impact of incarceration on families, and developing large-scale self-portraits of each of the eight participants. Over a five month period, through writing, art making, audio conversation and meditation, each participant began to clarify the impact of the prison system on their identity and sketch out ideas for their final portraits, ultimately painted by Evan. The symbols and compositions, designed by the participants and Evan, represent reflections on transformation. The collaborative act of creating these portraits revealed a deep understanding of how prison affected the individual’s concept of self and what it means to change, for each individual involved with the project.

We Players Gallery Curator, Patrick Gillespie, will engage these artists and other special guests in a panel discussion on transformation of identity, restorative justice, and the methodology of state produced inmate portraiture. This gallery opening includes informal conversation and guided walks from the ferry to the cell house gallery with We Players producers Ava Roy and Lauren Dietrich Chavez. 

The National Park Service and We Players are in the third year and final phase of their monumental collaboration on Alcatraz Island. This groundbreaking partnership has utilized site-specific performing arts programming to provoke critical thought and stimulate conversation on the themes of incarceration, isolation, justice and redemption. In addition to engaging the visiting public through site-specific rehearsals and performances, We Players and the National Park Service are creating lasting and transferable tools that use performance elements to augment Ranger interpretation.

After presenting a modern adaptation of the Greek Oresteia in 2009 and a traveling performance of Hamlet in 2010, this final year includes several performance events and gallery installations intended to draw connections between the Alcatraz themes and current realities of incarceration, isolation, justice and redemption in the Bay Area and beyond.

first day at SF JJC

Thanks to a connection through one of our stellar Hamlet on Alcatraz volunteers, We Players is facilitating a workshop at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center this spring. Once a week, for the next 7 weeks, I will have the privilege of listening to young peoples’ stories and their perspectives on the Alcatraz themes of justice, incarceration, isolation and redemption.  I will support four units of youth (~12-18 students per unit) in creating art that expresses their truths.  At the end of the term, Ava and I will work together with the youth for a solid week.  We will play with all the material they generate this spring and pull together a final piece/ pieces for presentation on Alcatraz during our June event and third gallery cycle.

This first Tuesday was all about introductions.  We Players protocol is to begin sessions with check in.  With new groups (and in non-We Players group settings) I like beginning with a thanksgiving address.  I asked every young person, each in their khaki pants and unit-specific colored t-shirt/sweatshirt, to share their name and something for which they’re feeling thankful. A few folks passed in most units, but otherwise, the responses were mostly “I’m thankful to be alive,” “for my family,” or “thankful I’m getting out soon.”   Not much originality, but most spoke their gratitude with conviction and I could see them all warming up a bit just having to think about that question.  What are you thankful for?

I explained I was with We Players, a site-specific performing arts group that transformed public spaces into realms of participatory theater.  I mentioned that We Players is really interested in helping people engage all their senses and expand their awareness of the history and energy of a space, more fully awakening to the magical world around them.  I described our partnership with the National Park Service and our three year aesthetic exploration of the Alcatraz themes.

I then did a rapid fire telling of Iphigenia and Other Daughters and Hamlet, while showing images of our productions on Alcatraz.  They were rivited. I noted the cycles of vengeance that perpetuated murder in both stories.  I presented Iphigenia’s questions about freedom at the end of Ellen McLaughlin’s play, and noted how her understanding and compassion and choice not to spill blood finally gave her brother peace. I returned to the cycle of vengeance with Hamlet, highlighting the major revenge themes on the play in my 10 minute summary. But I also emphasized Shakespeare’s focus on an internal dialogue, a man in isolation/ depression pulled in different directions by familial obligations and his own conscience.  After all the death, at the end of Hamlet (esp. as emphasized by We Players portrayal of Fortinbras’ arrival), we are asked to hear the bloody story and choose a new path.

We have some rights of memory in this kingdom, which now to claim our vantage doth invite us.”

These youth are  excited to share their voices, to express the truth of their lives and their experiences within our justice system.  And I’m excited to share their expressions with the ~5,000 visitors that tour Alcatraz every day.  I feel like our 2011 intention of connecting the Alcatraz themes with current realities is actually happening.

Join WE on Alcatraz this Saturday

The National Park Service and We Players present:

The National Park Service and We Players are beginning the third year and final phase of our monumental collaboration on Alcatraz Island. This groundbreaking partnership has utilized site-specific performing arts programming to provoke critical thought and stimulate conversation on the themes of incarceration, isolation, justice and redemption. In addition to engaging the visiting public through site-specific rehearsals and performances, We Players and the National Park Service are creating lasting and transferable tools that use performance elements to augment Alcatraz interpretive themes as presented by the Rangers.

On Saturday, January 29th, We Players and the National Park Service will present live music, a presentation titled “ Proliferation” that includes screenings, and talks by the artist, Paul Rucker, in a gallery space inside the Alcatraz Cell House. Please join us to continue this conversation, inspired by the history and present life of Alcatraz.

PROLIFERATION

In May of 2009, Paul was honored to be part of a Prison Issues residency at the Blue Mountain Center, a working community of writers, artists, activists and musicians in the heart of the Adirondacks. Amazing artists and activists from around the world provided over two weeks of inspiration, knowledge, and camaraderie.

While doing individual research, he happened upon some maps created by GIS and CAD consultant Rose Heyer that showed the growth of the US Prison system. With that information, he was inspired to create Proliferation, an animated mapping of the US Prison system set to original music.

If you would like to receive a free copy of the Proliferation DVD, email your name and address to paulrucker@gmail.com. You may also view Proliferation on YouTube and copies will be available on Alcatraz.

Rucker is an interdisciplinary artist (cellist-bassist-composer-visual artist-creator of interactive sound/video installations) who has released two critically acclaimed CDs of his compositions. He composes new music presented in a way that allows the viewer-listener the opportunity to interact with the work (participants can trigger sounds with the wave of a hand, touch of a finger, or press of a button). Ruckers’ s pieces have been on display at high-profile galleries and conventions, and he has received numerous grants and has been awarded residencies to several prestigious arts centers worldwide. As a musician and director, Rucker plays in various situations from solo cellist to leading his large ensemble of twenty-two musicians.

Visit www.paulrucker.com for more information.

Saturday, January 29, 2011 @ 1pm
Guided walk with We Players and Artists talk with Paul Rucker

Meet at 1pm at Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing
Ferry departs at 1:20pm
Return to Pier 33 at 4:40pm

Reservations required; no charge; ferry passage included with reservation. For more information, please visit We Players’.  http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/website/pprog-upcoming-events.aspx

Alcatraz Island to host We Players’ performance of Hamlet in first ever artist-in-residence on the rock

alcatraz

Through a multi-year collaboration with the National Park Service, which is the first theater residency on Alcatraz, We Players will present performances and programs both on and off the island. Using both classical plays and contemporary writings, We Players’ events will stimulate awareness and conversation around the themes of incarceration, isolation, justice, and redemption.

We Players’ production of Hamlet by William Shakespeare will open on October 2nd 2010, and will fully inhabit The Rock. We Players’ designated audiences will have unprecedented opportunities to enter parts of the island ordinarily closed to visitors. In addition, the park’s regular visitors will encounter performance environments throughout the island that will enhance their experience of the space and its history and provoke contemplation of project themes.

iphtemp

In September 2009, We Players presented Ellen McLaughlin’s Iphigenia and Other Daughters on Alcatraz. Performances took place on the dock landing and used the amphitheater, as well as the multiple levels afforded by the balconies of the three-tiered Officers’ Building. The stage extended vertically to include views of the fantastic ruins of the former Warden’s Mansion, and the iconic lighthouse above. With Hamlet, the use of space will expand to include the entire island; carefully crafted staging, performance installations, special interpretation programs, and gallery spaces throughout the park will make the play a valuable and provocative contribution to the experience of all visitors. We Players’ theater residency on Alcatraz will culminate in Summer 2011, with interactive on-site installations, featuring collaborations between We Players and other local artists and activists.

We are thrilled about this opportunity to explore the island and its themes with both regular visitors and our audiences.

More on the 2010 Season and We Players Rock Residency…

HAMLET is particularly suited to the island for many reasons. It is a story of a man in isolation wrestling with conscience and consciousness, and is fraught with themes of grief, madness, loss, revenge – all of which extend from the core project themes of isolation, incarceration, and justice. We hope that the play, centered around these issues, will act as a catalyst for conversation.

The root of this conversation is about FREEDOM.

What is it to be free? Is it something that can be granted or taken away?

Or is it something more fundamentally personal than that?

How must I act? To do or not to do?

The show will be built in such a way as to serve both the regular park visitors, with many elements occurring in public areas, as well as the designated audiences who we will guide through a carefully crafted route through the space.

We have already begun conversations artists and teachers who work with local justice advocacy groups, juvenile offenders and with people living in maximum security prisons. We are building partnerships, gathering research, collecting works of art – all of which will be central to the final stage of the residency, culminating in summer 2011.

The Players are a group of traveling actors within Hamlet – and in our production, the Players will be performing virtually non-stop in a public area. In addition to the classical text, they will perform a wide variety of other material which is intended to contextualize the themes…this text will include poetry and first hand materials by those people directly affected by the issues we are exploring – people in prison and their families. The Native American community has a deep connection with the island, and we are inviting their voice into the process as well.

Alcatraz has a magnetic draw. About 5000 people per day in the high season visit the fog enshrouded island in the San Francisco Bay. It is legendary both in the national landscape and within international awareness as well. Both We Players and the National Park Service are asking, “What experience are people having?”, “What are they coming away with?”. This project reflects a true partnership between We Players and the NPS as we join in the shared goal of stimulating more critical conversation of important current issues, issues that are entrenched in the multi-layered history of The Rock.

We feel a tremendous responsibility to those people whose lives are immediately affected by these issues. Please send us your thoughts, reading suggestions, direct us to organizations and individuals you think we should contact.

Write to: alactraz@weplayers.org

Hamlet on the Rock!

O god, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space……
We Players proudly announce our 2010 production
Shakespeare’s HAMLET
to take place as an interactive, island-wide journey on the legendary
Alcatraz Island
this October/November
 
Stay tuned here for information about salon events, work-in-progress showings and discussions, and special gala performances on-site this summer.
This production is part of our three year residency on The Rock,
in collaboration with the National Park Service.
We are developing outreach programs and diverse on-site installations in conjunction with the production of Hamlet, to incorporate voices of under-served populations, such as people in prison and their families.
write to us at alcatraz@weplayers.org
or info@weplayers.org
with questions, suggestions, or to get involved.
an enterprise of great pith and moment
Join us!

rules and regulations handbook: alcatraz U.S.P.

GOGA_35266_004_Alcatraz_inmate_band_in_dining_room_with_four-man_tables_front_image_2

Inmate Band in Dining Room

Of 53 items in the Regulations book, these are some of note…

  • You are required to work at whatever you are told to do.
  • YOU MAY BE STOPPED AND SEARCHED AT ANY TIME.
  • YOUR CELL IS SUBJECT TO SEARCH AT ANY TIME.
  • Loud talking, shouting, whistling, singing or other unnecessary noises are not permitted. You are permitted to hold QUIET conversations and to play games QUIETLY with your adjoining neighbor ONLY.
  • Do not exceed the ration. Do not waste food.
  • Boisterous conduct will not be tolerated in the dining room.
  • You must eat all that you take.
  • You are not permitted to wear your hair in an unusual manner or have any special haircut.
  • You must be clean shaven at all times. No special beards, mustaches, or goatees are allowed.
  • Do not take issue with an Officer, foreman, supervisor or civilian employee on account of any order he may issue to you. IF it should seem to you that such person is exceeding his authority or abusing his office, do not argue. Follow his instructions and report the matter to the Associate Warden after the duty is performed.
  • Guitars and other stringed instruments may be played in the cellhouse in a QUIET manner only between the hours of 5:30 P.M. and 7:00 P.M.. No singing or whistling accompaniments will be tolerated.
  • SPECIAL PURCHASES: There is no commissary at Alcatraz. The institution supplies all your needs.
  • One pack of cigarettes may be issued to each inmate in good standing, each Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening.

shifting tactics: rehearsal

nothing quite like gathering people in a room

and playing with the energy we bring
the surprise and discovery
(that is the opposite of blocking 😉
showed up to rehearsal with a draft of an idea
that with these few willing and ready troupes
we quickly shape into something
looking forward to sharing at the party TOMORROW!
short shakespeare monologues in coversation
Paulina responds to Angelo, Caliban calms Lady Macbeth, Hermione vs. Claudius…
Prospero and Caliban dispute the island
“and here you sty me in this hard rock, whilst you do keep me from the rest o’ the island”
“thy vile race…wast thou deservedly confined into this rock, who hadst deserved more than a prison”
If you were standing at the threshold of death, the big goodbye, what would you say?
What is there to say?….

 

Sunrise

Sunrise Ceremony on the Rock
drums on the boat, we’re inside the drum, walls buzzing
in the still dark morning, the throb of welcoming the day
circles are our natural orientation

on the Rock, bundled against the dripping fog and chill breeze
sage burning smoke warming the senses
as we walk to the fire on the Parade Ground
so many gathered at dawn to honor our ancestors
and each other
rising.

thanks and giving.

reminds me of the earth spinning, just a rock relying on the sun
thanks for the elements.
simple and and true.