Trailer: Letters From Prison

Written by Melissa Bee

April 18, 2017

Some of you may have already seen this in our Spring 2017 Quarterly E-Newsletter – but it deserves it’s own post, and we want to be sure no one misses it.

We are honored and excited to share the beginnings of a joint project between AI and a young acting class. Using actual letters written to us from prisoners, acting students – under the direction of Sarah Underwood Saviano – have turned these letters into monologues as a class project.

We were able to project the film on the final night of our recent volunteer work weekend in California – which was attended by a donor who made a major contribution to our website fundraiser. His comment after seeing the trailer was that, although he had given to a handful of organizations over the years, this was the first time he was able to see the result of his donation.

Thank you to all the students for their enthusiasm and hard work, to Ms. Underwood Saviano, for birthing the project and giving a voice to those who would otherwise have none, and to the prisoners for sharing their stories.

We hear you.

Notes From The Director – Sarah Underwood Saviano

One of the most thrilling aspects of working in the theatre for me is wrestling with the concept of theatricality and what it means to create a theatrical moment. I had the pleasure this last week of working with some young actors, hurriedly as we did, in preparation for the volunteer event for Adopt an Inmate. Using letters from inmates as fodder, we began a very early exploration of the text, just seeing where the words would take us. Though we are in the very inception of this project, it is clear that there is a profound ‘something’ here and we look forward to a much deeper exploration in the near future.

Playwright Neil LaBute wrote an introduction to his play Autobahn titled The Pleasures of Limitation. In it he states:

Actors sitting onstage with nothing but a script, a rudimentary set, and minimal lighting, communing with the audience while pushing all the right buttons – that is a sight that I personally never tire of, no matter how many times I see it.”

Not to bore you with a lecture, but suffice to say that when I teach the concept of theatricality, I emphasize that it is not just out of an economic necessity in the theatre that we create a ‘something’ out of ‘nothing’, but it is because of the gift that is derived from a seeming limitation.

I could not help but feel that it is a metaphor for the incarcerated individuals who may feel that they are nothing — experiencing nothingness, making no difference — that so much something is gifted to us. So with a camera, a stool, a door, and some letters, we tried to give voice to these men and women.

With the help of acting and film students Ping Sirisuttivoranun, Wayne Broadway, Donge Tucker, Patrick Tabari, and Aliyah Smith, we put a short trailer together. We hope this serves as an inspiration for the volunteers who’ve given endlessly to this effort.

This is just the beginning.

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