"You can be more than what the system says you are." - 2013 Participant
The Southern Queensland Correctional Centre near Gatton hosted the Shakespeare Prison Project, with support from the prison's management company Serco. Rob Pensalfini led the team, which included facilitator Angel Kosch and apprentices Jo Franklin and Leah Sanderson, who doubled as the new Shakespeare Prison Project Manager.
For 3 months, facilitators worked with about a dozen prisoners for one full day each week. After exploring Theatre of The Oppressed games and developing a group dynamic, the participants chose to work on The Comedy of Errors - the first comedy produced by the Shakespeare Prison Project.
On the 28th of September, ten prisoners, with the support of facilitators and set/costume designer Patrick Shevlin, performed The Comedy of Errors for two audiences. The first show was for fellow inmates as well as family and friends of the participants; the second for a group of 60 invited public guests. The performances were well-received by all audiences members, many of whom later participated in interviews with University of Queensland MA student Jami-Leigh Acworth about their experience of the event. Jami-Leigh is writing her dissertation about the role of the audience in prison theatre.
The Project was made possible with generous assistance from Mark Walters, Clint Bambrick, Steve Isaia and the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre staff. The Project Team would also like to thank University of Queensland Pro-Vice Chancellor Alan Rix for his ongoing support.
The project was supported financially by the Australia Council for the Arts, the University of Queensland's Vice Chancellor's Equity and Diversity Award, Serco, and three anonymous donors.
The 2011 program was held at the Borallon Correctional Centre near Ipswich in Queensland. Borallon closed shortly after the program's end. Facilitators were Rob Pensalfini (Director), Gavin Edwards, and guest facilitator Curt Tofteland, accompanied by apprentices Emma Heard and Irma Trnka. Project Manager Anne Pensalfini developed the Project, seeking a diversity in partnerships with private donors, foundations, universities, government, business and arts organisations.
The Project welcomed international Prison Shakespeare expert Curt Tofteland to the SPP. Tofteland is the Founder and Producing Director of "Shakespeare Behind Bars" (SBB) in Kentucky and Michigan, and won a Fulbright Senior Scholarship to come to the University of Queensland (UQ) in order to work with QSE. Tofteland shared skills and knowledge with the SPP and raised the program's profile through a number of events surrounding his visit.
For the first time, an apprenticeship was offered to scholars and artists keen to be involved in the SPP. Apprentices Emma Heard and Irma Trnka participated in Theatre of the Oppressed Training, and became important members of the facilitation team. Emma was completing her Honours in Population Health at the University of Queensland; and Irma was investigating "The Effect and Influence of Shakespeare in Prison and Conflict" as part of her Master of Arts at the University of Sydney.
Special thanks for support of the 2011 Project go to Curt Tofteland, University of Queensland Pro-Vice Chancellor Alan Rix, Sarina Hobbin at UniQuest, Sally Vickery, Fiona Maxwell, Professor Michael Balfour, former Borallon Director Scott McNairn, Acting SQCC Director Mark Walters and QCS Director of Offender Programs Keiren Bennet.
The project received financial support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Queensland Corrective Services, and Serco.
2010 has seen another leap in about the buzz around the ACE project - evidenced by another Theatre of the Oppressed training intensive selling out, despite twice the number of public places being available. This year's workshop was again attended by ACE facilitators and other applied theatre practitioners, indigenous artists, professional and emerging performers, but also lawyers, teachers, psychologists, therapists and professional TO practitioners, a number of whom travelled large distances to attend.
In addition, the goal of reaching further into the community with the Theatre of the Oppressed work was realised this year. New contacts and partnerships were made through the Brisbane Applied Theatre Network. A second week of ACE facilitator training was added in which members of the public - including local artists and social workers - were invited to participate without cost. Free public Theatre of the Oppressed workshops were held monthly at the Indooroopilly Library, for those interested in or just curious about the methodology.
The themes for this year's project included the psychology of power and greed. The final performance - of Macbeth - took place April 30th, to a crowd of over a hundred guests including Borallon staff, participants' family members, invited inmates, and senior staff from the University of Queensland, government and the judiciary.
ACE 2010 was financially supported by Arts Queensland, The University of Queensland and the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble. Encouragement and practical assistance from staff at Borallon Correctional Centre grew enormously this year. Increased support has also been expressed by the Department of Community Safety, and by local Government. Sarah Woodland (PhD candidate in Applied Theatre at Griffith University, with relevant practical experience working with Geese Theatre in the UK) acted as a consultant and conducting research on this year's project. Facilitators were Jane Barry, Aisling Hoey, Anne Pensalfini (Project Manager), Rob Pensalfini and Liz Verbraak.
ACE returned in 2009, launched again by an intensive week of Theatre of the Oppressed training. Led by QSE's Artistic Director Rob Pensalfini, this sold-out workshop was attended by ACE facilitators and other applied theatre practitioners, as well as indigenous artists and other professional and emerging performers from across Australia.
The 2009 prison project saw a smaller, more experienced group of artist-facilitators (four) and a tighter, more structured schedule (10 weeks versus 5 months in '06). The number of inmate participants as well as the overall interest in the program - from prisoners, staff and media - increased. The prison project was again held at Borallon Correctional Centre, allowing QSE to strengthen important relationships with the Centre and the Department of Corrective Services.
The 2009 participants wanted to explore themes of betrayal, loyalty, violence and the use and misuse of power, and the play chosen was Julius Caesar. The final performance featured a dozen inmates and all four ACE facilitators (in minor roles), and was presented on May 1st - for an audience of family members, Borallon staff, and Queensland Corrective Services employees.
ACE 2009 partners and supporters included Arts Queensland, The Department of Corrective Services and The University of Queensland. The facilitators were Andrea Carne, Angel Kosch, Anne Pensalfini (Project Manager), Rob Pensalfini and Belinda Small.
In 2006 the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble piloted the first ACE program as part of the World Shakespeare Congress. TO practitioner Brent Blair travelled from the US to train the QSE ACE facilitators and other Australian applied theatre workers. A highly regarded 'Joker' with years of experience in correctional systems in the USA, Mr. Blair also oversaw the initial implementation of the program in Borallon Correctional Centre.
In 2006 participants wanted to explore themes of incarceration, isolation and loss of privilege/freedom, and The Tempest was chosen as the vehicle for this. On December 1st, ACE culminated in an hour-long version performed by inmates and QSE artist-facilitators to an audience of prisoners, family members, Borallon staff, and Queensland Corrective Services employees.
The 2006 ACE project partners and supporters included The Department of Corrective Services, The Supreme Court Library, The Queensland Law Society and The University of Queensland. The facilitators were Eileen Conway, Stephen Daniels, Chris Koch, Tamara Meade, Anne Pensalfini and Rob Pensalfini.