Life Behind Bars Through the Prism of Dante’s “Inferno”
A mash-up of Dante’s Inferno and life behind bars in a maximum-security prison, the play “To See the Stars” will be presented as a benefit performance for the American Friends Service Committee and the Women’s Prison Association in New York City on April 19th at 7pm at 220 E. 15th Street. Tickets of $25 may be purchased at the door or in advance by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
While incarcerated in the York Correctional Institute the play’s performers, Saundra Duncan, Lynda Gardner and Deborah Ranger, took theater workshops with Ron Jenkins who has used Dante’s text to facilitate workshops at York and other prisons in the US, Italy, and Indonesia for the last five years. The women studied parallels between their lives and the characters in classical literature. Upon release from prison they collaborated with Jenkins on his script which includes stories of women who are still behind bars. The play reflects their prison experience through the prism of Dante’s Inferno. The title “To See the Stars” comes from the last line of the Inferno.
Following the April 19th performance Duncan, Gardner, and Ranger will discuss the role that the arts have played in their re-entry process as they continue their personal journeys from the “dark forest” of their former lives to a better future.
While in prison Gardner was exposed to toxic chemicals that she believes led to the loss of her kidney. Duncan, a Jamaican-American social worker who worked in prisons before she was incarcerated, plans to attend law school and pursue a career in prison reform. Her role in the play focuses on domestic violence. Ranger is active in prison reform through her work with the non-profit, Families in Crisis. “In a dehumanizing prison environment that forces women to devolve,” says Ms. Ranger, “theater gave us an opportunity to evolve.” Jenkins, a professor of theater at Wesleyan University and former Guggenheim Fellow, was inspired to work in prisons while serving as a translator for the Italian Nobel Laureate Dario Fo and his partner Franca Rame who use theater to raise awareness of human rights violations behind bars.
The play was commissioned by the Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Fund and was written in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. The tour of “To See the Stars” includes performances at Harvard and Brown Universities. It is the first time a work of the Dante Project can be seen outside the prison facilities where it was conceived.
For more information download the flyer below, or contact Elizabeth Enloe: 212-598-0950
For advanced tickets call: 212-589-0950