Learn about life behind bars

Hearing voices
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  November 1, 2006

Our contentious American prison system — overcrowded, disproportionately populated by minorities, and, increasingly, privately operated — is not just an abstract liberal cause. People actually live in it. They’ve wound up there for various reasons — reasons often inextricable from issues of poverty, unfortunate family legacies, and the de facto segregation that persists throughout the country. The men who actually live in our prisons — mostly poor, mostly of color — have actual stories and voices, too, and the activist theater of Michael Keck brings them to Portland.

Keck, a New York City-based performance artist and activist who is currently visiting Portland for a two-week residence with Add Verb Productions, will present his multi-media solo play, Voices in the Rain, on November 4 at SPACE. An intimate dramatization of the realities behind the bars, Voices presents a series of stories Keck collected during workshops with prison inmates in prisons across the country.

As part of Keck’s stint in town, he has also conducted a Theater for Social Change artist/educator workshop, and will lead a youth performance workshop on youth and incarceration. Keck, who leads workshops in schools, community centers, and correctional facilities, uses the theater arts to work for prison reform and other incarceration issues throughout the nation. His theater techniques include the teachings of the legendary Theater of the Oppressed, a school of performance activism created by Brazilian agit-prop hero Augusto Boal. The guiding vision of Theater of the Oppressed is to make passive spectators into active social participants. Using Boal’s pedagogy of empowerment, Keck will foster dialogue around such topics as how to sustain community connections; young people’s relationships with violence; and the problems of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.

Keck’s residence also corresponds with the November 2 SPACE Gallery screening of The Last Graduation, which critiques the decline of American college prison programs, and Keck’s Youth and Incarceration Workshop, which involves local youth in performance-based civic dialogue and culminates in a public performance on November 8. Keck presents Voices in the Rainat the SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress Street in Portland, on Saturday, November 4, at 8 pm. A community dialogue will follow.
Related: We’re all doing time, Lawmakers to probe prison, Pressure rising, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Criminal Sentencing and Punishment, Social Issues, Prisons,  More more >
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