Sunday, May 17, 2009

Prison Guards Union Squashes Inmates' Musical

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Hollywood/Los Angeles and San Francisco ( an acting class in Hollywood/Los Angeles and San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

This is a cryin' shame:

A troupe of 18 convicted murderers, robbers and other felons at Woodbourne Correctional Facility had been scheduled to perform an original play Wednesday at Eastern Correctional Facility in Ellenville.

But the state Department of Correctional Services has canceled the show because union workers threatened to picket.

This was a project that a very noble group had launched:

In January 2008, inmates began writing and rehearsing their own Broadway-style show about the difficulty of living behind bars and keeping a family. The play, "Starting Over," was funded and supervised by Rehabilitation Through the Arts, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce recidivism through arts enrichment programs. The group declined comment on the cancellation, but it forged ahead with a production of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" last week at Sing Sing.

And why? The Prison Guards Union just didn't see the point:

Kevin Walker, regional vice president for the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, said prison farms, annexes and print shops have been useful because they teach skills that can be applied toward a job on the outside. The union saw no value in theater work.

"How many of these medium-security convicts do you think will go to Broadway and get a job?" Walker said. "We believe it's a blatant waste of manpower and funding."

Un-effin-believable. This is a profoundly sad commentary on the pervasive, radical ignorance in this country about the way in which artistic practice enriches the lives of those who participate in it. These are men who have lost everything, and most carry horrendous burdens of guilt and shame with them, attempting to collaborate constructively to EXPRESS THEMSELVES!!! Oh THE HORROR!!! My take: the Prison Guards were jealous that prsioners were taking such initiative to transform their lot and enrich their lives. Cut a little too close to home for these philistines.

Please, pass this on!!!

And here are some people you can contact to complain about it:

Kevin Walker (mentioned above)

New York State Department of Correctional Servies

Governor PatersonL

Thanks for reading!

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