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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
A project in which Dartmouth students and prison inmates create theater together is now part of a college course.
"Inside Out: Prison, Women and Performance" was one of this fall's "College Courses," which are interdisciplinary in nature and intended to appeal to students of widely differing backgrounds and interests. The course culminates in performances of a theater piece created by the 13 Dartmouth undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the course and 13 inmates of the Southeast State Correctional Facility, a minimum-security prison for women in Windsor, Vt. The performances take place on Thursday and Friday, November 15 and 16.
The course grew out of the program, "Telling My Story," a seven-year-old theater-based program designed to encourage inmates in Vermont correctional facilities to share the stories of their lives. The program was created and is led by Pati Hernandez, a West Glover, Vt.-based dancer, puppeteer and theater director whose professional focus is the exploration of political and social problems through a combination of dance and theater. Hernandez began this form of work in New York City in the mid '90s as part of a literacy program for Latin American women learning how to read and write in Spanish.
Since 2005, Hernandez has included Dartmouth students as volunteers in "Telling My Story" sessions at the Windsor facility. Participating inmates could receive credit towards a high school General Educational Development Diploma and Dartmouth students could receive independent study credit.
To make the program a full-fledged college course, Hernandez and co-teacher Ivy Schweitzer, professor of English and of women's and gender studies, added classroom sessions for the Dartmouth students focused on the theory and history of prisons and the incarceration of women.
The core of the course, however, remains the theater work with the inmates, several of whom have participated in previous "Telling My Story" sessions. "Theater has the power to give a voice to people, and that's the whole point, for me," Hernandez said.
EDITORS NOTE: Journalists are invited to the performances at 2 p.m. on Nov. 15 and 3 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 16. Those interested in attending, photographing or recording a performance MUST contact get prior approval from Joan Kersey, volunteer services coordinator at the Windsor facility, at email@example.com or 802-674-1150.
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