Issue 12.3-13.1 | Summer 2014/Fall 2014 / Guest Edited by Kim F. Hall, Monica L. Miller, and Yvette Christiansë

Project “For Colored Girls:” Breaking the shackles of role deprivation through prison theatre

Download “Project ‘For Colored Girls:’ Breaking the shackles of role deprivation through prison theatre” (PDF) here. Reprinted with permission from The Arts in Psychotherapy.

Lorraine Moller directs inmate theatre productions under Rehabilitation through the Arts (RTA) and Theatre Arts Connection (TAC) operating within the New York State Department of Corrections. She directed a production of for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf for incarcerated women at Bayview Correctional Facility, a medium security women’s prison in New York City. This essay, “Project ‘For Colored Girls:’ Breaking the shackles of role deprivation through prison theatre,” previously appeared in the journal, The Arts in Psychotherapy, and is part of her ongoing commitment to documenting the benefits of theater for incarcerated people. Using drama therapist Robert Landy’s taxonomy of roles, it explains that “role acquisition requires that participants have some degree of autonomy to explore alternative personas in what is normally a highly restrictive space” and suggests that the process expanded their role repertoire and their capacity to respond to the unpredictability of life” upon reentry as well as “contributed to their sense of social competency and well-being.” Moller gives a vivid account of the obstacles to performance at Bayview, even for a minimalist work like for colored girls . . .. Space, literacy, medical conditions, props and even colors prove challenging to the production, “yet the need of inmate actors and inmate spectators to give voice to their oppression overcame the rigid rules of behaviour in one powerful scene, demonstrating that for prisoners theatre can be an experience of intense insight and shared history.”