The Incarceration Play Project

To be produced spring of 2021.

This world premiere new play, performed by a mix of incarceration community members and professional artists, is based on the true stories Wonderlust gathered from more than 230 diverse stakeholders in the Minnesota Corrections system—from current and past inmates to corrections officers, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, policymakers, administrators, people who provide re-entry support, and families of those who have been incarcerated.

Are you afraid of monsters? When the King of Crete’s son turns out to be half man and half bull, the King invents a labyrinth to keep this “Minotaur” imprisoned away from the rest of society. But the monster has needs and demands care and attention. So the King forces his enemies to send their citizens into the labyrinth to feed it—their criminals and also public defenders, corrections officers, counselors, educators, nurses, and more until the labyrinth becomes a civilization all its own. Theseus, a rebellious young man and Prince of Athens, is sentenced to the labyrinth, but he is ready to fight for the freedom of his people. As he enters, he declares that he will find the center of the labyrinth, kill the Minotaur, and overthrow the system. With his lover Ariadne as his only thread to the outside world, he journeys deep inside a place that the rest of us try our hardest to avoid.

The Labyrinth and The Minotaur layers stories from people who have spent their lives working and living inside the Minnesota incarceration system into a classic myth to illuminate the battle we all need to face around who we punish and why, and how we rehabilitate and reintegrate them into our society.

To guarantee a cross-section of voices from within the system are represented, Wonderlust visited the women’s correctional facility in Shakopee, the men’s facility in Stillwater, Ramsey County Workhouse, and the recently shuttered juvenile facility, Boy’s Totem Town. We also held story circles with the Ramsey County Public Defenders, Prosecutors, and the employees at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, Corrections Officers at Oak Park Heights, as well as many community support groups like Power of People (POP) Institute, MN Prison Doula Project, Voices for Racial Justice, Legal Rights Center, and criminal justice reform groups like Second Chance Coalition, We Are All Criminals and many more.

Wonderlust has been working with the incarceration community and developing the Incarceration Play Project since 2018.

Written by Alan Berks in collaboration with Carlyle Brown from the words of the incarceration community of Minnesota, directed by Leah Cooper, with choreography and puppetry by Masanari Kawahara, featuring original music by Becky Dale and Andrea Reynolds (in collaboration with the Voices of Hope inmate choir at Shakopee), sound design by Andrea Reynolds (aka Queen Drea), light design by Merritt Rodriquez, props by Masanari Kawahara, costume design by Andrea Gross, and set design and technical direction by Zeb Hults.

In mid-February, we began working with our cast of community members who have been affected by incarceration.

Former inmates and corrections officers, family members of people who are incarcerated, Department of Corrections staff, and restorative justice advocates were all getting to know each other and preparing to make a unique new play about the experiences and effects of the incarceration system in our world.

Then our world entered lockdown.

We asked our cast if they might share some of the lessons they have learned in their life about how to deal with isolation.


We’re making a play about Minnesota’s incarceration system.

If you have been incarcerated, impacted by incarceration, or worked in any way around incarceration, you are invited to audition to be in the play.

No theater experience required. Auditions are easy, sign up below!

Formerly incarcerated? Family or loved ones incarcerated? Worked for DOC? Volunteered in a facility? Work in advocacy, support, or activism around incarceration or re-entry? All are welcome. 

The play is based on stories we’ve gathered from people like you but is entirely fictional, theatrical, and epic. Anyone who has been affected by incarceration is invited to be an actor with us. This is an opportunity to be part of a creative team, shining light on the very complex realities of incarceration and the people in and affected by it. We value your creativity and experience, and hope you’ll help us make this a truthful, inspiring, and educational show.

Schedule: We will assign you a role and schedule based on your availability, but to be in the show, you’ll need to be available for some creative workshops in February and March (about one night per week), rehearsals in April and May (about 2-4 nights per week), and performances on weekends, May 29 – June 14. We may also perform a weeknight or two the first week of June in some prisons. 

“It was not my idea to audition for Wonderlust’s production. A friend of mine wanted to audition & didn’t want to go alone. But I’m so glad that I went outside my comfort zone to give it a try. Thankfully, Wonderlust is the perfect environment for a first time actor. . . Finding my character’s voice in turn helped me find my own voice in many ways. If you are considering it at all, I say — Go for it!”     — Participant, Adoption Play Project, 2016.

We were excited and honored to have two first-draft staged readings and discussions this September graciously hosted by Hamline University’s Department of Theatre and Dance at the Anne Simley Theatre and by Macalester College’s Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship at the Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel. Thank you to everyone who attended these readings and contributed to a very informative post-show discussion.

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First draft reading and discussion

Be a part of the first audience to discover how we’re translating the stories
we’ve heard into a thought-provoking new play. Stay afterward to share your thoughts.

Wonderlust Productions is creating a new play based on the stories of people in and affected by Minnesota’s incarceration system. Please join us for a staged reading* of the first draft of this new play, to be read by a mixed cast of both professional actors and incarceration community members. There will be a short discussion after the performance as we seek community feedback on the work in progress.

Admission is pay-what-you-can (suggested donation of $10)
Reservations are recommended. 

Friday September 27th, 7:30 p.m.
Hosted by Hamline University Department of Theatre and Dance
Anne Simley Theatre, 1530 W Taylor Ave, St Paul
Reservations here

Sunday September 29th, 4:00 p.m.
Hosted by Macalester College Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship
Presented at Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel, St. Paul
Reservations here

*What is a “staged reading”? A staged reading is an efficient way to share a draft of a play before it is finalized. Performers will be holding scripts in their hands. The technical elements of a full production, like lights and costumes as well as some of the movement, are read out loud rather than completely built in front of you. 

But, why isn’t this a full production? At every step in the process of building a play from the hundreds of stories that members of the Incarceration community shared with us, we want to check in with you. What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? Where were you engaged and enlightened and surprised? Where did you feel suspense? Where were you moved? Are we being truthful and accurate? A staged reading is an excellent way to share an entertaining experience with an audience at a phase in the creative process where changes can still be made. The full production will take place in May 2020 at a venue to be determined.

Do I have to be in the Incarceration Community to attend? No. Everyone is welcome at this reading.

Do I have to participate in the discussion afterwards? Of course not. Simply by being in the audience you’re helping us understand how the story works in public. If you only want to watch then leave, please feel welcome. But you are also welcome to stay for the discussion and tell us more.

What if I want to be a performer in the production? We will be seeking people who are in the incarceration community (including people who have been incarcerated or have loved ones who have been incarcerated and anyone who has worked in any capacity in the incarceration system, whether facility staff, administrative, educational, volunteer, advocacy, activism, legal, etc.) Email us, and we’ll send you more information about additional auditions for the full production. (You do not need to be in this reading to participate as a performer in the final production.)

Contact us if you have questions at or 651-393-5104.

We are writing and producing a play about people working in and affected by incarceration. We invite anyone affected by incarceration to every phase of the project, including sharing stories with us, helping us make scenes, sharing a public reading of the first draft, and finally auditioning to be in the play, which will be presented May 2020. We have recently finished gathering stories through story circles, and now we are beginning to explore how to blend these stories into a new play.

You are invited to help us begin crafting a play at creative workshops open to the incarceration community. No experience writing or making theater is required. The only expertise you need is your own life experience and the only ability you need is your willingness to explore with us.

Anyone impacted by incarceration is invited: people who have been incarcerated, people with loved ones who are or have been incarcerated, people who have worked in any capacity in the “system,” as staff, support, volunteer, advocacy, activism or education.

If you’d like to attend, please let us know by contacting Leah Cooper at or at 612-227-2046. You can also just show up even if you haven’t contacted us in advance. Let us know if you need help with transportation, childcare, interpreting, or anything else so that you can attend.

Sunday, August 11th, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Wonderlust’s office, 550 Vandalia St. #253, St. Paul, MN

Thursday, August 15th, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Hamline Midway Library auditorium, 1558 W Minnehaha Ave, St Paul, MN

HUGE thanks to these organizations and individuals who are helping us invite the community to participate in this project:

AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, All Square, American Indian Family Center, Ain Dah Yung Center, Boys Totem Town, The Dignity Center, Diversion Solutions, Emerge, Innocence Project of MN, Jewish Community Action, Legal Rights Center, MAPE, Men of Rafiki, Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, MN Corrections Facilities at Oak Park Heights, Lino Lakes, Shakopee, and Stillwater, MN Department of Corrections, MN Justice Research Center, MN Prison Writing Workshop, MN Recovery Connection, MZA Company, NAACP Minneapolis, Peace of Hope, Poetry Asylum, Power of People Institute, Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Ramsey County Corrections Facility, Men and Women, Ramsey County JDAI, Ramsey County Office of the Public Defender, Restorative Justice Community Action, Second Chance Coalition, St. Paul Indians in Action, Twin Cities Rise, Ujamaa Place, unPrison Project, Voices for Racial Justice, Voices of Hope, We Are All Criminals, Scott Adkisson, Antwanesha Amos, Randy Anderson, Deborah Appleman, Emily Baxter, Anika Bowie, Sharon Brooks, Commissioner Toni Carter, John Choi, Marvin Clark, Chris Crutchfield, Katrinna Dexter, Dave Ellis, Deb Foster, Tommy Franklin, Pastor Danny Givens, Allen Godfrey, Andrew Gordon, Kahlee Griffey, Callie Gustafson, Kelley Heifort, Tim Henderson, Judith James, Lina Jamoul, Deborah Jiang-Stein, Julie Jonas, Vina Kay, Kristin Kinney, Michael Kleber-Diggs, Robert Lilligren, Mary Martin, Richard McLemore II, Earl Miller, Dr. Raymond Moss, Crystal Norcross, Kristen O’Connell, Quentin Osgood, Sheila Packwood, Miranda Posthumus, John Poupart, Native American elder and former DOC Ombudsman, Brother Shane Price, Sheri Riemers, Gwen Rouleau, Midori Sakamoto, Dr. Raj Setheraju, Erica Schumacher, Sun Yung Shin, Tina Sigel, Alicia Smith, Michelle Smith, Dave Snyder, Jason Sole, Rob Stewart, Sharon Thompson-Carter, Jeff Titus, Chelsea Tulgren, Emily Hunt Turner, Sarah Walker, Amanda Weber, Amanda Weitekamp, John Westmoreland, Theartrice (T) Williams, former DOC Ombudsman, Lisa Wojcik.