INCARCERATION PLAY PROJECT STORY CIRCLE, 2019
Who is the Incarceration community?
No community is more ignored or misunderstand than one designed to be separate from you.
- The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners.
- As of February 2016, the prison population had risen by 150% in the past 25 years.
- The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500% increase over the last forty years.
- Native Americans are imprisoned at a rate over 12 times, African Americans over 10 times, and Hispanics 4 ½ times as much as Whites in Minnesota.
- 77% of female prisoners in Minnesota are mothers to young children
- 1 in 6 Minnesota youth has a parent incarcerated.
This community includes an unexpectedly wide circle of people connected by the Minnesota incarceration system, including the formerly incarcerated, friends and family of the incarcerated, social workers and Department of Corrections workers, facility staff and volunteers, advocates, and policymakers.
Art We’re Making
The Labyrinth and the Minotaur: The Incarceration Play Project
To be produced in 2022.
This world premiere new play, performed with 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 onto an epic, ancient 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.
INCARCERATION PLAY PROJECT REHEARSAL, 2020
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), light design by Merritt Rodriquez, props by Masanari Kawahara, costume design by Andrea Gross, and set design and technical direction by Zeb Hults.
Lessons in Isolation
Members of THE INCARCERATION PLAY PROJECT cast share some of what they’ve learning about living in isolation.
This cast includes people who were formerly incarcerated, current and former corrections officers, family members, administrators at the Department of Corrections, and outside advocates.