Publication Date

2005

Abstract

Prisoners Speak! Exploring Theater as a Tool for Personal and Social Transformation is an inquiry conducted in the fall of 2004 into the experience of six prisoners serving sentences in Bemowo prison in Warsaw, Poland who participated in a Theater of Witness piece that told the stories of their own lives. The script for the theater piece was derived from their own testimony and they performed in the piece themselves. The research question asks how these men understand or make meaning of their lives differently, if at all, from participating in the theater piece. Particularly, this research explores the potential for Theater of Witness to affect personal or social transformation. The research was conducted according to the phenomenological research method where several iterative interviews were conducted throughout the process of the creation of the theater piece. The prisoners were asked to speak about their experiences participating in the theater piece and about any meaning they derived from that experience. Briefly, the conclusions were that Theater of Witness has tremendous potential to affect personal transformation, can powerfully affect difficult group dynamics, and can act as a subversive force in challenging rigidly maintained social norms in prison. Practically, this paper can be used as a resource for anyone looking to create a Theater of Witness piece with any community, though particularly with prisoners, refugees, or other members of historically marginalized communities.

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