Prison Performing Arts Alumni Provides New Beginnings
Darick T. Earney
St. Louis’ Prison Performing Arts (PPA) Alumni Acting Troupe returned to Lewis and Clark Community College’s white chapel on Tues., April 14, to debut their original, semi-autobiographical play “The Beginning for Myself.”
The event began around 2 p.m., when L&C sociology professor, Jennifer Cline, and PPA Director, Rachel Tibbetts, thanked students and staff for their attendance.
After the introduction, the show started with everyone on stage standing up, in unison, and chanting the line: “I’m so glad.” Subsequently, the characters stated a reason why they were happy to be out of prison while taking notice of the changes in society as they reentered it.
From the gratitude of reuniting with their family and children to the excitement felt in seeing a new African-American character in the Star Wars franchise, the former inmates were ecstatic to be free from prison.
In the following scenes, each actor shared memories of their past, diving into little moments of peace in their youth, and the future troubles that led them to their incarceration.
Each story was also told by the characters in their own unique way, allowing the performers to use elements of spoken word poetry, humor, and flashbacks to provide a strong narrative.
“I’m happy to be a part of this wonderful program,” PPA alumni actor, Keith Freeman, said, “It’s become such a good outlet for me, and a great opportunity for the company and I to give something back to the community. Something everyone could learn from.”
At the play’s conclusion, the cast sent a positive message to the audience, using the motto “Shake a Hand, Make a Friend,” to approach the beginning of a new life as free citizens.
When the show ended, the troupe stuck around and answered questions from various students and teachers in the audience, and explained the writing process of the play itself.
“I’m thrilled to be back here at Lewis and Clark,” Tibbetts said. “It’s always a pleasure to work with this company and to see them share their stories with everyone. I hope everyone enjoyed the show and took a great lesson from it.”
For more information on the PPA alumni, and to catch some of their upcoming performances, visit their website at http://prisonartsstl.org/.