Setting: A library in a Connecticut maximum-security prison. Twenty-two men in tan uniforms come to a stop in unison. This time, when I say ‘walk,’ stop, and when I say ‘stop,’ walk.” The men resume walking. Three correctional officers look in through a reinforced glass window. Now when I say ‘jump,’ clap, and when I say ‘clap,’ jump. As the men began moving again, one of them nudges the man beside him and gestures at the guards.
The leaders of this exercise are Wil Fisher and Michael Wilson, founders of Man Question, a theatre-based workshop that addresses what it means to be a man today. First developed as a thesis project for the Applied Theatre Program at CUNY, Man Question has been presented in community and university settings across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
In Man Question, we use games like Augusto Boal’s, Stop, Clap, Jump, then we enter into conversation to explore feelings, beliefs and assumptions.
The 22 prisoners gather in a circle. “They’re probably telling the other officers how foolish we looked,” says one of the men who’d noticed the guards. “How do we know that?” another asks. “Maybe they want to be in here playing too?”
This journey of taking off the armor — of self and community discovery and acceptance — felt particularly urgent and sacred against the backdrop of prison confinement. However, our other groups have taken this journey as well. It’s testimony to the power of theatrical play to open dialog; and of a participant-centered pedagogy to foster growth and leadership.
For more information, contact: 646-322-7999.