The two companies provide a good base for the examination of theatre-behind-bars as a whole. SBB’s emphasis on education reveals the sociological approach to producing theatre with the incarcerated: using great masterpieces of literature as vehicles to elevate and reintegrate the men into society. RTA’s democratic format fits nicely with its production of original plays, exemplifying the more liberal efforts to give a voice to prison inmates.
Identifying and Defining the Research Problem
For the purposes of this study I am focusing exclusively on agencies that are purely theatre-producing companies. Drama therapy is a separate phenomenon entirely, requiring specialized training, equal parts psychology and theatre. While such efforts certainly have their merits, their value lies in the very fact that they are meant as therapy. The work is specially tailored to address particular pathologies or dysfunctional traits, and the participants are expected to gain some psychological cleansing from the process; this is a fact of which they are all perfectly well aware, knowing from the onset that it is meant to achieve more than just creative ends.14
My concern here is with the artistic medium of the theatre, its aesthetic qualities, and how such an art form operates in the unique setting of prisons. The theatre is a function or expression of the society in which it operates; thus, professional regional theatres and amateur community theatres alike gear themselves to serving a narrow demographic from the immediate surrounding areas. This begs the question of how a theatre program fits into, functions within, reflects, and contributes to the prison community. In short: what value does the live theatre have on the prison population—artistically, personally, and sociologically? To these ends, I concentrate on the rehearsal and performance process involved in mounting a stage production behind bars, as well as the preliminary training in acting skill that normally precede such efforts.