Profoundly Rewarding Experience for OOB Playwrights 

Shay Gines 

In 2011, Off-Off-Broadway playwright, Mac Rogers became the first playwright to participate in the Voices Inside Playwriting Residency at Northpoint Training Center. Northpoint is a male population medium security prison in Burgin, Kentucky. The two week program begins with the prisoner-playwrights reading and discussing the resident playwright’s work. Then, under the guidance of the program’s founders, Artistic Director Robby Henson and playwriting instructor Liz Orndorff the resident playwright leads writing workshops.

“Going in I was a little freaked out and scared,” says Rogers “but actually more about the teaching than the fact that it would be in a prison! I've never taught anywhere before, and I frankly didn't know what to do.” Rogers notes that the best advice came from his wife Sandy who suggested that he take all the artistic choices that he complains about on the subway home after seeing a show “and teach the exact opposite. And it worked!”

The goal of the program is to use a creative process to help inmates build a positive self image, nurture empathy and compassion and develop communications skills. “The circle of playwrights at Northpoint are incredibly forthright, hard working, and dedicated to getting better all the time” Rogers says. “I saw the short-term emotional fortification that dedicating themselves to the playwriting discipline gave them. I hope that will continue to grow, and that their ongoing exploration into this form of storytelling will become the kind of almost lifelong spiritual companion that it's been for me.”

The program is currently accepting applications for the 2012 residency. Rogers says that he would encourage playwrights to apply for two reasons, “1) Working closely with the inmates and realizing how much the act of playwriting is both invigorating and a solace to them is not only a good thing to do, but can recharge one's own creative batteries. I know I came away re-committed to this discipline in a fresh way. 2) Seeing and hearing what these guys bring in when you give them an assignment is just thrilling. The work is surprising, and they absorb new ideas and approaches quickly and with relish. They're educating you at the same time you're educating them.”

It is a rewarding experience that Rogers says has reinvigorated his work, “My longtime colleague Jordana Williams told me she found a fresh energy in my work since I went to Kentucky. I sort of fell in love with playwriting since my time with the Voices Inside Program, and I hope I'll be able to hold on to that.”

Applications for the 2012 Northpoint Voices Inside Playwriting Residency are due November 19th at 6:00pm EST.  An information session will be held on Sunday, November 6th 2 to 4PM  at Theaterlab (137 West 14th Street between 6th & 7th Aves.)

For more information check out these links:

2012 Application
More details about the program
Northpont Voices from a Kentucky Prison website
Voices Inside website
Pioneer Playhouse website
AMZ Creative LLC website

Story about this program on WLEX, local NBC station


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