Unexpected: Student Perspectives

Alexandra Provo ’10, the CFA’s Arts Administration Intern, interviews students in this week’s production of Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women

This Thursday and Friday, Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women, directed by theater professor Ron Jenkins, will be performed in the CFA Hall. Unexpected is a multimedia theater piece comprised of spoken word, music, and visual art performed by both Wesleyan students and formerly-incarcerated women from the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut. It combines excerpts from the anthology I’ll Fly Away, edited by Wally Lamb, with the art and writings produced in Wesleyan theater workshops by women incarcerated at York. Wally Lamb will be reading from his book at Thursday’s opening night performance.

The goal of the work is not only to humanize incarcerated women and to share their stories but also to empower the women to create and perform those stories themselves. Joanna Bourain ’12, an FGSS and prospective studio art major who took both Professor Jenkins’ Solo Performance and Activism and Outreach Through Theater courses, worked primarily with Lynda Gardner, a formerly incarcerated woman. “I met Lynda because she was working in my group and—ah, I’m so corny—but it’s such a cool experience to meet someone in a seemingly very different life point—she’s sixty, she’s incarcerated, suffering from a really bad gambling addiction, drug problems—[and then] to realize that we have the same colored soul, is what I like to say. We ended up becoming really close friends. We bonded over the fact that we’re both visual artists, that we both really like expressing ourselves and using art as a cathartic medium.”

Joanna became involved in Unexpected primarily through Lynda, who is performing in the play and also has provided the artwork shown in the projections. Joanna has been working to coordinate those projections and has created an exhibition of Lynda’s artwork in one of the glass cases at the Usdan Center. She contextualizes the artwork by including documents and items from Lynda’s prison time in the display. Joanna drew on her experience researching contemporary curatorial practices in Professor Mari Dumett’s course, Contemporary Art: 1980 to the Present.

Samantha Pearlman ’11, a theater major who took Solo Performance, remarked “abstractly, working in a women’s prison as a female who goes to Wesleyan makes me reflect a lot about what it means to be female, what it means to have an education, what it means to be an artist.” In her own work she hopes “to focus on how art either helps females figure out who they are or makes them define who they are, what they see.” Sara Schieller ’12, also a theater major, remarked “This is something I could see myself doing in twenty years.”

Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women
Directed by Ron Jenkins
Based on the anthology I’ll Fly Away edited by Wally Lamb and other
writing by the Women of York C.I. in the Wesleyan Theater Workshop.
Thursday & Friday, February 25 & 26, 8pm
CFA Hall

For more information: http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa/events.html#theater