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'Locked In, Locked Out': Judy Dworin Performance Project Comes to Eastern

Published on March 01, 2018

'Locked In, Locked Out': Judy Dworin Performance Project Comes to Eastern

Representatives of the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Feb. 21 to present "Brave in a New World," a performance that examines the different experiences of incarcerated women.

The nonprofit arts organization, which was established in 1989, has worked closely with Niantic's York Correctional Facility for the past 13 years to welcome former prisoners into the realm of professional artistry. Bringing together music, choreography and real-life stories, "Brave in a New World" causes audience members to reflect on the complexity of the judicial system in relation to human existence.

JDPP's performance put issues of agency, conviction and redemption on display, depicting prison as a "permanent home." While interpretive dancers utilized props - carefully constructed cubes that allowed for exit and reentry - others shared different metamorphic narratives on stage via song or spoken word, from recollections of drunken car crashes, to domestic abuse situations, to drug use. Performers highlighted the intricacy behind individual choices, particularly the ones that lead to unforeseen consequences. "We forget that our actions can change who we are in an instant," one person noted.

Not only did the performance spotlight how people became part of the prison system, but also the ongoing setbacks that come with it. In addition to the bleak life inside prison walls-loss of identity, mistreatment from guards, lack of resources-women return to a society that is inherently working against them. "Brave in a New World" called attention to how hindering the rehabilitation process can be.

"I need somebody to touch me in a healing way," one cast member sang. Despite having served their time, many of these women find that they are still outcasts following incarceration, strapped with stigmas and scrounging for assistance. Facing obstacles like rejection from family, biased employers, disconnection from children, and social withdrawal, it's easy for ex-prisoners to feel that they have made no progress, that they no longer have value to those around them. The rehabilitation process is dehumanizing in that manner, in the same way prison is.

Though JDPP's production reiterated that there are flaws in the current prison system, it also stressed the importance of understanding and unity, executed by a cast that showed unwavering resilience. "I'll be brave in a new world," a concluding line confirmed.

Written by Jordan Corey