Voices Inside/Out Rocks Out NYC

On Monday, March 24th, Voices Inside/Out presented five short inmate-authored plays at the beautiful Engelman Recital Hall of Baruch Performing Arts Center in Manhattan. What a wonderful night where the audience was treated to outstanding work, including Derek Trumbo’s Convictionthe 2013 Pen Prison Writing Contest winner for Drama.


Thanks to our fab directors: Axel Alvin, Mark Armstrong, Reginald L. Douglas, Erica Gould & Kate Pines. And our wonderful actors include Noelia Antweiler, Tyler Bellmon, Juan Castano, Kwaku Driskell, Luke Forbes, Christopher Livingston, Clinton Lowe, Jamil A.C. Mangan, Michael Markham, Tobias Segal, Sarah Sokolovic, chandra thomas, Mark McCullough Thomas & Haley Zega.

And, we appreciate the support of the new audience members as well as our returning fans. The reading benefits our 2014 Playwright Residency at Northpoint Training Center, a medium security prison near Danville, KY. We announced last night that this year’s playwright will be Crystal Skillman.

If you would like to support this work, please consider making a tax-deductible donation here.


“You Make Us Feel Like We Matter”

Every year, Pioneer Playhouse takes one of its productions to Northpoint Training Center, the medium security prison where Voices Inside and Voices Inside/Out work. In fact, the prison playwriting program began after a production of Liz Orndorff‘s The Dillinger Dilemma was done at the prison in 2010, and the inmates were then invited to learn how to write a play.

On Monday, Tamed by Voices Inside/Out 2012 Resident Playwright Holly Hepp-Galván  was performed for the inmate population at Northpoint. (Holly scored the play commission while working at the prison last summer!) Tamed is an updated version of Taming of the Shrew where Kate is a b-girl from Brooklyn and Petruchio is Woodchuck Man, based on Turtleman from Animal Planet’s show Call of the Wildman. Holly is pictured with the real-life Turtleman below.
Holly Hepp-Galvan and Turtleman
Here’s Holly’s account of Monday night’s performance and its reception at Northpoint. What a fantastic night.
First of all to set the scene:  We all (cast, crew, set, sound, etc) arrived at Northpoint in a blinding rainstorm.  And that’s no exaggeration!  Even locals couldn’t believe the force of this storm.  Thunder, lightning, and TORRENTS of rain that just wouldn’t let up.  As soon as we all assembled in the little holding room there was a deafening crack of thunder that made the whole building jump.  We were then informed that lightning had hit the metal fence and knocked out the computers.  No computers meant no metal doors could be opened.  We would all have to walk through the yard.
Well the poor actors were in full costume and few of us had umbrellas.  We all got soaked to the skin.  It was just CRAZY rain.
I was concerned that the men might not want to venture out, but I needn’t have worried.  They soon came pouring in.  They filled every seat in every pew.  It was completely packed with only standing room at the back.
We started right on time and the actors were amazing.  Even soaking wet, they gave such an energetic and thrilling performance.  The whole room was laughing and cheering.  They gave them a standing ovation at the end.
We then had a lively talk-back where the inmates asked questions.  (Oh and I forgot to mention that Rob – one of the members of the playwriting circle – gave a nice overview of “Shrew” before we started!)  Then afterwards we were all swarmed by well-wishers.  They all wanted to tell us how much they’d enjoyed it.  One man held both of my hands and told me, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. You make us feel like we matter.”
I can’t give enough credit to Robby Henson (of Pioneer Playhouse) for bringing the show in (on top of everything else!) and to all the actors who performed in that tiny space with their wet costumes sticking to their skin.  It was just a joyful, joyful experience.
And as we exited, the rain – which had continued to pound us throughout the entire performance – somehow stopped and the sun came out.  We all went happily back to the Playhouse and ate fried chicken and biscuits until we wanted to burst.

How You Like Them Bananas? A Lot, Actually | Day 4

Thank you Chopped. Yes, I mean the Food Network show hosted by the adorable Ted Allen. That TV show inspired Mel Nieves (2013 Voices Inside/Out Resident Playwright, pictured below) to create a writing exercise for the circle. Instead of just giving a prompt and letting the men in the circle write about whatever they wanted, Mel gave the men the ingredients for a scene: a setting (an abandoned hotel), characters (a ballerina, a clown, a fisherman and a goldfish in a bowl), props (bottle of soda, four plastic chairs, a three legged table, broken fishing rod, cup) and lines that had to be used in the scene (“Frosty day in Florida”, “How you like them bananas?”, “The chocolate tomato pie was undercooked”). We had no idea what the men would dream up for their scenes. And, we were kept in suspense a little longer due to a fire drill at the prison that prevented our on-time arrival.


As soon as we walked through the gates and toward the visitor’s center, the men were already outside waiting on us. We headed in, set up the circle and quickly got to work. And we needed every minute of the session to get through the amazing scenes.

Derek’s wild piece kicked off the evening. It was fast, furious and funny and while watching the goldfish — played by Pioneer Playhouse actor Eric – in a bowl (that was really an upside down green plastic table) spew hilarious Walter Matthau-like barbs, everyone in the circle cracked up. What a way to start the night.

And the hits kept coming. Steven’s piece was titled “Worst Horror Movie Ever: Even Though It’s a Play – That’s How Bad It Is – Couldn’t Even Get the Title Right” and was a great send up of the Saw movie series where the goldfish controlled the action, and the fisherman, ballerina and clown died when they each spoke one of the required lines of dialogue. Watching Voices Inside/Out co-founder Synge Maher play a really bad actress/ballerina was beyond hilarious.

Eric (inmate, not Pioneer Playhouse actor)’s piece, “The Dance”, was an astute espionage play where the ballerina was a spy from Georgia (the country, not the state), and the clown and fisherman were covers for two agents caught in an Albanian conflict. They got their orders from a very monotone goldfish. Hilarious! And you, can see his handwritten work below.


Rob and James wrote really solid pieces. And Voices Inside/Out co-founder Lanie Zipoy acted (a first for her in the circle!) out the ballerina role in James’ piece alongside playwright-in-residence Mel. She even got one of the best lines of the night, spoken to her fisherman husband, “You ain’t catchin’ nothin’ with that broken rod of yours and I ain’t telling you where your pills are.” (Takes a drink of soda).

Andrew’s piece titled “Alligators” felt like a mash-up of True Romance and the bizarro world of David Lynch’s Wild At Heart, two films he’d never seen. What a very specific world he created. Jordan’s “Last Chance Losers” found Dr. Drew (Pinsky) trying to hold a counseling session with the lost inhabitants of the abandoned hotel. He did not succeed (Dr. Drew, that is). Jordan succeeded in every way. And how about the “cover art” for their pieces?

Cal hit a grand slam with his piece “Ghosts and Soda”. We’re ready to put this play on stage in New York. It is a whacked out comedy with shades of Sartre’s No Exit. There’s a moment when the play turns surprisingly tender and dramatic that gutted everyone in the room. But, being Cal, the play had to end on a poop joke, a funny one at that. So proud of his work.

We gathered the circle one last time, collectively shouted the word “goldfish” and then said good night. The great week was over. Another successful playwriting residency at Northpoint came to an end. Mel did the program and the previous playwrights-in-residence (Mac Rogers & Holly Hepp-Galván) proud. Voices Inside/Out is 3 for 3. How you like them bananas?

Five Finalists for 2012 Playwriting Residency Named

The Northpoint Voices Inside Playwriting Residency finalists were just announced. Our selection committee has selected five extraordinary playwrights, one of whom will spend eight days at the Northpoint Training Center in Burgin, Kentucky teaching playwriting. Congratulations to:

Robert Attenweiler
Holly Hepp-Galván
Mel Nieves
Shaun Raviv
Crystal Skillman

The resident playwright will be announced at our benefit reading on Monday, March 5, 2012 at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City. Tickets are on sale now here or by calling 866-811-4111.

10 Semifinalists for 2012 Northpoint Voices Inside Residency Announced

Mac Rogers, 2011 Playwright-in-Residence at Northpoint Training Center2011 Playwright-in-Residence Mac Rogers (left) at Northpoint Training Center

Over 80 playwrights applied for the 2012 Northpoint Voices Inside Residency at the Northpoint Training Center, a medium security prison near Danville, Kentucky.  We were thrilled with such an enthusiastic response to the residency and grateful that so many talented playwrights submitted outstanding applications.

Our reading committee had a difficult, yet rewarding task to recommend the top 10.  And, we believe they did a stellar job.

The 10 Semifinalists for the 2012 Northpoint Voices Inside Residency are (in alphabetical order):

Robert Attenweiler
Holly Hepp-Galván
Mel Nieves
Carrie Louise Nutt
Rich Orloff
Leslie Pasternack
Shaun Raviv
Greg Romero
Francesca Sanders
Crystal Skillman

Five finalists will be selected from this group by February 2012.  From that pool of five finalists, we will select one playwright to spend eight days teaching playwriting to and learning from the prisoner-playwrights at Northpoint Training Center.  The playwright-in-residence will be announced at our upcoming New York City benefit reading of short plays by the Northpoint prisoner-playwrights.

More details about the reading will be available by January 5, 2012.

Last Chance to Apply for 2012 Northpoint Playwriting Residency

Saturday, November 19, 2011 is the last day to submit applications to the 2012 Northpoint Voices Inside Playwright Residency.  We are looking for one playwright to spend eight days next July with the male inmates in the playwriting program at Northpoint Training Center, a medium security prison near Danville, Kentucky.


This residency, which includes a $2,000 stipend, airfare, meals, car rental and lodging, offers a true exchange between the prisoner-playwrights and the resident playwright.  This rare opportunity is vital for the men in the Voices Inside program; it helps them grow as playwrights.  And, it exposes them to  the work of a playwright in a new way.  The residency also offers the resident playwright a unique opportunity: the chance to expand his or her worldview and make a difference.

Learn more about the residency in this great article by Karen Tortora-Lee of The Happiest Medium.  She says it so brilliantly:

The men in Northpoint have the time – let them give you something through this experience that will change the way you think, change the way you live, and quite possibly change the way you write.

Northpoint In the News

Information about the Northpoint Voices Inside Playwriting Residency is spreading across the country.  Our call for the playwriting residency has been posted on listservs, all over social media and by various playwriting groups and centers.  We are extremely grateful for everyone’s enthusiasm about the amazing Voices Inside program at Northpoint.









We want to give a special thanks to:

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards, one of the great treasures of New York indie theatre, for its fantastic interview with playwright Mac Rogers (multiple NY Innovative Theatre Award nominee) about his experience at Northpoint:

“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.”

Producer Michael Roderick for letting Lanie Zipoy be a guest blogger on his awesome One Producer in the City last Friday, October 14th:

“This residency is meant as an exchange – an exchange of ideas, experiences and art.  The prisoner-playwrights will also read the resident playwright’s work and discuss his or her style.”

and the fantastic NYTheatre.com (Mac Rogers and Managing Director Montserrat Mendez both have had plays published by NYTE) for spreading the word on its Plays and Playwrights blog.

Just a reminder that the deadline for submissions to the Northpoint Voices Inside Playwriting Residency is just a month away.  All applications are due by November 19th at 6:00 pm Eastern Time.  Find more information about the residency here and the application here.