“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.

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.