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In 2001, incarcerated actors took the “stage” with PPA for the first time, with a production of Hamlet, Act I at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center. Since then, PPA has produced 67 productions in three state prisons. Hundreds of incarcerated artists have participated in these performances, which include Shakespearean classics, contemporary plays, and new works developed by nationally-recognized playwrights.


PPA’s performance art instruction includes workshops in acting, voice, movement, playwriting, poetry, and literature analysis. Through this multi-disciplinary approach, incarcerated artists learn creative and constructive ways to express emotions, build trust, and work collaboratively. The program is designed to help participants improve communication skills, instill responsibility to self and others, and identify healthy strategies for processing complex trauma.


Looking ahead, PPA plans to expand artistic offerings to include visual arts, songwriting, dance, and choir.




The Theatre Projects include workshops, rehearsals and live performances of classic and contemporary plays by inmates at three Missouri Department of Corrections adult prisons. Each project involves fifteen to twenty-five inmates as performers, designers, and technicians. The Theatre Projects give two sets of performances twice a year for an audience that includes prison inmates and staff, inmate families, and outside guests.


Spoken Word Poetry is an on-going, dynamic program for women inmates who love to write or who have always been shy about writing. Together with a professional poet teaching artist, each class explores poetry, spoken word, and examples of short story literature, as a doorway to self-expression and personal writing. The poets read their original work for an audience of fellow inmates and community members - which include poetry, songs, and monologues

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The New Plays Initiative is part-way through completing a multi-year program placing nationally-recognized playwrights into each of the three state prisons we work within to create a new play. These productions will first be performed within each prison and then co-produced in St. Louis in collaboration with a well-known professional theatre company. The New Plays Initiative utilizes the voices and input of participating inmates through improvisatory theatre workshops guided by the playwright and PPA’s Artistic Director, Christopher Limber. The first play, Run-On Sentence, was written by Stacie Lents through workshops at Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center and was produced in St. Louis in June 2018 by SATE, an award winning theatre company. For the second installment, Playwright Pamela Sterling is writing a new play for the men at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center geared for high school audiences. PPA has also secured the permission of Margaret Atwood to adapt her book, Hag-Seed, as the third installment in PPA’s New Plays Initiative.

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