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  • Prison Performing Arts

First Online Classes Lead to Audio Drama Success

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Things aren’t ever really “normal” for justice-involved youths, and the societal and structural changes brought on by the pandemic didn’t do any favors for a situation that can be frightening, stressful, and overwhelming even under the best conditions. Because of the risks and regulations surrounding the pandemic, PPA’s Learning Through the Arts Program stopped holding classes at the St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center in March of 2020.

Thanks to grant monies from the CARES Act, PPA was able to purchase tablet computers and configure them to be in compliance with the facility’s regulations, and online classes started at the St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center in January 2021, with Carl Overly Jr. as the first online teaching artist, and Artistic Director Rachel Tibbetts providing technical assistance and other support.

After watching a video for Shakespeare in the Streets, the class was eager to write their own play, and Carl fed that creative drive. The youths selected Black History as their topic, and each week Carl came to class with questions and prompts to keep the writing moving.

Transcripts were taken from all of the questions and prompts, and the words of the young artists became the foundation of the script’s text.

The resulting play was Let Freedom Ring. In April 2021, the class recorded Let Freedom Ring over Zoom, and sound engineer Ellie Schwetye edited the separate audio files together and added sound design.

Listen to the performance here!

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