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  • Prison Performing Arts


An interview with Aarya Locker, Manager of Community Engagement with St. Louis Public Library.

Explain your role with St. Louis Public Library. I am the Community Engagement Manager and I run our Storytime Theatre program that delivers free theatre to kids all over St. Louis City.

How were you first introduced to PPA? I met a fellow Teaching Artist that introduced me to Rachel Tibbetts. What were your first impressions of the organization?  I was excited that they offered theater classes for youth in detention, I feel that a creative outlet is critical to mental health while being detained. I heard that you are a professionally trained clown - where did you train?  I trained with Shakespeare and Company in Clown and Mask and then worked as a Clown with Cirque du Soleil. Has your training helped inspire your work with St. Louis Public Library and/or PPA? Absolutely. I try to introduce a sense of wonder and ridiculousness to every creative endeavor.  We all need a little magic and a sense of humor to get through the tough times. What has been a defining moment during your time partnering with PPA? I loved doing a residency teaching Macbeth at Hogan street and I look forward to Hip Hop Poetry Project every year. How do you see the PPA partnership shaping your future work with St. Louis Public Library? I’d love to get some youth from JDC involved in Storytime Theatre in the future. Did your interest in prison reform begin before or after partnering on projects with PPA?  Before, I performed and taught in the Women’s prison in Indianapolis and found it very rewarding. I was seeking out an opportunity to work in prisons as soon as I moved to St. Louis. How has your perception of life inside prison changed since partnering so directly with PPA? I am not sure I really gave prisons much thought until I’d been in one.  It is part of the luxury of my privilege as a middle class white female that I did not have to think about prison life. Working with PPA has given me a wider perspective of the world and allowed me to share empathy with people who are or have been incarcerated. I have learned that anyone can get sentenced to spend time in prison and that prison time can be a spiritually significant and  transformative experience for some people and a source of further trauma for others.  Prison affects each person differently. What's next for you and St. Louis Public Library? We are currently hosting the NEST, a free maker’s playscape in the Central Library. I lead a team of artist facilitators that help kids and their caregivers explore, tinker and invent through August 4th. Then we launch a new Storytime Theatre Season in September 2019.

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