Shakespeare in Prison│2016-17 Case Study

Photo by Curtis McGuire

Photo by Curtis McGuire

Ensemble members have always told us that their work in Shakespeare in Prison has effected enormous changes in themselves. But how does Shakespeare in Prison “empower” people to use Shakespeare as a catalyst to radically alter their lives—and their very identities? How could we define that process?

Without the ability to do that, measuring success meant relying on anecdotal evidence and “downstream effects” like recidivism. Many prison arts programs face this same challenge, and we simply couldn’t find a method of defining outcomes that gelled with what we thought was happening in SIP.

In 2016, SIP’s team of facilitators set out to explore and document measurable outcomes, focusing on accurately describing the actual work that goes on in the ensemble. We asked the question:

How does one season of Shakespeare in Prison impact the ensemble member’s sense of identity in the correctional context?

We found that participation in a season of Shakespeare in Prison has the potential to profoundly change an ensemble member’s narrative identity through two distinct but interrelated processes:

Responses and experiences that come from working in an ensemble.

Responses and experiences that come from or through the play itself.

We’re very excited by what we found, and so are SIP ensemble members and alumni. It would be a heck of a lot to describe in detail here—too much, in fact! To read our write-up of the study’s results, click on the image to the left to download it as a .pdf file.