Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Shakespeare in Prison program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Shakespeare in Prison (SIP) on May 6, 2018.

SIP, Detroit Public Theatre’s signature community program, uses Shakespeare to empower incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to reconnect with their humanity and that of others; to reflect on their past, present, and future; and to gain the confidence, self-esteem, and crucial skills they need to heal and positively impact their communities. The program has been at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV) for six years, and recently completed its first year at Parnall Correctional Facility, a men’s prison in Jackson.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Frannie Shepherd-Bates of Shakespeare in Prison with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Frannie Shepherd-Bates of Shakespeare in Prison with her $1,000 mini-grant.

The WHV ensemble works for nine months, rehearsing a Shakespeare play and performing it at season’s end. A second 12-week workshop is now underway at Parnall, and this fall the Parnall program will expand to utilize a similar 40-week model.

Incarceration often makes prisoners feel disempowered, worthless, or stupid, shells of who they once were or could have been. The SIP experience profoundly alters this, giving prisoners comrades and a safe space where their ideas are valued and they can improve communication. The values and skills learned in SIP help ensemble members constructively reintegrate into society, making them less likely to re-offend. Those still in prison use what they’ve learned not only for their own benefit, but to positively affect their community.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to cover expenses for the SIP men’s program. Facilitators have been volunteering their services for the program out of pure passion. They will now be able to fund a summer workshop, maintaining momentum that will help the men’s program get more buy-in as it continues to develop.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.