What does it take for a writer/actress to perform a play she’s written about prisons, at a prison? And in particular, at one of the most notorious prisons in the country, Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, America’s largest prison-plantation. A new documentary about that performance and its aftermath, titled Angola Do You Hear Us?, has been shortlisted for the Oscar for Documentary Short Subject. I was happy to speak with the director of the film, Cinque Northern, and the playwright/performer, Liza Jessie Peterson.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast on the Arts Express radio program today, aired on WBAI -FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Anna Deveare Smith portrays 17 different people—students, teachers, parents, judges, Congessmen, social justice workers—in her new, almost one-woman play, Notes from the Field. Your intrepid reporter reviewed it for WBAI radio yesterday.
“Unshackled” refers to the fight against the practice of shackling that is daily policy in New York prisons: that of shackling pregnant incarcerated women. The women are shackled when they go to doctor’s appointments, the women are shackled while in labor, the women are shackled even after emergency Cesareans. There is a guard in the delivery room even as they are giving birth. This is happening now, in 2014.
The CA’s event consisted of artists and formerly incarcerated women who sung and spoke about their experiences. Toshi Reagon and Morley were kind enough to lend their tremendous talents to the very powerful program.
You can listen and download the piece here: Unshackled
I think you will find it very moving. If you’d like to take further action, or simply find out more information, I urge you to click on the link for the Correctional Association.