Incarcerated Men Re-imagine “The Divine Comedy”
Fragments of Dante’s poem adapted by men in prison and performed by the students in Professor Ron Jenkins’ course “Sacred Texts and Social Justice.”
A group of incarcerated men at the Macdougall Correctional Institution have spent the last few months reimagining Dante’s journey from hell to paradise as it might apply to their own life journeys. They have collaborated with Yale students on writing theatrical adaptations of fragments from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” that will be performed here, followed by a discussion about mass incarceration, transformation,and the arts.
Special Guests: Saundra Duncan, Alma Sanchez-Eppler, and Maria Pirro, State School Principal of MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution.
Maria Pirro is the school principal at the MacDougall Walker Correctional Institution. Throughout her 15 years with the Connecticut Department of Correction, Unified School District #1, she has made it her mission to bring programs to the incarcerated population that promote academic, social, emotional, and moral growth. Ms. Pirro believes all students can learn, be successful, and excel. In order to thrive in a society of change and growth, each student must achieve these goals: be a creative problem solver, a lifelong learner, and an effective communicator. The unifying factor among these goals is the personal growth of the student. This philosophy, and the belief in creating learning conditions in which students experience, at the very least, small victories on a daily basis, is what has drawn Ms. Pirro to integrating “Dante Behind Bars” into the programs at schools throughout her school district. Ms. Pirro is also the Connecticut Chapter President of the Correctional Education Association, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to prepare incarcerated students for successful reintegration into the community while supporting correctional educators in being leaders in their field.
Alma Sanchez-Eppler is a Quaker theater artist and musician living in Philadelphia. Currently Alma is spending a year with Quaker Voluntary Service as an instructor and community organizer at Philadelphia FIGHT’s Institute for Community Justice, where she teaches creative writing, acting, and organizing skills for people affected by the parallel crises of mass incarceration and HIV/AIDS. Alma graduated from Wesleyan University in 2014. At Wesleyan ze worked closely with Professor Jenkins as a student in his Prison Outreach Through Theater course and later providing musical accompaniment for a collection of inmate reflections that toured to conferences around New England. For more information about Alma’s work visit www.almasengine.com.