New podcast explores the power of art inside prison walls

February 27, 2023
Each year the Institute of Sacred Music produces a series of podcasts that highlight the work of the ISM fellows.  In “Toward Freedom: The Power of Art Inside Prison Walls”, fellow and theater professor, Dr. Ronald Jenkins, joins Ariana Hones (M.Div. ‘23) in conversation about the transformational power of Dante’s Divine Comedies inside prisons, while  exploring themes of tribulation, redemption, and hope. Listen to the podcast here.   
Jenkins is a former Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellow and has facilitated theater workshops in prisons in Italy, Indonesia, and the United States. A professor of Theater at Wesleyan University, he specializes in documentary theater focusing on themes of social transformation and human rights.  He has directed and/or translated the plays of the Italian Nobel Laureate Dario Fo and the Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol for numerous theaters, including the Yale Repertory Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. A former circus clown, Professor Jenkins holds a doctorate from Harvard and a master’s degree in buffoonery from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. In his ISM Fellows project, he will complete a book and a play documenting the responses of currently and formerly incarcerated readers to Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Dr. Jenkins will be offering a fellows talk this coming Thursday, March 2 in Miller Hall that will give a behind-the-scenes preview of the process involved in developing the Gospel/Rap performance, Surviving Troubled Waters: From Prison to Freedom Through Music that will be performed on Saturday, March 4  at 4 p.m. in Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. Both events will feature gospel singer Naomi Wilson and rap/poet/activist BL Shirelle who have spent a combined half-century behind bars. They will perform the music that has helped them, and others, survive the trauma of incarceration, while telling stories from their lives that echo Dante’s journey out of Hell onto the path towards Paradise.