The Artistic Ensemble is a troupe of 16 diverse men in prison working with 5 outside members. In our explorations to discover how we can reach the public, we also discover more about what it means to be human by connecting with each other. Our creative process is dialogic. Together we explore social inequalities with language, sound, and movement.
It is through the collaborative effort between outside Artistic Ensemble members and incarcerated Artistic Ensemble members, that we take constraints and boundaries and turn them into tools of liberation: art, dialogues, confrontation. Our stories cannot be properly told without the echoes of our voices, you cannot picture our world unless we are behind the camera.
There is nothing about us, without us.
*If you move your pointer clockwise over the circles of the main menu, you can see the number of years (in hours, minutes and seconds) each inside member of the Artistic Ensemble has spent incarcerated. The ones containing zeros are the outside members.
How is the work made?
After each of our performances, an audience member asks us to talk about how we made the work. Often the process is described by what it is not- it is not a play, it does not have characters or a script, it was not made by one individual, it was not easy.
We have been trying to find a way to describe the creative process that clarifies what we do…
Our creative process is not linear, inspiration comes from multiple sources and not always in a timely fashion.
We strive to create an artistic space within a punitive, regimented, linear, hierarchical system. In this system order, schedules, a single logic prevails- and is relied on- as a means by which rules/placement in the hierarchy/right/wrong are deciphered.
Our process can be chaotic and disorganized, and it can unfold with grace and ease. Some ideas are found at the very last minute, even during dress rehearsal. We pay attention, we make room for last minute gems.
Ideas and images come from multiple sources- personal story, writing, current events in the world, movement metaphors. Performative structures for those ideas are brought to the group by inside and outside members and are developed over months of experimentation.
The three performances we have created are assemblages. Each section in the work is stronger because of the other sections, and each individual is a part of the whole, with the role of each member being different. Not all ideas are fully realized and not everyone is ‘equally’ presented in any performance- however, each person is essential.
There is a hierarchy in our creative process. We have found that it is necessary to have a director. What this title means has differed for each piece. However in each piece, at various points in the making process, the director has held the overall vision of how the sections are connected.
As inside and outside artists, working in an inhumane system, we strive to develop a creative process that supports our humanity. One that considers the way we make, the way we attend to ourselves and each other, matters. Where the day in and day out-ness of the work is given as much weight as the day of the performance.
We hope that those who choose to view our work can recognize in it our struggles, imperfections, beauty, hope, and determination.
Former Ensemble Members
Carlos Flores, Gary Martin, Tatiana Chaterji, Belize Villafranco, Ellen Berry, Gary Snodgrass, Joey Mason, Joseph Demerson, Kroung Songkra, Kurt Vonstaden, Larry Mosley, Madniz Smith, Paul Comauex, Phil Mandendez, Richard Honea, Shadeed Wallace-Stepter, Tristan Jones, Watani Stiner, Lawrence Pela, Adnan Khan.
2016: Sebastian Grubb, Joanna Haigood, Calina Lawrence.