Author Archives: Benjamin Serrano

  • Three Little Pigs

    During this semester at Stateville, we read different short stories from the collection Tales and Stories for Black Folks edited by Toni Cade Bambara. Within this collection are a variety of rewrites of “classic” fairytales and folktales as well as new interpretations of common African folklore. Students were then asked to rewrite their own tale. We asked questions such as: How would you change the story to tell your own message? What characters would have to change, be omitted, or be added? Who is this story for?

    One student, Abdul-Malik Muhammad, rewrote “The Three Little Pigs” as his second story rewrite. The APTP ensemble read his piece and performed their favorite lines using a variety of exercises. Read Malik’s story below and see the video of the APTP ensemble making theater from his work.

  • I’m Here Because…/I’m an Expert In…

    These two prompts (I’m here because… and I’m an expert in…) were shared with our teen ensemble during the most recent visit from Common Wealth Theatre Co. artists Rhiannon White and Evie Manning. We pushed students to broaden their idea of what “here” signified. Was “here” Stateville? Was “here” this Earth?

    Read their responses below:

  • Movement

    We asked our students at Stateville to describe the routine of one of their days and record the movements they make. Read their responses below:

  • FU Speeches

    This exercise is also borrowed from Rhiannon White of Common Wealth Theatre Co. when she came to work with our teen ensemble in May 2016. She asked our teens to write a speech to someone in power. What would you tell someone whom has more power than you or whom has taken power from you? If you could let it all out, what would you say? Students at Stateville spoke to figures from slaveowners to the judicial system.

    Hear their voices below:

  • Powerful and Powerless

    As the semester moved forward and we all learned more about each other and gained comfort in sharing more about ourselves, we gave an assignment where students detailed times they felt powerful and times they felt powerless. This exercise we learned from Rhiannon White of Common Wealth Theatre Co. when she facilitated workshops for our teen ensemble.

    Read their responses below:

  • Recipes

    For this assignment, students had to ask themselves:

    Who am I? What makes me, me?

    As a response, students wrote recipes of themselves detailing the ingredients and steps one needs to take in order to create the creator. Read their recipes and check out a video of our teen ensemble’s interpretations of their recipes below:

  • When I Was Young

    One of the first assignments for students in the performance class at Stateville was to complete this sentence: “When I was young/a little kid…” This is an assignment often done with our teen ensemble and school programs. How does one respond to this prompt when the youngest student in the class is 35 years old?

    Read their responses below:

  • APTP at Stateville: Voices from the Inside

    Since early February, I have been co-teaching a theater and writing course at Stateville, a maximum-security prison located just outside Joliet, Illinois, through the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project. In this course, the dozen or so students explore voice, body, and spirit through many of the same exercises done with the teenaged ensemble at Albany Park Theater Project. During one session, students discussed the inability to create a visual and sonic record of the performance art they were creating. As one student said, “I wish we could camcord this.” Recording devices are not allowed in the prison. That same student then made the suggestion that each week a student ought to write down the events of the previous class to document not only the activities, but the impact it had on them and their peers. More than a journal entry, this writing would be the film, the photograph, the audio file, and the documentary they wished they had. These students do work and want the world to know it. Learn more about their work below in the words of students Devon Terrell and Darrell Fair:

  • APTP in School: Volta Elementary

    This year I had the esteemed pleasure of launching a new, year-long program in my 8th grade classroom at Volta Elementary School with APTP’s Associate Director, Maggie Popadiak, as my teaching partner.