Arkansas death row inmates’ writing fuels new Prison Story Project performance

Inmates attend a staged Prison Story Project reading, entitled You Are Not Alone, earlier this year.

Courtesy photo

The Prison Story Project this week will present its latest performance entitled On the Row, featuring stories from 10 inmates housed on Arkansas’ death row.

Performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the auditorium of Vol Walker Hall on the UA campus, and at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 in the auditorium of the Global Campus building, 1 E. Center St. on the Fayetteville square.

Admission to the events is free, but a $10 donation is encouraged.

At the invitation of the warden of Arkansas’ super-max prison, the Prison Story Project artists — poets, fiction writers and story tellers — spent six months working with the men, leading them in discussions of themes and issues raised by various literary and artistic works.

The inmates then wrote their own responses to the works, and their reflective texts were compiled by a professional playwright, who shaped them into a readers’ theatre script. The script has already been performed for the inmates inside the super-max prison in advance of the public performances.

Leading the On the Row initiative are Prison Story Project founder and director Kathy McGregor and poets Matt Henricksen and Geffrey Davis. Actors reading the roles are Austin Ashford, Brandon Butler, David Jolliffe, Troy Schremmer, and James Washington. Schremmer compiled the inmates’ writing and directs the production.

“The goal of the Prison Story Project is to use story to bridge the gap between the inmates we serve and the communities they hope to return to,” said McGregor. “We hope the stories the actors will be sharing from ‘The Row’ will, in a sense, bring the men home in a way that presents the redemption they have struggled to find in themselves after 20-plus years in a cage.”