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The LCIW Drama Club

The LCIW (Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women) Drama Club was founded in 1996 by Kathy Randels through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Regional Artists Project (RAP) grant. Now entering its seventh year, the Drama Club has been an important outlet for creative expression for over 100 inmates, and has performed for inmate audiences totaling well over 1000. In 2000, ArtSpot Productions invited Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective to introduce African dance and culture to the Drama Club. The program has proved to be a vital spiritual asset for the inmate population at LCIW.

LCIW Drama Club performances, 1996-2002:

  • 1996 The Portia Show, modeled after the Oprah show, is a talk show that explores race relations through a fictional family which Portia, the hostess, is interviewing. The mother, a maid for a wealthy white Louisiana banker, appears on the show with her four daughters. The eldest daughter is an "oreo"-a person who is black on the outside but acts white on the inside; the next daughter is a militant black nationalist and a former Black Panther; the third daughter, played by a white actress, was an illegitimate child by the maid and the banker; and the youngest daughter is a rapper who is getting a business degree at the local university. The banker's wife and legitimate daughter also appear on the show. The piece explores several elements of African-American culture and race relations in a light-hearted manner.

  • 1997 For St. Gabriel's Nativity, the Drama Club restaged the story of Christ's birth in modern day Louisiana. Mary is an inmate at LCIW who is visited by the angel Gabriel and conceives the Messiah immaculately while on lockdown. Throughout the performance, the inmate cast members tell their own personal birth stories.

  • 1998 In An Evening of Poetry, the drama club members read their own poems and staged chorally For Strong Women by Adrienne Rich and Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou.

  • 2000 Waiting for Godot The Drama Club explored elements of clowning in this classic Becket piece that was often frighteningly relevant to the inmates' situation.

  • 2001 Gifts of our Ancestors This was the first piece in which Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective collaborated with ArtSpot Productions and the Drama Club. In this piece, the women told stories about their ancestors and performed three traditional African Dances.

  • 2002 The Healer Kumbuka and ArtSpot collaborating with the Drama Club again on a project that explores traditional African concepts of healing through art, conversation, Adinkra symbols, song, dance and community.

Additional present and future plans include touring the work to other correctional centers in the state, a video documentary of the latest production by two Students at the Center students, and a written chapbook publication of some of the inmates' original poems and monologues.