Behind the Scenes: Quick-Brewed Macbeth

PPA produced Quick-Brewed Macbeth at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center (MECC) on April 24th, 2019. This is the first time the show was performed inside prison since 2015 at Northeast Correctional Center (NECC) in Bowling Green, MO. The information below is provided by Christopher Limber, Artistic Director, who directed the show in both 2015 and 2019. The 2019 production of Quick-Brewed Macbeth was dedicated with love and appreciation to PPA artist and friend, Jerry McAdams.

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PPA teams up with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and the Arts and Education Council to Present Fall Workshop

“The Arts and Education Council, besides providing a creative building filled with some of the finest arts organizations in St. Louis, also have provided space to create,” says Limber. “Space determines motion, and A&E is a valued catalyst.  We are thrilled to generate this full-day collaborative on how to passionately empower the creative spirit using the works of Shakespeare. It will be both exciting, deeply enlightening, and, knowing Curt's range of experience, great fun."

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Meet Aarya Locker of SLPL


An interview with Aarya Locker, Manager of Community Engagement with St. Louis Public Library.

Explain your role with St. Louis Public Library.

I am the Community Engagement Manager and I run our Storytime Theatre program that delivers free theatre to kids all over St. Louis City.

How were you first introduced to PPA?

I met a fellow Teaching Artist that introduced me to Rachel Tibbetts.

What were your first impressions of the organization? 

I was excited that they offered theater classes for youth in detention, I feel that a creative outlet is critical to mental health while being detained.

I heard that you are a professionally trained clown - where did you train? 

I trained with Shakespeare and Company in Clown and Mask and then worked as a Clown with Cirque du Soleil.

Has your training helped inspire your work with St. Louis Public Library and/or PPA?

Absolutely. I try to introduce a sense of wonder and ridiculousness to every creative endeavor.  We all need a little magic and a sense of humor to get through the tough times.

What has been a defining moment during your time partnering with PPA?

I loved doing a residency teaching Macbeth at Hogan street and I look forward to Hip Hop Poetry Project every year.

How do you see the PPA partnership shaping your future work with St. Louis Public Library?

I’d love to get some youth from JDC involved in Storytime Theatre in the future.

Did your interest in prison reform begin before or after partnering on projects with PPA? 

Before, I performed and taught in the Women’s prison in Indianapolis and found it very rewarding. I was seeking out an opportunity to work in prisons as soon as I moved to St. Louis.

How has your perception of life inside prison changed since partnering so directly with PPA?

I am not sure I really gave prisons much thought until I’d been in one.  It is part of the luxury of my privilege as a middle class white female that I did not have to think about prison life. Working with PPA has given me a wider perspective of the world and allowed me to share empathy with people who are or have been incarcerated. I have learned that anyone can get sentenced to spend time in prison and that prison time can be a spiritually significant and  transformative experience for some people and a source of further trauma for others.  Prison affects each person differently.

What's next for you and St. Louis Public Library?

We are currently hosting the NEST, a free maker’s playscape in the Central Library. I lead a team of artist facilitators that help kids and their caregivers explore, tinker and invent through August 4th. Then we launch a new Storytime Theatre Season in September 2019.

Meet PPA Intern, Jaclyn Oden-Peace

I ended up at PPA due to being a resident in the XPLOR program. XPLOR is a 10 month long social justice residency program and is sponsored by the National Benevolent Association (NBA) through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). After applying and being accepted into the program, residents are placed at a nonprofit internship. I was placed at PPA and the rest is history!

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Join us for a Première Movie Showing of a NEW DOCUMENTARY about Prison Performing Arts at the Chase Park Plaza!

Prison Performing Arts: Voices Within
A new documentary by Filmmaker Lisa Boyd
Friday, April 12th @ 7:00 p.m.
DOORS OPEN @ 6:30 p.m.

View the Documentary Preview

Lisa's new documentary Prison Performing Arts: VOICES WITHIN, presents portions of the workshop for PPA’s first commissioned play Run-On Sentence by Stacie Lents at the Women’s Prison in Vandalia, MO.  The film includes interviews with PPA Founder Agnes Wilcox, Playwright Stacie Lents, and PPA Artistic Director Christopher Limber. We hear firsthand the stories of many of the Vandalia women and many of their mothers, sisters, and children. The emerging subject of this new documentary is the transformational power creating art has for incarcerated individuals offered through Prison Performing Arts. Come and see a special exclusive preview cutting of this new and powerful film April 12 at Chase Park Plaza.

Very limited seating is available - contact after March 15th to reserve your spot.

Ms. Boyd recently won "Best Director" from the St. Louis Film Festival in 2018 for her newest documentary "An American Tragedy" about murderer Jeff Ferguson's crime and redemption. “An American Tragedy” movingly and subtly addresses issues related to capital punishment and criminal rehabilitation.

Join us for "We Know What We Are, But Not What We May Be: Restorative Circles of Reconciliation"

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Prison Performing Arts, in cooperation with the Arts and Education Council and Shakespeare Behind Bars, presents a new workshop:

We Know What We Are, But Not What We May Be
Restorative Circles of Reconciliation: Creating Circles of Creativity & Healing

Facilitated by Curt L. Tofteland, Founder and Artistic Director - Shakespeare Behind Bars

Saturday, September 7, 20199:30 a.m. – 5:30  p.m.
Catalyst Innovation Lab
Centene Center
3547 Olive Street, 1st Floor
St. Louis, MO  63103 

A dynamic workshop focusing on the work by Curt L. Tofteland, Founder of the internationally recognized Shakespeare Behind Bars program.  Curt has 24 years of practical experience working as a Prison Arts Practitioner in prisons around the world. For the past 10 years, Curt has been training arts practitioners who wish to become Prison Arts Practitioners working as facilitators in correctional institutions. As he speaks of his own approach of using Shakespeare and the arts to reach and involve incarcerated artists:

"Masks-of-deception . . . peeled . . . and . . . checked . . . at the portal-of-resignation . . . false-faces-forged with the pain-of-inhumanity . . . received . . . and . . . passed on . . . and . . . received . . . and . . . passed on.

. . a never-ending-cycle-of-circular-abuse . . . Come and learn about creating The Circle Of Trust."

In Curt's life’s work with the incarcerated, it has been his mission to create an alternative to this circular abuse, to inspire an oppositional circle – one of hope and healing – what he calls: The Circle Of Trust. 

The Circle Of Trust 
offers hope and healing in a punishing world of correction designed to strip human beings of identity and belief in humanity - both theirs and others.

Workshop cost: $200.00 
Call 314-289-4190 for more information, or email

PPA in the Greater St. Louis Humanities Festival

I've seen a few shows recently with Prison Performing Arts, and I've been nothing but impressed. I come in not knowing what I'm going to encounter, and I walk out always feeling like I can take on the world.

PPA's Alumni Theatre Company in the 2014 Greater St. Louis Humanities Festival photo by Jane Martin

PPA's Alumni Theatre Company in the 2014 Greater St. Louis Humanities Festival
photo by Jane Martin

Theatre is a great way to gain an understanding of others around you, as well as yourself, and I have thanked PPA many times for challenging me to understand others in a way I never imagined. PPA's production of Going Home in the Humanities Festival last month offered that same kind of discovery. Walking into The Stage at KDHX, I figured the play would be one that was like any usual production - beginning, middle, end, maybe with a Q&A. What happened, however, was quite different.

Before my eyes, I saw qualities that have been sadly lacking in some professional performances today: sincerity and enthusiasm. No one was announcing to me who they were, no one trying to prove to me that they were some kind of professional. Instead, each person was up there doing what theatre is supposed to do in the first place: tell a story. And what a story did they tell!

Through humor and reflection, PPA's Alumni Theatre Company shared with us the difficulty adjusting to everyday life after returning home from prison. It made me realize how much I take for granted: the simple handshake of trust between two people, the look of approval someone gives when hiring one for a job, and the ability to grow as a person and grow with others as a team in this big, crazy world. Each scene presented a unique perspective and opened new doors to my understanding.

There is another important lesson I learned from Going Home - everyone has the capability to change. Sometimes the person you thought you were is not always the person you really are or who you can become. That was one of the biggest realizations for me. I may think one way now, but I may have a different view on life in the next five to ten years. And if I want to change for the better, or take a brand new path in life, who is to say I can't?

At the end of the day, no matter what I do in life, what is the most important is that I keep one path near and close to my heart: the path going home.

Mollie Amburgey
Insight Theatre Company

 photo by Jane Martin