PPA ANNOUNCES SHANNON DURIO AS NEW MANAGING DIRECTOR

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Prison Performing Arts is thrilled to announce that Shannon Durio is joining the PPA team as our new Managing Director! Shannon will serve in partnership with Artistic Director, Christopher Limber, and Director of Youth Programs, Rachel Tibbetts, to provide executive and programmatic leadership for PPA, and continue to sustain and build the company's fundraising potential, administrative and fiscal well-being, and programmatic growth. Shannon's expertise will provide a welcome support for PPA's unique artistic initiatives in the Missouri criminal and juvenile justice systems.

“The board and staff are very excited to have Shannon join PPA this August. She brings a remarkable wealth of experience and a comprehensive understanding of the workings and demands of our unique and important mission to her position.  She understands and believes in the current work and legacy of PPA - utilizing art to heal and sustain the lives of incarcerated artists and justice-involved youth. She values the St. Louis community, and has exceptional knowledge based on her years of working with the St. Louis philanthropic community.” said Artistic Director, Christopher Limber.

“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Shannon to PPA. She joins Christopher Limber, Rachel Tibbetts and the PPA Board at a very exciting time as we look to further extend and enhance PPA's statewide reach and impact. Shannon's background in non-profit development in Saint Louis is impressive and extensive, and she is well acquainted with and inspired by the impact and long history of PPA. With her substantial insight and skills added to the creative force of Chris and Rachel, we are incredibly excited about PPA's next chapter,” said Tara Nealey, PPA Board President. 

Shannon Durio comes to PPA with 15 years of development and marketing experience for national and regional nonprofit organizations, including the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Concordance Academy, and the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition. She has specialized in meeting substantive target revenue goals for multimillion-dollar budgets, grant writing, improving donor relations and community and corporate outreach, building volunteer recruitment and leading and managing organizational special-event planning. As Director of Donor Engagement, she played a key role in helping raise nearly $5 million to support programs and services benefiting foster/adoptive families in the St. Louis region.  For Concordance Academy of Leadership (annual budget of $5+ million) Shannon led the planning and execution of three annual galas; each averaging 500 guests and raising nearly $1 million.  Additionally, she has extensive experience in marketing and communications, helping drive organizational engagement through multi-channel social media campaigns, traditional print and electronic collateral, and donor correspondence. Shannon received a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Judson University in Elgin, Illinois.

“In January of 2018, I saw the production of Run-On Sentence in Vandalia, and throughout was deeply moved to laughter and tears. Not only was the acting of the highest caliber, but the artistry and emotional capacity of each actor gripped me. In the after-show talkback when the women spoke about the role PPA had played in their journey, I knew there was something incredibly special about the organization. I have been a committed supporter since that day.

The work PPA is doing is transformational for these incarcerated artists, and I am humbled that I can be a vital part of their story. I look forward to partnering with Chris, Rachel, and the Board of Directors, to inspire our community to listen, to give, and to welcome these returning citizens home one day.”

Antigone Returns to the Stage in August 2019

Equally Represented Arts (ERA) and Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble (SATE) collaborate on Antigone—a fresh perspective on the Sophocles classic workshopped in a collaboration between Saint Louis University Theatre and Prison Performing Arts. 

Marilyn Arnold, Parvuna Sulaiman, Tori Thomas, Erica Withrow, Claire Cunningham, Nick Balint and Miranda Jagels Félix in SLU’s production of Antigone, October 2017.

Marilyn Arnold, Parvuna Sulaiman, Tori Thomas, Erica Withrow, Claire Cunningham, Nick Balint and Miranda Jagels Félix in SLU’s production of Antigone, October 2017.

It all started in 2017, when Prison Performing Arts (PPA) began a collaboration with St. Louis University’s (SLU) Department of Fine and Performing Arts.

Lucy Cashion, Assistant Professor of Theatre (and ERA Artistic Director) teamed up with PPA Director of Youth Programs (and SATE Artistic Director), Rachel Tibbetts, to teach weekly poetry, playwriting, and development workshops with PPA participants at the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, MO. For about 8 weeks during the summer of 2017, the group studied, explored, and wrote about the Ancient Greek Princess, Antigone. 

The story of fighting civic law to obey divine law became famous in the Classical Greek tragedy Antigone, which premiered in Athens in 441 B.C. Since then, scholars, poets, and playwrights have written their own translations, adaptations, and critiques of the Antigone story, each from a different point of view. 

During the workshop, the women of WERDCC wrote a large amount of content that was eventually curated into a script; this script was initially produced in October 2017 at SLU by an ensemble of students. Later, the same ensemble performed the play in prison, in front of an audience of women who wrote much of the play’s original content. 

Laura Hulsey acting in the 2018 prison performance of  Antigone  at WERDCC (Vandalia, MO)

Laura Hulsey acting in the 2018 prison performance of Antigone at WERDCC (Vandalia, MO)

“It was really cool,” says Rachel Tibbetts about the experience of watching SLU’s performance of Antigone at WERDCC. “I mainly watched the women watching the production. Their faces would light up when they recognized their own words.”

The continuation of this tradition resulted in a performance by PPA participants at WERDCC in March 2018. 

“Lucy and I started going up to the prison on a weekly basis to direct a version of Antigone with the women at the prison,” says Tibbetts. “It was essentially the same script as the SLU production, but we added more roles so we could cast more actors.”

This new version included all of the women’s original workshop writing as well as scenes from various adaptations of Antigone, including the Sophocles version.

ERA and SATE are bringing Antigone back to the stage in St. Louis this August. 

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Included in the 7-woman cast is Laura Hulsey, who was recently released from WERDCC and who acted in the prison production. Other cast members include Miranda Jagels Félix and Victoria Thomas, who acted in the SLU production. The rest of the cast is comprised of professional actors from St. Louis.

About the play, Christopher Limber (PPA Artistic Director) remarks, “One of the things that I recall is that, up in Vandalia, Lucy [Cashion] spoke about how inspired she was to do the play with just women, as opposed to a co-ed cast. She really liked something about the all-female version up at Vandalia, which inspired this upcoming female-only production. That’s one of the things that SATE focuses on—doing important new work that highlights women. Part of PPA's mission is to support new work and to collaborate with other excellent colleagues. The journey of this Antigone reflects the brave and resilient resonance of its classic theatrical roots."

We’re thrilled to see Antigone arise again with this ERA/SATE co-production in St. Louis. 

Get your tickets for the August production here.

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

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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 chris.limber@prisonartsstl.org 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.