If you have Netflix, you’ve likely seen Orange is the New Black. It’s a TV series filled with sad story lines, but it’s often hella funny, right? The show’s characters are in prison, yes, but they’re complex and real. Their crimes are not their defining characteristics. A similar form of humanizing storytelling is brewing among middle and high school students thanks to the Juvenile in Justice program, Juvie Talk: The Play. Check out the school play that gives a peek into the unseen world of the juvenile justice system in America.
The play is the third and most ambitious part of the ground-breaking series, In Justice, which includes amazing, thought-provoking interviews with boys and girls who have been incarcerated. Juvie Talk: The Play takes these interviews and elevates them to the stage. The theatre-based curriculum allows students to take on the roles of young people behind bars — and as a result, an unforgettable lesson in empathy can be learned.
Through play-acting, students who perform Juvie Talk: The Play will learn the first-person accounts of life inside juvenile detention facilities around the country, along with stories of how the kids ended up there. For those who have never been exposed to the criminal justice system in the U.S., the stories of these young people are unfathomable. And that’s just the point: Through drama and narrative, the unfathomable becomes fathomable. Students will come to better understand their peers behind bars — and the marginalization, poverty, and violence that create the prison pipeline. Ultimately, the program is a powerful way to inform the next generation about the realities of youth imprisonment. And it gives voice to the imprisoned kids who all too often have no voice or power of their own.
This groundbreaking, taboo-smashing project is already underway in schools in California. AWB is proud that its grant will go towards curriculum development and material costs so that Juvie Talk: The Play can remain available to educators free of charge.