Affiliated Courses

At the university
a circle of stiff classroom chairs
which we unbend with our minds
“The men at Ryan and I
come to the workshop,” Chris says,
“for the same reason:
something is missing in our lives,
and we come there to find it.”

    -from “For Mike, Because You Asked,” by Buzz Alexander, Founder and Member of PCAP

PCAP's undergraduate courses train students to facilitate workshops in the arts in state prisons, juvenile facilities, and community settings. Please check the current U-M class schedule for available seats and enrollment instructions.

Winter 2016

RCCORE 334.007/THTREMUS 335- Theatre and Incarceration

Artistic practice in prisons has occurred since the inception of prisons themselves, though popular thought tends not to connect the idea of the arts with that of criminal justice systems. This course surveys the history of performance in prisons through the examination of plays written by and about prisoners as well as narratives which chronicle the process of creating theatre in prisons. More importantly, the course also requires all enrolled students to enter an adult prison once a week throughout the semester to lead a theatre workshop with prisoners. Students will be placed in pairs to facilitate workshops, and each workshop will hold a performance at the end of the semester. Students and prisoners together create social change through their performances, both by bringing two disparate communities (ie. undergrads and prisoners) into meaningful interaction and also by using theatre to explore significant social issues.

Students who complete this course are eligible to participate in PCAP's summer theatre exchange program at UniRio in Brazil.

Instructor: Ashley Lucas
Consent: With permission of instructor. Email Ashley Lucas to set up an interview 

THEATREMUS 336.001 - PCAP Brazil Theatre Exchange

  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Winter with field component during Spring/Summer
  • Sophomores and above
  • GPA 2.0
  • Hostel
  • Instruction in English
  • No language prerequisite

Learn how theatre can support community dialogue and social change on this 3-week GCC program.

The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) trains students to facilitate arts workshops in prisons, juvenile detention centers, and community settings, bringing together crime victims, former prisoners, and their families. The nation of Brazil has a long history of using theatre as a vehicle to discuss and promote social justice causes. PCAP began an exchange program in 2013 with theatre faculty and students at the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UniRio). Travel with UniRio faculty into a variety of off-campus settings to engage in “teatro em communidade.”

In Brazil, you will collaborate with Brazilian theatre students and faculty while attending theatre classes at UniRio and observering the theatre work being done not just in Brazilian prisons but also in the Maré favela and in two hospitals in Rio de Janeiro. Learn about what theatre can accomplish in non-traditional settings and why people engage in performance practices in these challenging contexts.

Earn 5 total credits during winter term—3 for THTREMUS 399 and 2 for the off-campus component, THTREMUS 336/536.

Instructor: Ashley Lucas

Consent: Requires permission of instructor and CEGIS Global Course Connection application. Email Ashley Lucas to schedule an interview.

Fall 2016 

THTREMUS 399.009/RCCORE 334 - The Atonement Project

Students will conduct arts workshops in the genre of their choosing in prisons, juvenile facilities, and community settings. Whenever the participants grant consent, artistic products of these workshops will be posted on the Atonement Project website as a means for starting conversations about reconciliation and atonement among people who have committed crimes and those who have experienced the effects of crime.

Instructor: Ashley Lucas
Consent: With permission of instructor. Email Ashley Lucas to schedule an appointment.

RCARTS 385 - Advanced Photography

RCARTS 385 will be a special advanced photography course built around a collaborative project between the members of the course, a visiting artist who focuses on issues of incarceration, and prisoners housed in an area prison. Students will visit the prison to facilitate workshops with prisoners, making photographs as one of the products of the workshops. Students will develop skills in photographic tools, including cameras, film, and digital printing. The course will also provide opportunity to integrate artistic production into a community-based setting.

Course requirement:
Interviews are required for admission to the course. Email Isaac Wingfield to schedule an interview. The course will require some time outside of the regularly scheduled class, including visits to the prison, an all day workshop the first weekend after classes start, and a trip to photograph over Fall Break. A lab fee will be assessed.

Intended audience:
Students with some experience working with incarcerated populations or community arts organizations will have priority, though all UM students who show interest and commitment are welcome. It is recommended that students take RCARTS 285 prior to enrolling in this course, but students with other prior photography experience will be welcome to enroll.

Class format:
The course will normally meet three hours a day, two days a week, with a number of required meetings outside of the regularly scheduled class time, including Fall Break. Lectures and demonstrations will cover technical aspects of photography, with some discussion-based seminar classes on the issues surrounding issues of incarceration.

ENGLISH 221.002/RCHUMS 334.011 - Composition Through Editing

This course will invite students to take part in the ongoing scholarly conversation surrounding revision, and to examine the revision processes of writers at various levels of skill. On the further assumption that you never know a thing half as well as when you are forced to teach it to someone else, this course will also invite students to guide others in the act of revision. To do so, the course will partner with the Prison Creative Arts Project's Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, a yearly anthology of work by inmates in Michigan prisons. This journal, produced by students and community volunteers, offers concrete and individualized feedback to each of the hundreds of writers whose work is rejected each year; students will have the opportunity to exemplify and complete their learning in this course by taking on a few such rejected manuscripts themselves.

Course Requirements:

Students can expect to read 20-30 pages per week, to draft and revise two pieces of writing, to revise one older piece of writing (which you consider the best work you've ever done), to write several smaller revision memos addressed to would-be MRPCW contributors, and to confer regularly on each others' writing (which will further develop their abilities as readers and self-revisers).

Instructor: Phil Christman