Former female inmates perform "Time In," a play about life in prison, on February 14, 2009.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – “The performance [of Time In] and the whole experience took my breath away,” said Nina Felshin, curator of the Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University. “The brew of warmth, love, pain, emotion, and survival, moved me and paralyzed me at the same time.”

Time In is an innovative and moving performance piece written by former female inmates about their time inside a maximum-security prison. The mixture of dance, song, and story will be performed on Saturday, February 14, at 8:00 pm, in the Martel Theater of the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. This event is free and open to the public.

The piece incorporates the words and voices of dozens of women inmates at the maximum-security York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT, who participated in a yearlong arts residency with Judy Dworin Performance Ensemble (JDPE) and the a capella gospel singers of Women of the Cross (WOTC). The residency included an intensive five-day session in June that culminated in two performances of Time In at the prison, with inmates performing alongside JDPE dancers and WOTC singers.

In a uniquely authentic and unusually provocative way, Time In focuses on the theme of time from the perspective of imprisoned women, including mothers, daughters, and wives. Many of the women who share their stories have battered histories of physical abuse, drugs, and street life. For these women, the experience of participating in the project is life altering.

“This has been a tremendous experience for me and has given me an opportunity to face some demons that had been buried for many years,” wrote one inmate. “I feel like an anvil has been removed from my chest. This program is a good start for many of us who want to heal and don’t know where to start.”

Time In is co-sponsored by the Vassar Green Haven Prison Program as well as the Africana Studies and Women Studies programs; the departments of sociology and geography, and the dean of faculty. This is one of several programs, which is scheduled during the spring semester in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Africana Studies Program.

All events are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

- On Saturday, April 4, New York State Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Fischer will keynote the 30th anniversary conference of the Green Haven Prison Program. Aula, Ely Hall, 10:00 am-5:00 pm

- On Saturday, April 18, activist and author Randall Robinson, will give the keynote address during the Africana Studies Program’s 40th anniversary conference. Johnson’s address will also be the 2009 Matthew Vassar Lecture. Taylor Hall Auditorium  (Room 102), 6 pm.

The Africana Studies Program, commemorating its 40th anniversary this year, is Vassar's longest-running multidisciplinary program. It provides students with a comparative perspective in their approach to the study of the histories, politics, cultures and experiences of peoples of African origin. The wide-reaching disciplines of its faculty enable the program to offer a uniquely comprehensive curriculum, covering the fields of art, education, film, geology, history, literature, political science, psychology, religion and sociology, as well as cross-cultural and areas studies.

The Vassar Green Haven Prison Program began 1979 as a weekly dialogue on current events between Vassar students and inmates at the maximum-security prison in Stormville, NY. The program, founded by Vassar Religion and Africana Studies Professor Lawrence Mamiya, has evolved into a broader educational experience for both students and inmates, confronting issues such as race, class, stereotypes, and economic opportunity. Many of the Vassar students have gone on to work with other prison education programs, and since 1999 an annual reunion has brought together Vassar alumnae/i and former Green Haven inmates for conversation.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, January 29, 2009