The Drama Club at the Louisiana Correctional Institute
for Women was founded in 1996 by Kathy Randels with
funding from the National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) Regional
Artists Project (RAP) grant. Now almost two decades old, the
Drama Club has been an important resource for creative expression
and self-examination for hundreds ofinmates, and has performed for inmate audiences totaling in the thousands. In 2000, ArtSpot Productions invited Kumbuka
African Drum and Dance Collective to introduce African dance
and culture to the Drama Club, and Kumbuka director Ausettua AmorAmenkum has continued to co-direct the Drama Club ever since. The program has proved to be a vital
spiritual asset for the inmate population at LCIW.
LCIW Drama Club performances,
- 1996 The Portia Show, modeled after
the Oprah show, is a talk show that explores race relations through
a fictional family which Portia, the hostess, is interviewing.
The mother, a maid for a wealthy white Louisiana banker, appears
on the show with her four daughters. The eldest daughter is an
"oreo"-a person who is black on the outside but acts
white on the inside; the next daughter is a militant black nationalist
and a former Black Panther; the third daughter, played by a white
actress, was an illegitimate child by
the maid and the banker; and the youngest daughter is a rapper
who is getting a business degree at the local university. The
banker's wife and legitimate daughter also appear on the show.
The piece explores several elements of African-American culture
and race relations in a light-hearted manner.
- 1997 For St. Gabriel's Nativity, the
Drama Club restaged the story of Christ's birth in modern day
Louisiana. Mary is an inmate at LCIW who is visited by the angel
Gabriel and conceives the Messiah immaculately while on lockdown.
Throughout the performance, the inmate cast members tell their
own personal birth stories.
- 1998 In An Evening
of Poetry, the drama club members read their own poems and
staged chorally For Strong Women by Adrienne Rich and
Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou.
- 2001 Gifts of our
Ancestors This was the first piece in which Kumbuka African
Dance and Drum Collective collaborated with ArtSpot Productions
and the Drama Club. In this piece, the women told stories
about their ancestors and performed three traditional African
- 2002 The Healer Kumbuka and ArtSpot
collaborating with the Drama Club again on a project that explores
traditional African concepts of healing through art, conversation,
Adinkra symbols, song, dance and community.
Most recently, the Drama Club has inspired the formation of a new program — comprised of formerly incarcerated members of the Drama Club — called The Graduates.