US Prison Inmates Find ‘Humanity’ through Acting – Voice of America


In a Spartan gymnasium in a Rikers Island jail in New York, seven female inmates are warming up for a performance that combines dance and poetry. Ranging in age from their teens to their 40s and wearing prison garb, they display some nervous jitters.

But they have studied with the best. Professionals from one of the most renowned acting studios in America, the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, have trained the performers, working four hours a week for 24 weeks. During that time, the inmates developed the piece they are going to perform, called “The Compassion Project.”

How renowned is the Stella Adler Studio? Since it was established in 1949, it has trained such stars as Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert De Niro, Salma Hayek and Mark Ruffalo.

Deanna, a Rikers Island inmate and member of The Compassion Project, acts alongside Joanne Edelmann, movement techniques…



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