about acting up

Read the report.

Read the report.

In 2017 Nevada County Arts Council rolled out a pilot series of workshops called Acting Up at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility, our County Jail. Over the course of three months, we commissioned experienced actor, director and playwright, John Deaderick, to teach theatre and acting to close to twenty inmates, varying in age from early twenties to early seventies, and serving time for a variety of offenses. The series was the result of an unusual partnership with California Lawyers for the Arts.

“The goal of this multi-year study is to measure the behavioral and attitudinal changes experienced by residents in county jails throughout California and the impact on their lives through self-reported surveys administered at the end of sequential art classes.”

Alma Robinson, Executive Director, California Lawyers for the Arts

Now we are back, serving inmates at our County Jail, this time working with both men and women!

what participants say

When asked about the changes inmate participants now planned to make in their lives, here was some feedback jail staff and Nevada County Arts Council received:

“My interactions have become deeper. I feel I understand each person more… I feel happier, and have become more outgoing and cheerful...”

“The space helped me to explore myself better. I feel I’m more relaxed and friendly and therefore able to make better decisions…”

My own experience has been profound… and I’ve been humbled working with these men. They tell me they are far less judgmental of one another, and life’s lot, having participated in Acting Up – and that it’s changed the way they think about their future. I feel that I, too, have become far less judgmental and more compassionate.
— John Deaderick, Lead Coach and Artist in Residence

It’s rare to find funding for county jails – so we are very grateful that California Lawyers for the Arts chose to partner with us. John Deaderick is a natural choice as teacher. He’s been in over 200 plays, films and commercials, has chaired the Drama Department at Colfax High School for many years and now teaches Acting and Theatre History at Sierra College in Rocklin and at Sierra College’s Grass Valley Campus.
— Eliza Tudor, Executive Director, Nevada County Arts Council
We are really pleased with our collaboration with Nevada County Arts Council. Anytime we can provide evidence based programs to our incarcerated population, it has the potential to assist and help prevent them falling into the same cycle of committing crimes when they are released. The inmates enjoy the Arts-in-Corrections classes, as seen by their participation and completion of the program – and there are obvious signs of increased respect for one another and our staff.
— Capt. Shannan Moon

how did acting up begin?

Acting Up follows a report produced in late 2016 by California Lawyers for the Arts, in collaboration with Dr. Larry Brewster of the University of San Francisco, the William James Association, Fresno Arts Council, Community Works West and Jail Guitar Doors. The report, Arts in Corrections: County Jails Project, was released “just as the US Supreme Court was requiring the state to reduce severe overcrowding in the state’s prisons. In addition to having the nation’s largest state prison population, California also claimed one of the highest recidivism rates in the country at nearly 70%.” You can view the full, most recent, report above.

why arts in corrections?

Broad, evidence-based research shows inmates engaged in arts programs are less likely to be involved in disciplinary incidents and to re-offend after release. Jeff Pettit, Nevada County Sheriff Captain, and Robert Bringolf, Executive Lieutenant in Corrections at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility speak highly of the program.

Prison Theatre web quality_13.jpg

I was surprised at how this class brought everyone together and how at ease the participants were with each other. Correctional facilities are not typically known as a place to let your guard down. After speaking with the participants of the class, I was amazed at how much it benefitted their wellbeing. Many reported reduced anxiety and felt better equipped to deal with the stresses of incarceration. With the changes in recent laws, we are seeing longer jail sentences in facilities that were never designed for long term housing. Classes like this help break up the monotony of the day to day and reduce the stress and anxiety felt by the inmates. This, in turn, can lead to a reduction in assaults and violence within the facility.
— Capt. Jeff Pettit

what's next?

In 2018 we also started working with disadvantaged youth caught up in the juvenile justice system at Charis Youth Center, as well as offering female inmates at our County Jail the opportunity to participate in Acting Up. With fantastic staff at each of these institutions, we are enjoying these new partnerships. Watch this space!