Community Engaged Theatre

PhD alumna Ashley Lauren Hamilton received a multi-million dollar grant to support the DU Prison Arts Initiative at Denver University in 2019. This fall, her important work was featured in The New York Times. A brief excerpt from the article follows.

Ashley Hamilton, center, who directed the prodcution, led a mindfulness exercise before the performance. Credit - Trent Davis Bailey for The New York Times
Ashley Hamilton, center, who directed the production, led a mindfulness exercise before the performance. Credit: Trent Davis Bailey for The New York Times

STERLING, Colo. — The cast was strip-searched before boarding the bus to their show. The leading man was shackled so tightly that he performed with abrasions on his wrists. And the moment the men finished their bows and the house lights came up, they had to slip out of costume and back into green prison uniforms.

So goes life on the road for a production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” put on by 30 medium-security inmates of the Sterling Correctional Facility, out on Colorado’s remote eastern plains. While prison plays have been around for decades, the challenge of this show was audaciously new: It went on tour.

Continue Reading at NYTimes.com

Ashley Lauren Hamilton is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Denver and the Founder and Co-Director of the DU Prison Arts Initiative (DU PAI). Ashley’s work is vast, ranging from teaching full time, creating theatre and performance in medium and maximum security prisons and directing and devising university and professional work in Colorado and New York. Ashley’s research focuses on the complexities of teaching and creating theatre in prisons and how this practice can be used as a resource for authentic dialogue, affectual experience, transformation and lasting rehabilitation, leading her to launch DU PAI in late 2017. Ashley has a PhD in Applied/Educational Theatre from New York University where she focused on applied theatre, theatre for social change and devising theatre. Ashley also has an MA from New York University in Applied/Educational Theatre, Theatre for Communities and a BFA in Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ashley is also in the process of becoming a registered drama therapist (RDT).