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Verbatim Performance Lab Supports Prison Arts Initiative Theatre Project

Man standing in prison

In June 2020 the NYU Steinhardt Verbatim Performance Lab (VPL) entered a collaboration with the University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative (DU PAI) at the invitation of Education Theatre alumna Ashley Hamilton (MA ’13; PhD ’17), co-founder and executive director of the organization. Two years later DU PAI premiered If Light Closed Its Eyes, a verbatim documentary play created by more than 60 incarcerated artists. VPL provided interview training, transcription support, dramaturgical support, and actor coaching. 

VPL’s Director Joe Salvatore and his team, including VPL’s Associate Director and Educational Theatre faculty member, Keith R. Huff, and Educational Theatre doctoral candidates Lauren Gorelov and Ryan Howland, traveled to Sterling this summer to see the play's first public performance. It was staged in the actual cell block where the DU PAI cast and production team live. According to Salvatore, “This collaboration has been one of the highlights of my career.”