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  • Bringing Theater and Joy to NYC’s Incarcerated Youth

    As a professional performer, Josie Whittlesey always wanted to do more and in 2013 created Drama Club, using her master’s in acting to bring theater games and training to incarcerated youth in NYC.
    What is Drama Club?There are two secure detention facilities in New York City—one in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and one in the South Bronx—and these are where the kids are detained after they’ve been arrested and before they’re placed. We go into these [pretrial] facilities and do eight-week units year-round. We do several productions per facility per year where the parents can come watch. We bring in a scene, have the kids read it, we discuss it, we do some text analysis, we break it down, and then we do improv around the characters in the scene. We [also] do a lot of games and a lot of improv.
    Why does Drama Club have such a positive effect?It’s pure play…or it should be, and these kids are still young enough developmentally that they need play in their lives. It allows them to be kids and to have fun in an environment where that isn’t always possible. [Also], I really believe that theater develops empathy in people, and there’s a direct correlation between empathy and crime. So a

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