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Mirror Stage presents ‘Expand Upon: Incarceration’

A captivating and educational experience

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Mirror stage

 Mirror Stage had its first of two performances in the “Expand Upon: Incarceration” series at the UW's Ethnic Cultural Theatre on Saturday evening. “Expand Upon” is a series of staged readings, in which two local playwrights create a short play from a topic selected by the community.

To immediately present the evidence of mass incarceration, Mirror Stage set up the lobby of the theatre so that audience members are greeted with three different posters that give you insight into mass incarceration.

The posters detailed how poverty is a major player in mass incarceration and how it affects your likelihood of being placed behind bars. They also displayed the statistics for mass incarceration in the United States as a whole and the state of Washington.

To continue this theme of informing the audience and sparking a conversation, before the show started they had a lecture and Q&A given by Dr. Dan Berger from UW Bothell, where he discussed the history of mass incarceration.

An interesting point that Berger made was that the idea of the prison pipeline is not true. The  prison pipeline, also known as the school-to-prison pipeline, is the idea that students from disadvantaged communities or ethnic minorities are at a greater risk of ending up in prison after they leave school. Berger argued that the myth that this process begins after these people leave school is false. Rather, the path begins in school.

Berger discussed how often schools resemble prisons. Children feel trapped and overly controlled, a design flaw allowing that environment to become normalized.

This informative discussion allowed the audience to go into the performance with a grasp on the system. The play then used the information the audience learned to create a more real and honest platform. They allowed the audience to see the human and emotional side of the numbers and statistics.

Mirror Stage offered many ways to come out of their show more educated and understanding of a major issue in our country.

Rather than creating a performance that is focused on the costumes or stage design, Mirror Stage works to create a show that is focused on the words that are being spoken.

The absence of costumes allows each character to be anyone. This encourages the audience to imagine that any kind of person can be put into very heartbreaking situations.

Having their voices be the central focus of the show was a very powerful message that allowed everything to be stripped away. I began to focus on very specific words and phrases that characters were saying. It allowed me to hear how the idea that locking up people of color is the solution has been ingrained in so many people.

Mirror Stage performed two plays that were followed by a discussion with the audience about incarceration and how the audience felt about the plays.

The plays were written by local writers Alma Davenport, creator of “The Assailant,” and Stacy D. Flood, creator of “The Swimming Pool.”

While the two plays contrasted each other they still allowed us to see the corruption in our prison systems.

Mirror Stage has two more performances. The first is Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. and the second Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available on their website. They will be doing another installment of the “Expand Upon” series with a focus on immigration in the spring.

Reach writer Chamidae Ford at Twitter: @chamidae_ford

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