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Arts

Cut & Paste podcast: Art behind bars can change lives - and break hearts

Ballet class at St. Louis' Juvenile Detention Center, Daniel Blount aka Orange Crush and guard tower at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific
Nancy Fowler and Willis Ryder Arnold / St. Louis Public Radio
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Ballet class at St. Louis' Juvenile Detention Center, Daniel Blount aka Orange Crush and guard tower at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific

For 22 years, a St. Louis organization has helped prisoners and youthful detainees project words like "thee" and "thou" and practice pliés and arabesques.

Prison Performing Arts instructors work with inmates on projects like performing Shakespeare, perfecting ballet routines and creating hip-hop poetry. It's an effort whose success is told more by anecdotes than analysis.

As we explore in this Cut & Paste podcast, it can be life-changing for instructors and participants, but there's also the potential for heartbreak.

Here's some of what you'll hear in the podcast:

  • PPA interim director Chris Limber on a struggling incarcerated actor: "And then one magic day he got onstage; all of his lines were there." Tweet #cutpastestl
  • Detention Center tutor Elizabeth Herring, on a 17-year-old opera singer who was charged with murder: "He had the most beautiful tenor voice. I still get chills." Tweet #cutpastestl

A Prison Performing Arts veteran talks about his experience with 2012's "Staging Reflections of the Buddha," in which participants presented their unique analysis of a Pulitzer Arts Foundation exhibit.

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Look for new Cut & Paste (#cutpastestl) podcasts every few weeks on our website. You can also view all previous podcasts, which focus on a diverse collection of visual and performing artists, and subscribe to Cut & Paste through this link.

Follow Willis and Nancy on Twitter: @WillisRArnold and @NancyFowlerSTL

Please help St. Louis Public Radio find artists to feature on Cut & Paste. Tell us which artists and cultural themes deserve a closer look.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.