Our work. Our mission. Our voices.

For Colored Girls

The past two weeks we’ve been working with Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf and the powerful writing combined with our class’ incredible performance skills have made this a really inspiring time at the jail.  I brought in several different monologues from the play but the one that really resonated with most of the women is called “somebody almost walked off wid all my stuff”. now give me my stuff/ i see ya hidin my laugh/ & how i sit wif my legs open sometimes/ to give my crotch some sunlight/ & there goes my love my toes my chewed up finger nails/ niggah/ wif the curls in yr hair/ mr. louisiana hot link/ i want my stuff back/ my rhytums & my voice/ open my mouth/ & let me talk ya outta/ throwin my shit in the sewar/ this is some … Continue reading


The Not So Great Divide

Conspire alum Lauren Johnson continues her series on incarceration, recovery and life in general.  I have recently been getting into some intense and tiring conversations with a friend of mine. This is a guy who I use to buy drugs from, and I also used to babysit his two year old daughter. He was arrested in Williamson County for possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to LIFE! A life sentence these days translates into 40 years. I know someone else that served 10 years on a murder charge – go figure! Part of the reason for such a large sentence is that they used a criminal history from 20 years prior to enhance the charge. I have been writing him for the last 9 years. In the beginning of his sentence he accepted Jesus into his life and you could see it in every letter. I enjoyed getting his letters … Continue reading


Lauren Johnson, Conspire alum, continues her series on addiction, incarceration and life in general. I think it is interesting to see parallels popping up in my life. I have recently noticed that I am building myself back into the person I was meant to be, one action at a time. I think that is also how I destroyed myself. I realize that at some point the lines that were drawn in the sand slowly faded with no trace of where they once were. Boundaries moved further and further back until they were all but gone. I know this happens to others as well. It can apply specifically to the drug use, but it tends to spill into all areas of life. Trying to control usage is actually like a step into the addiction. It is somewhat clear that the potential for a problem exists and so heading it off seems … Continue reading

Conspire Theatre: working with conviction

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the puns that writers think up when describing Conspire and our work?  Every time I think, “Surely, there are no more puns!” another one appears.  Thanks to the Austin Chronicle and Katherine Catmull for a really thorough, well-written article about us.  Kathy actually came to one of our classes, which gave her a much greater understanding of our work and in her own words, turned into a Conspire convert.  Excerpt below and  click here to read the full article.  So what are the classes about then? “I’m just big on playing games and joyfulness and laughter.” Uh, play, joyfulness, and laughter? What’s the point of that? A few hours of silly theatre games over the course of a few weeks – what good could that possibly do a woman in prison? That’s what I was thinking, anyway, until I visited that class. … Continue reading


Our class in maximum security is really coming together and feeling like a group, instead of a bunch of women shoved in a room together.  Under the advice of my therapist, who specializes in somatic therapy and recovery from trauma, I’ve been “grounding” the women at the beginning and end of each class.  I’m not an expert on this by any means, but grounding is something that has helped me immensely in processing and effectively handling my own emotions without freaking out or having a meltdown.  I used to have a very short fuse and could go from normal to rageful, panicked or extremely depressed in a few seconds.  I see this same kind of behavior from some of the women in my class – a careless word or action can escalate really fast into an intense conflict or into deep anger or sadness.  While it’s also helpful to figure … Continue reading

Ms. Disengaged

At our last community workshop (October 19th), we led a workshop based on one that Fiona MacBeth from the University of Exeter led with us, which was in turn based on exercises from the book From Violence to Resilience, which collects techniques used by Leap Confronting Conflict, which specializes in youth and conflict.  See what a twisty road our exercises take to find us?  This is one of the many aspects about Applied Drama that I love – we beg and borrow from other practitioners in order to make our own practice as effective and great as possible.  We all share our best games and activities in order to make the entire field stronger. Anyway, Michelle and I decided to lead the “Acts” portion of the workshop.  According to the book, an “Act” is a front, attitude or mask that you put on when you don’t want someone else to … Continue reading

Gotta find the groove.

Everything ebbs and flows, and I’m in an ebb place with one of our classes right now. I can’t seem to get into the groove with our PRIDE class. The group is small, low-energy and while there are wonderful women in there, I think I’m missing several key players we had in class over the summer. No obvious leaders have emerged in the current group so I feel like I need to exert more energy to keep the class going. Like we don’t quite have a gelled community yet, but a group of random women kind of bumping against each other. So let’s go back to community, I guess – let’s get back to teambuilding and group bonding and looking at how we all fit together. Less sitting is important – I know that. We’ve been doing more writing in that class, which means more sitting and sharing which means … Continue reading

The beginning of the end.

Conspire alum and newest board member Lauren Johnson continues her guest post series about incarceration, addiction and life in general. The first time that I recognized that drugs were becoming a problem for me, I was in my teens. The drug at the time was cocaine and I was spending a lot of money on it. I was a trustworthy user, and it wasn’t something I compromised my integrity over for a long time. I didn’t steal, lie or hustle for the drugs I did. I worked hard and paid for them. Sometimes I would get “fronts” which is essentially credit from the dealer. When I noticed what a recurring cycle it was becoming, I would make attempts to stop for a while and then get pulled back into it within a period of time because I was doing the club scene, where it was prominent. My will power only … Continue reading

Inner View and Workshop Reminder

You can listen to Executive Director Katherine Craft and Conspire alumn and newest board member Lauren Johnson being interviewed online!  Click here to go to the direct audio file and here to check out the blog post and file.  Thanks to Abigail Mahnke for being a great host and asking some interesting questions.  I always feel like I’m stumbling around on these things, so I was grateful for her pointed questions and clarifications. And of course, our Inside Out Community Workshop is still happening tomorrow morning from 10am – noon, complete with free childcare and breakfast.  I just called in our order to Einstein’s, so there will be bagels and coffee to wake you up.  Michelle and I will be leading a workshop based on British practitioner Fiona MacBeth’s excellent “Acts” curriculum, in which we’ll explore the fronts and facades that people put up in their daily lives.  I’ve been … Continue reading