Awardee: Cornell Alston

Performing Arts, 2016

Cornell Alston is a long-time member of Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), a non-profit organization that uses the arts as a springboard to teach life skills to men and women both inside and outside of state correctional facilities. Alston is the community outreach coordinator for RTA. He also leads the Youth Empowerment Through the Arts Initiative, which RTA launched in Queens, NY in January 2014. Alston has been a theater artist for over 20 years. He worked as a performer and collaborator with Kaneza Schaal on Please, Bury Me at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and Go/Forth during a Performance Space 122 RAMP residency. Other highlights of his performing career include: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 12 Angry Men and playing the title role in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Project: JACK &

JACK& is a multimedia comedy of errors. Using the writings of Psychiatrist R.D. Laing, JACK& is a duet for two actors ensnared in dialogue exchanges that become mental tongue twisters, and draws on infamous comedy duos with artists such as Buster Keaton, Elaine May, and Flip Wilson. A performance of social codes, the production is structured around social trainings from prison re-entry programs to debutante balls. From truth & reconciliation commissions, to the USA prison crisis, to questions of immigration and migration, the twenty first century has demanded and provided new models for how to train and un-train humans to successfully co-exist. JACK& entertains the impasses, whirlpools, and complexities of this training.

Schaal and Alston’s mutual commitment to experimentation in theater brought them to their second long-term collaboration. Previous research considered the performance demands of being in prison, how these languages are stored in the body, and their effect on re-entry to society. JACK& will be developed through workshops with people who used the arts while in prison.