Rikers Island

Stella Adler Studio of Acting at Rikers Island

“You’ve helped me regain my voice.”

In 2014, the Stella Adler Outreach Division launched an innovative new program at Rikers Island Correctional Facility. Led by Director of Outreach Tommy Demenkoff, free acting classes are offered all year long to men at George R. Vierno Center and to women in the Rose M. Singer Center.

This ongoing series of theater projects is designed to connect participants with the fullness of their humanity through craft. To this end inmates have the opportunity to train as a working ensemble of actors and writers and learn and practice voice & speech, movement and acting technique. Participants identify a theme to explore and then as individuals and as a group write original material to be shared in a public performance at the culmination of each workshop. The sessions are led by world-class faculty members and a team of Adler Ambassadors, members of the conservatory and/or alumni who simply take class as an additional actor right alongside the outreach students, becoming mentors and guides as well as fellow actors. For each program, two faculty members instruct four hours per week for twenty-four weeks. Three hundred inmates have been served to date.

Participants speak eloquently about the program and its affect:

This acting class means more to me than words can say. This whole legal process has left me feeling disenfranchised and mute, but the rehearsal process allows me to move and express myself to be free and recapture my voice. For all of it, the laughter, joy, camaraderie and confidence, I am, and always will be, grateful. – Karen

This project to me means I could be me. I could be someone else. I could be free to express my Duende. – Christina

For me, this meant getting in touch spiritually with yourself. I will take it with me! – Angela

This project has created new self-esteem, a new outlook on life and a sense of self-worth. Thank you for all the support on such an important project as this one. – Yolanda

This project to me means the world. A chance at a better future. And also, wonderful instructors, that turn our daily struggles into a place of beautiful imagination. – Anna

I want to say that I appreciate this project a lot, and to me it represents the situation we are in now and how we will be free soon. We struggle to get through but when we get out we will feel free. – Nucqueena

This acting group is very fun for me. I really look forward to coming here. When I’m here all the stress goes away and I feel like I have a ‘lil freedom. I know all the girls in this group really like it. Thank you for coming here and showing us love. – Gigi

To me, this program means FREEDOM, in a world filled with oppression. – Kelly

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