Ensemble Member Akeel Adil was the first of 5 sons born to a pilot and a housewife. He was an excellent student throughout his educational career. However, it was in high school that he fell into the wrong crowd and met the wrong people. Those so called friends would eventually lead to his incarceration in 2012. Akeel spent his 4.5 years of incarceration learning, growing, and participating in various different programs. He worked as a porter scrubbing bathrooms and toilets until he enrolled in the optics program. He also was accepted and enrolled in the NYU Prison Education Program. It is through these programs that he met Ashley Hamilton. Upon his release from prison, he got in contact with Ashley Hamilton and was immediately interested in telling his story. Since being released he has enrolled in college earn the remaining the credits necessary to obtain his Bachelor’s degree, has gotten a job as an optician, and administrative assistant to the NYU PEP program, and is telling his story via words in a writing workshop. With the strong support of his peers, family, and fiancée, he hopes to work towards bigger and brighter future.
Ensemble Member Juan Carlos 'Johnny' Hincapie's story is one of perseverance, adaptability, and relentless optimism. He was wrongfully convicted in 1990. After evidence surfaced that was ignored in his original trial, Johnny's conviction was thrown out on October 6, 2015. As a result of 25 years in prison, he says, "I have demonstrated: Ability to forgive and move on. I forgive those who took my civilian life. A relentless optimist, I focus on how to adapt and make myself and others around me better. Unmatched persistence. I made the most that was offered under extreme circumstances, including earning a BA/MA and participating in theatre arts Despite being in an institution that takes away one's humanity, I never let it change me. There are many skills I've learned that helped me survive in harsh conditions."
Ensemble Member Robert Mason Lindsay has wanted to be a professional musician since he was a little boy. The fifth boy from a family of eleven, things were difficult for him being the smallest boy in the household. At a young age, Robert took to hanging in the streets which, of course, got him into all kinds of trouble. As a teenager Robert was sent to prison for a crime he didn't do, but no one would believe a child with such a troubled past. During the worst of times, Robert says music kept him from going insane. After thirty-nine years in prison, Robert is free and doing everything he can to put his life back on track, Robert is ready to start a new chapter in his story. This will be the first time Robert plays his music "in the real world".
Ensemble Member Robert Pollock is an advocate of the arts as an agent for personal change and interpersonal dialogue. He was recently released after being incarcerated for eight and a half years. During his incarceration he found freedom in collaboration on musical projects through Carnegie Hall's Musical Connections program, theatre workshops and productions with Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), and through leading innovative programming for underserved patients of Office of Mental Health in DOCCS custody. Robert enjoys playing guitar, writing songs, and creating visual art, such as for the children's book for kids with incarcerated parents Sing, Sing, Midnight. He continues to find joy in pushing the boundaries of self-exploration through the arts and learning on his feet.
Ensemble Member Juan 'Broadway' Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico to an immigrant mother from the Dominican Republic and a Korean War veteran father. He came to New York City at age four and grew up in the rough streets of Harlem and Washington Heights in the 80s and 90s when drugs bombarded his neighborhood. He believes that he was born to work in the performing arts. His work in theatre has helped develop his communication skills and performing makes his self-esteem sky-rocket. While in elementary school he took drama classes where he acted and narrated several plays. He obtained a medal for the second highest reading level in his school. He was first incarcerated for possession of large-scale quantity of a controlled substance. While incarcerated, he obtained his GED and learned public speaking in a class taught by a former Black Panther. He wrote his first screenplay, The Wild Cowboys, which was inspired by a true story. While at Fishkill Correctional Facility in 2008, he became a part of Rehabilitation Through the Arts and played a major role in their production of Jitney by August Wilson. That same year, RTA sent him to a theatre and ritual class at John Jay College of Criminal Justice where he collaborated in play production. He wrote his first music video in 2010. He is currently in the process of adapting the novel Dark Corner into a screenplay. He is looking forward to working with rapper Tru Life, actor Ving Rhames and director Jesse Terrero and other artists on various projects.
Ensemble Member Sebastian 'Benny' Ventimiglia parents, Steve and Josephine, immigrated from Sicily, Italy to American in the early 1950s. He was their first child, born and raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn. He writes, "After several years of rough incarceration, something snapped in me. I reflected on my horrible crimes, a lost life. I had a mental breakdown, ended up in a psychiatric ward for several days. In short, it was a spiritual awakening. I wanted to change. I was on a mission to PROVE change is possible. I heard about the “Scared Straight” program in NJ. So with the help of a few other inmates, I pioneered the Youth Assistance Program (YAP), but our objective was not to scare the kids; rather to “share our experiences about the streets, crime, educate the youth, help them to avoid following in our negative footsteps.” YAP became a very successful program, and is still active in the system at most DOCS facilities. Over the years, I earned my GED., AA, BA, Masters, and Ph.D. I also took advantage of all other positive programs offered by DOCS. I was published in numerous national fitness and martial arts magazine, and had a book published, “The Rape Defense Book for Women.” When I got to Fishkill in 2005, I heard about the RTA program and immediately signed up. RTA was like the cherry on my vanilla milkshake. After participating in a few plays, mere words are too poor and scant to eloquently describe the theater experience, the affinity, camaraderie, and fellowship I felt with my brothers and all the RTA volunteers. Theater allowed me to interact with others, taught me how to express myself from the core and experience unity I never knew existed and, most of all, contributed to my rehabilitation. In time, I volunteered to update/rewrite the “The RTA Manual,” and became part of the “Screening Team.” I also participated in the RTA program at Woodbourne. In closing, there’s no doubt or question that the (Re)emergent theatre is not only a great idea, but will also show the world that ex-convicts can make a valuable contribution to the community at large."
Stage Manager Izzy Batts is a theatre artist and educator. She is currently pursuing a MA in Educational Theatre at New York University. She received a BA in Drama and Hispanic Studies from Vassar College. She has worked with young people in Ecuador, Finland and the United States to create dialogue and build community through the arts. As a playwright, director, costume designer, actor and dramaturg, Izzy enjoys making theatre with people of all ages.
Managing Director Ashley Hamilton lives in New York City and works as an adjunct professor in Speech, Theatre, and Educational/Applied Theatre at New York University (NYU) and City University of New York (CUNY). Ashley is also an adjunct professor for NYU's prison educational program and NYACKS prison educational program, where she teaches college accredited courses inside maximum and medium-security prisons. Additionally, Ashley also works as a teaching artist with organizations such as Girls Leadership, Global Empowerment Theatre (GET), Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) and Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LEAP), creating theatre and dialogue in the NYC public and private school systems, maximum and medium security prisons, community spaces and juvenile jails. Ashley is a PhD Candidate in Applied/Educational Theatre at New York University and received her BFA in Acting from the University of Colorado at Boulder and her Master’s Degree in Educational Theatre, Theatre for Communities from New York University. Ashley is also in the process of becoming a registered drama therapist (RDT). Ashley’s PhD research focuses on the complexities of creating theatre in women's maximum security prisons and how this form of theatre can be used as a resource for lasting rehabilitation. Ashley also works as the program assistant for the Educational Theatre program at NYU.
Artistic Director Clare Hammoor is a theatre practitioner who collaborates with communities in public spaces, private schools, and prisons. Clare is currently the Drama Specialist at Blue School where he facilitates multi-modal inquiry through the mind and body in process and performance. Clare facilitates college courses in the prison system with Rising Hope and Nyack College as well as lifeskills through theatre courses with Rehabilitation Through the Arts. He recently taught a course in Applied Ethics through performance exploration at Fishkill Correctional Facility. He has a robust ritual practice through Rev Clare's Pop-up Praise Her Holy Name Church Spectacular. MA New York University. EdD candidate NYU.
Photographer/Video Producer Tammy Tae Kremer is an artist, educator, and activist currently working as a photographer/videographer, impact film producer and multimedia communications production coordinator. Her MA is from NYU Gallatin in Arts and Peacebuilding, and BA is from the University of California, Berkeley in Gender and Dance.
Story Facilitator Caits Meisnner is a New York City-based poet, poly-creative artist and cultural worker. She is the author of Let It Die Hungry (2016, The Operating System) and The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (2012, Well&Often), co-written with poet Tishon Woolcock. With a significant history in community arts, Caits was an integral team member in developing programs for organizations such as Tribeca Film Institute, Urban Arts Partnership, The Facing History School and The Lower Eastside Girls Club. She has also taught extensively across a wide spectrum of organizations and community spaces including jails, prisons, juvenile detention centers, public schools, youth programs and needle exchanges. In 2012 Caits launched the #GrowFierce community, an intensive writing course supporting women in exploring artistic expression and profound self-examination. Caits currently serves as Writer-in-Residence at Bronx Academy of Letters, where she's piloting a creative writing exchange between free and incarcerated youth in partnership with Voices Unbroken, and serves as part-time faculty at The New School University and CUNY. She is completing an MFA in Creative Writing from City College of New York.