Friday, October 26, 2007

Thousand Kites Blog

Some amazing things have been happening with this production of Thousand Kites, Donna Porterfield's and Appalshop's wonderful play about the effects of the prison system on inmates, guards, their families, and communities. I just sent out the following email to the university campus, and I'd like to extend to my readers as well the invitation to follow the rehearsal process through opening night.

On November 14th, the Drama Department will open the world premiere production of "Thousand Kites," a drama about the effects of prison on inmates, guards, their families, and the community (a "kite," in prison lingo, is a letter or message). The multi-disciplinary arts and education center Appalshop, who created the play to accompany their award-winning documentary "Up the Ridge" about the Wallens Ridge supermax prison just outside of their Whitesburg KY community in Big Stone Gap Va, have been filming rehearsals to make a documentary about our production, which will be used to help others who might produce the play. This has been a very exciting experience for those involved. Playwright Donna Porterfield and Nick Szuberla and Amelia Kirby (the co-producers of "Up the Ridge") will be here for Opening Night with an experienced film crew to record the show and the discussion that is part of it. In addition, Reuters journalist Alan Elsner, author of the book "Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in America's Prisons," which was the basis for two reading circles sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning, will also be on campus November 14th and 15th and will attend opening night. So "Thousand Kites" is starting to become An Event!
As part of the rehearsal process, the students and I will be maintaining an on-going journal about the rehearsals, the issues, and what we are learning and feeling. There are several posts already. You can see what we are up to at In addition, we have been collecting information that is pertinent to the play, as well as posted several short videos about the project, at, where you can find out information about the issues by clicking on "Resources." There is also a link to the journal there.

We hope that you will find all this interesting, and that you'll follow us during the two-and-a-half weeks leading up to our opening performance. Tickets are already available electronically on our website at and clicking on "TheatreUNCA" or "Box Office."

Last night, the Appalshop film crew wanted to film about 15 minutes of the students sitting in a circle discussing what they have learned during the first two weeks of rehearsal. An hour later, they were still filming, because the students were totally engaged in an insightful, articulate, and open-minded conversation about all aspects of the criminal justice system. In the course of the discussion, references were made to many other classes students were taking where they had learned things that had helped them to form their own ideas and opinions. It was the most extraordinary hour of rehearsals I have ever experienced, and it made me proud in our UNCA community.

Anyway, I hope you'll take a peek at our websites, and that we'll see you at the performances. I'll be sending out other announcements when the box office fully opens a week before opening.

1 comment:

Praxis Theatre said...

This sounds like a wonderful project to be involved in. I'll look forward to following its progress at the Thousand Kites blog.