The odag story

The Story of Oberlin Drama at Grafton

Mask4Oberlin Drama at Grafton (ODAG) offers a year-round program for residents of the Grafton Reintegration Center to perform classic drama with a focus on Shakespeare's works.  The program aims to promote leadership, artistry, and responsibility for the actors as well as foster self-examination, self-esteem, and confidence through collaboration in the study, rehearsal, peer coaching, and performance of great plays.  As Grafton men bring to life characters grappling with profound social problems using brilliant language in complex ethical situations, they gain deep insights into society, themselves, and other individuals.

Final performances provide exhilaration, edification, and pride for performers (and others providing costumes and media support), and for prison audiences, staff, family, and friends.  These collaborative theatrical performances allow audiences to celebrate the men's outstanding achievements—not only in acting, but also in the leadership, discipline, commitment, creativity, and responsibility that the shows enable and require.  The men's collaboration in a circle of trust and their dedicated work lead to a community of support and enlarged freedom of expression.

Mask5The program began on a probationary basis as a Pilot Project in the medium security section of Grafton Correctional Institution (GCI). The initial project, from January to May, 2012, was directed by retired Oberlin Professor Phyllis Gorfain, aided by four Oberlin College students. The first six-week session culminated in twelve men performing scene segments from Shakespeare's Macbeth for a select group of GCI residents and administrators. For the second session eight more men performed three scene segments from Othello.

Following the success of the Pilot Project, Oberlin Drama at Grafton received permission from Warden Bennie Kelly in late November of 2012 to undertake a Shakespeare-centered program in the minimum-security section, the Grafton Reintegration Center (GRC). Led by Phyllis Gorfain and a number of Oberlin students, ODAG has presented ten public programs. For detailed information, see Performances.

MAsk1Under the sponsorship of ODAG, other performers and invited guests have contributed richly to ODAG's mission. Visiting theater groups have performed for the residents of GRC.  Professional theatre practitioners, literature professors, and a poet have given generous master classes and lectures.  Most importantly, ODAG has been the beneficiary of expert and talented direction from dedicated and passionate Oberlin College students, most of them theater majors, and all with a profound belief in the power of theatrical performance as a means for personal and social change.

In return, ODAG offers educational and theatrical opportunities for Oberlin students to direct and learn with Grafton residents. The program also fosters more general connections between faculty, staff, and students of Oberlin College and residents and staff of the Grafton Correctional Institution. We work together to create a more just society and strengthen the many ways ODAG alumni will contribute meaningfully to their chosen communities on their successful return home.