MAKING A (RE)ENTRANCE was supported by the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago. Over the course of twenty weeks, Stebbins and Barak developed two performance pieces in collaboration with residents of the Crossroads Adult Transition Center, an all-male work release center located in West Chicago. The performances questioned the performativity of re-entry practices as well as the goal of “personal change” as a legitimate demand for prisoner rehabilitation.
Part I: frameworks” took spectators on an hour-long series of staged “encounters” with the Crossroads-residents that conflated fictional material with personal confession. These lighthearted, albeit sardonic, meetings begged the question: in what ways are the demands of criminal rehabilitation any different from what we demand of our most venerated actors?
Part II: storytime” staged a deeply ironic “contest” for the most moving personal story. The Crossroads-residents performed their personal stories before a jury, who rated them according to dramatic effect, believability, and whether or not the story had a happy ending. When an African-American resident fails to deliver his story with enough “emotion,” a white student takes over and performs his story in his place, receiving a standing ovation. In the end, everyone is happy to have shared their feelings, and the students walk into the audience, waving goodbye to their newfound resident friends, who freeze into tableau on stage.