New Endings Prison Project

CMake up a new ending to your story


This project aims to run a 6 week course in improvisation theatre and role-play for juvenile prisoners in jails across South Africa. It aims to work in collaboration with and support of existing rehabilitation programmes already in place. These programmes have proven their success and have already gained the support and confidence of prison authorities.

The choice for improvisation theatre and role-play is based on the power of these techniques to bring about a change of appraisal and often an adaptation of behaviour in the participant. The reason fir this is its experiential nature, whole person involvement (cognitive, affective and physical); its generation of creative alternatives for ways of believing and ways of doing; and its built in opportunity for the rehearsal of new modes of being.

The project aims also to produce a 15 to 25 minute TO Forum theater piece that can be performed to young people in schools. The play will provide a springboard for a workshop discussion on crime and its consequences (both personal and social). At the same time it will provide an opportunity for the prisoners themselves to give back to society in an act of restitution.


  • An experiential (although limited) understanding of some of the concepts of restorative justice: responsibility, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, reconciliation.
  •  An awareness of personal values and how they work together to motivate behaviour.
  • Increased self-esteem and a feeling of being valued and valuable.
  • The ability to generate more creative solutions for solving problems other than crime.
  •  An extended repertoire of roles to choose from in different situations other than ‘the victim’, the perpetrator’, ‘the skollie’ etc.

The creation of a 15 to 25 production that can be performed to young kids at risk as a means to give back to society (restitution).

Why role-play and Improvisation?

The principles of improvisation theatre form the back bone for this project. In improvisation the actors need to listen to one another, build on each other’s ideas and be creative in their thinking to produce innovative stories. The characters that are developed in improvisation theatre are especially important for this project. Such a character is developed on the basis of a simple value system (core value flowing into operational values). This means that an actor must not only answer the question ‘what does this character want?’, but also ‘why does this character want it?’. This is essential for improvisation characters so that the actor can always respond ‘in character’ irrespective of the context.

In addition, the ability to think on their feet and create a story with other actors in the moment requires participants to be present and aware of others, willing to take risk and accept mistakes, be trusting and supportive and come up with many different solutions to the given story problem and choose a course of action with conviction.

All these skills can translate into real life contexts so that participants can:
  • Extend their repertoire of roles to choose from in real life contexts,
  •  Understand how their own wanting is driven by a deeper need and ultimately a core value, so that the question ‘how do I get what I want?’ can be replaced by ‘why do I want this thing?’
  • Cultivate the ability to generate alternative solutions to old problems (e.g. I want something and need money for it…) by addressing the deeper need.
Finally, the skills can be used to put together a 15 to 25 minute performance that will
  • Solidify the core learning moments for the participants
  • Give them a product to communicate their learning to others and
  • Present an opportunity for restitution by using the play as a spring board for discussion with school going kids on the consequences of crime.

Get involved

Contact us if you’d like to get involved by helping us fund this project.

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