Sing Sing Film: Based On RTA’s Theater Program at Sing Sing Correctional Facility
Sing Sing Film: Based On The RTA Program Founded At Sing Sing Prison
The film, Sing Sing, starring Emmy Award winner, Colman Domingo (portraying RTA alumnus John “Divine G” Whitfield); RTA alumnus, Clarence “Divine Eye” Maclin; and Academy Award nominee, Paul Raci, is based on Rehabilitation Through the Arts’ theater program, a core component of RTA’s comprehensive arts-in-correction programming. The film was written and directed by Greg Kwedar and produced independently of RTA. Sing Sing will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, which has more details about the film. We are thrilled that a majority of the cast featured in the movie are RTA alumni.
The movie gives a glimpse into the life behind bars and the transformational power of the arts and community. The film highlights RTA’s theater workshop in Sing Sing Correctional Facility which provides the opportunity for participants to gain critical life skills and agency, so they may change their lives while incarcerated and find success personally and professionally when released.
RTA provides arts programs to incarcerated individuals in New York State prisons, operating at the intersection of arts and social justice. RTA’s pool of over 40 professional teaching artists leads workshops including theater, dance, music, creative writing, and visual arts to men and women in maximum and medium-security facilities.
We produce compelling theatrical performances within prison walls and in addition to acting, participants may write, direct, stage manage, create sets, and more. Including Breakin’ the Mummy’s Code, the play featured in the Sing Sing film, RTA has produced over a dozen original plays and more well-known, published plays such as 12 Angry Men, Macbeth, The Wizard of Oz, Of Mice and Men, West Side Story, A Few Good Men, and Oedipus Rex.
The prison community as well as hundreds of community guests, including family members of participants, attend these full-scale in-prison productions every year. These are extraordinary opportunities for the public to witness the talent and humanity behind prison walls, and for families to see the effort their loved ones are making to improve their lives.
While the US prison system is based on punishment, RTA continually demonstrates that an approach based on human dignity has a great and much-needed impact. Steering Committees of incarcerated individuals at each correctional facility provide leadership experience as those senior members of the program help RTA manage the day-to-day operations inside and maintain the culture of the program as new participants join.
A key metric is that less than 3% of RTA members return to prison, compared to the national recidivism rate of over 60%. Other data shows that RTA members have a greater proclivity to go on to higher education and that the program positively affects the culture of the prison itself. The hundreds of RTA alumni thriving in society – working in law, policy, and advocacy, as construction workers, bakers, and entrepreneurs - are evidence of the program’s impact.
RTA began at Sing Sing when Katherine Vockins, RTA's founder, met with a group of men who wanted help writing and presenting a play. One year later, the theatre group performed an original piece for the prison population. The play was about their own lives - drugs, gangs, crime, and bad decisions - but also about the possibility of change and redemption. In time, participants, observing changes in their own attitudes and behavior, changed the organization's name to Rehabilitation Through the Arts.
More than Theater
The breadth of RTA’s workshops includes music, dance, creative writing, and visual arts. RTA currently operates its full program in six maximum and medium security prisons in New York State, runs unique programs in several other facilities, and recently launched a transitional reentry program to prepare individuals approaching their release for the social and emotional challenges they are about to face.
A recognized leader in arts-in-correction, RTA is poised to build on its record of impact, to expand its programs, and scale the number of participants. We’re excited that this film is bringing much-needed attention to this innovative approach.
Additional funding would allow RTA to achieve its goals to:
Establish programs in all facilities in New York State
Expand to other states
Offer more support for our alumni
For more information, and to learn how you can support RTA’s growth and expansion, please email our Interim Executive Director, Leslie Lichter, at [ Leslie.Lichter@rta-arts.org ].
Members of Sing Sing’s Cast and Crew:
The Sing Sing film resonates with the core values of RTA and demonstrates the transformational power of the arts. The process by which RTA works recognizes human dignity, fosters collaborative communities, and empowers through commitment to each other. “Trust the Process”, an RTA mantra, proves true over and over again.
The majority of the cast members in the film are RTA alumni who participated in RTA's program in real life. Their inclusion adds depth to the engaging performances and the viewer's connection with the characters.
The story of Sing Sing beautifully weaves together the true life story of friendship between RTA alumni, Clarence Maclin and John Whitfield, and shows how RTA's program has transformed lives.
(Photo credit: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Director: Greg Kwedar
Writer of Sing Sing film, Clint Bentley (Photo credit: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF))
Cast (with nicknames):
Colman Domingo (Photo credit: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF))
Clarence Maclin (Divine Eye)* (Photo credit: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF))
Paul Raci (Photo credit: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF))
Cornell Alston (Nate)*
David Giraudy (Dap)*
Patrick Griffin (Preme)*
Sean Johnson (Dino)*
Camillo Lovocco (Carmine)*
Micheal Pearlman (Miguel)*
Anthony Soto (Pete)*
John Adrian Velazquez
(above) John Whitfield (Divine G)*
James E Williams (Big E)*
Michael Capra (former Superintendent of Sing Sing Correctional Facility)
Joanna Chen (RTA Teaching Artist)
Brent Buell (RTA Teaching Artist)
Cecily Hughes (RTA Teaching Artist)
Katherine Vockins (RTA Founder)