Faculty Spotlight: Jodi Jinks


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Community Engagement Goes to Prison

Jinks established the Arts Aloud program at OSU after earning the Mary Lou Lemon professorship in January 2014 though she began this type of work several years ago at women’s prisons in Texas.  Her first effort in Oklahoma brought her (and volunteer Linda Smolen, who served as co-director of the play) to a minimum-security, all-male facility – the John H. Lilley Correctional Center in Boley, Okla. 

Though the gender of her subjects had changed, the overall reaction did not. 

“They’re thankful for the interaction,” Jinks said.  “I think they’re loving the fact that they’re being heard that they have a story people actually want to hear."

After several months of writing and collaborating with Jinks, the inmates created a show called Reflections of Time, which was described as chronicling “the challenges, the joys, and the dreams of these particular men, and reminds us that we are all so much more than our worst choices.” 

The script was packed with inside jokes and included poetry, short scenes, and evn a band compromised of inmates who did not take part in the class.

"This kind of acting experience takes the notion of ‘embodied learning’ to another level,” professor and head of the theatre department Andrew Kimbrough said.  “The students get a very powerful sense of the lived experience of the inmates/writers.”

The subject matter often touched on forgiveness but also included stories of who they were before prison and even who had they had become while inside the correctional center.  It sounds like a therapeutic process but Jinks is quick to point out her role is to help them create a work of art. 

Gratitude is among the fruit of her mission with ArtsAloud-OSU.  From the inmates reflecting on their time, to their own performance, to then watching trained OSU actors tell the story they had written, to the actors feeling privileged to perform in front of, and meet, the authors, every turn produced reciprocal gratitude. 

 

Theatre Behind Bars
TEDxOStateU

Jodi Jinks talks about the importance of connecting through performance at the TEDxOStateU 2015 event at the Oklahoma State University campus on April 10, 2015.