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That's cos they're mostly by Mark Wessels, photographer extraordinaire.

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About Us

Challenging Stigmas & Building Skills

The Second Chance Theatre is a project that has been running since 2018 through the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies, and in partnership with NICRO’s Second Chance programme. The theatre project was started by Veronica Baxter in 2018, 

The Second Chance Theatre Project has trained a group of offenders in theatre skills in Pollsmoor each year and developed a company of actor-facilitators on parole. The aim of the project is also to engage students in so-called applied theatre to work towards developing community-based arts and social justice.

The project strives towards social re-integration of offenders through enhancing social skills, personal reflection, active citizenship and generating community-based arts projects.

In 2020 and 2021, the parole theatre project adapted to COVID19 by working on digital performance forms, as well as limited face to face work. Due to COVID, the project had no access to Pollsmoor.

The theatre project is currently managed by Veronica Baxter with a leadership team drawn from the ex-offenders.

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Potential Impact

Reinforcing our Commitment

The impact of the Second Chance Theatre company can be summarised as follows:

  • Skills development in theatre for approximately 40 individuals each year, contributing to increased self-reflexivity, confidence in communication, and developing creative and interpersonal expression. The programme will also develop potential for entrepreneurship in theatre for parolees.

  • The development of capacity for postgraduate student researchers to deliver programmes in theatre and social work, contributing to their ability to be socially responsive, to conduct research in practice, and their understanding of social justice and human dignity.

  • The increased potential for social re-integration for offenders.

  • Engagement with communities through performances in schools and public theatres, as well as through research processes. Social work professionals will evaluate community impact of both the returning offenders and follow-up exchanges after theatre events.

  • The project will, over three years, develop a programme for integrating theatre and social work within a social responsibility and community engagement frame.

  • Active engagement with what it means to be a citizen will intervene in dominant discourses in communities around crime and criminals.

  • The project will aim to reduce recidivism on the part of the offenders, through integrating with NICRO's networks and facilitating pro-social engagements with the community and offenders.

  • The programme will close the gap in researching arts-based intervention by designing a mixed methods research approach to the practices and their impact.

  • The Second Chance Theatre project will deliver a theatre skills programme to inmates in correctional facilities and a few newly paroled. The theatre skills will be rooted in South African performance forms and languages.

  • The Project will provide opportunities to 100 Pollsmoor inmates population each year to engage with theatre as participants over a few workshops, and as audiences of the two theatre productions each year.

  • From these workshops 25 inmates will be selected to form the core company. Recently paroled offenders will also undergo a form of audition, unless they were previously part of the inmate programme.

The Second Chance Project’s two theatre companies (inmates and parolees) will consist of 40 participants each year, who will receive intensive theatre training.

The theatre programme will improve the communication, interpersonal skills and self-esteem of the offenders and orient them towards making the most of a second chance to become productive citizens.

The programme will offer social work support to Second Chance company members to assist the development of self-awareness, pro-social choices and re-integration into communities around Cape Town.

The public theatre performances will involve local communities, particularly those who are most affected by crime. The audiences will see that offenders have potential to become participating citizens in their communities, and that they are more than just their crime. The schools’ and community programme will create awareness of crime preventive strategies and pro-social activities amongst youth. The local community will see that members of the university are committed to improving the quality of life and creative expression of their members.

Student and staff practitioner-researchers from Theatre and Social Development divisions at UCT will develop their sense of social responsibility, and their capacity to engage with at-risk communities.

The programme will work inductively towards an optimal structured approach to the offenders and community, and ways of involving the community in the research and the social integration of offenders.

The research will draw on comparative international and national examples of community-based interventions through theatre, particularly from global south countries. The project will investigate appropriate research methods for evaluating the social impact of the work with offenders, and the results on the broader community. This will address the difficulties/close the gap of evaluating arts-based programmes.

The project will develop a model for arts based approaches and research of offender and at- risk communities.

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