Bilibid Weeks: An Account of Prison Theater in the Philippines
For three years, the training company RolePlayers, Inc., worked with young male inmates at the Special Classes for Children in Conflict with the Law (SC-CCIL), a unit of the New Bilibid Prison, in two theater productions that were shown to the prison community and the external public. The first production, staged in 2016, was a devised piece called Tumbang Preso (Knock down the Prisoner); the second production, mounted in 2018, was the Pyramus–Tisbe scene from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Filipino translation. The productions’ immediate impact, however, lies beyond the plays. For the young inmates, prison theater served as an opportunity to learn new skills, gain new perspectives, receive
emotional support, and increase their chances of getting released. This paper documents the prison–theater project, the challenges the organizers faced, the lessons they have learned, and the paths that can be taken to sustain prison theater.