Angola Prison Passion


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Little did I ever imagine back when I started attending a youth theatre, that I would be one day directing a Passion Play in the middle of a maximum security prison in America! That’s what I love about theatre – the way it reaches out to anyone and everyone, so welcoming and all inclusive. There are no barriers physical or otherwise in theatre.

And so in 2010, that’s exactly where I did find myself – in Angola Penitentiary, Louisiana which is the largest prison in the USA with over 6000 male inmates all of whom are serving over fifty years to life and used to be known as a hell-hole with violence and murder within the prison being common. Fifteen years ago, Warden Burl Cain arrived bringing his Christian values to the prison which transformed it radically.

Meeting the drama group in the prison was quite daunting initially – but soon we found that we had common ground – all determined to produce a powerful piece of Theatre that would show their talents to the world.

It was so humbling working with them and sad to hear their stories. The Director who I was mentoring was sentenced to death at aged 16, spent two years on death row and was now in prison for life.  What’s so amazing about this play – the power of theatre and the spiritual nature of the story come together and transform lives.

So the play has been performed three times now, with increasing success over several years. The inmates make all the set, costumes and props from nothing and I put together a backstage team, training them too. It’s very rewarding to see someone uncover a talent who has been written off by society.  I hope that they continue to do ground-breaking projects and change people’s lives from within their prison – I know they changed mine!

There was a very powerful documentary made about the play and process by Jonathan Stack – see trailer here – Cast the First Stone