'Human Again' film explores work with prison theater group

Human Again
Professor Bruce Levitt, back in the center, works with guest artist Danielle Frimer, front right, and Phoenix Players Theatre Group participant David Bendezu, front left, at Auburn Correctional Facility in a scene from the documentary “Human Again.”

“Human Again,” a documentary produced by professor Bruce Levitt showing the impact of Cornell’s work in the Auburn Correctional Facility, will be screened June 10 at 3:15 p.m. in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts Film Forum.

The program features a panel discussion with graduates of the Cornell Prison Education Program and a former member of the Phoenix Players Theatre Group at Auburn, exploring Cornell’s involvement in prison education at three regional facilities.

“With the documentary, we wanted to allow the audience to get to know these men who are incarcerated in a maximum-security prison and come out with a different and broader view of them than the stereotype of being a criminal,” said Levitt, who has worked with the Phoenix Players for eight years and teaches in the Department of Performing and Media Arts. “We also hope people will start to understand the process they use, which they call transformation and redemption, happening through theater.”

The film follows the theater group’s five original founders, and has received accolades at the International Independent Film Awards and the Chandler International Film Festival, among others.

Levitt was the inaugural recipient of Cornell’s Engaged Scholar Prize in 2016, for his work with the Phoenix Players and the Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble, other initiatives involving local community organizations and schools, and his efforts to develop community-engaged courses. The award recognizes a faculty member who inspires through innovative integration of teaching, learning and research involving public or community-based partnerships.

The Reunion weekend event is open to the public and includes refreshments. It is co-sponsored by the Office of Engagement Initiatives, the Department of Performing and Media Arts, the Cornell Prison Education Program and the Phoenix Players.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences. 

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Rebecca Valli