The Prison Theatre Reader

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Stephen Ogheneruro Okpadah
contact email: 

The exploration of prison is not new in literature and theatre. It is one in which convicts tell their stories from the inside. Here, the detained locate their experiences and conditions of prison. According to Arnold Erickson, prison has been a fertile setting for Artists, Musicians and Writers alike. Prisoners have produced hundreds of works that encompassed a wide range of literature books describing the prison experience. Modernist literature and theatre with its eclecticism saw the upsurge in the prison narrative. While Tennessee Williams’ Not about Nightingales establishes the prison genre, John Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes focuses on the harsh treatment of imprisoned homosexuals. Other prison literature writers include Jack London who in 1894 spent a month in the New York State’s County penitentiary, and Socialist writer, Kate Richards O’Hare who spent a year in prison. While Antonio Gramsci’s The Prison Notes is a contribution to 20th century Political Theory, Donald Lowrie’s 1912 book, My Life in Prison captures the author’s experiences in detention.

Also, Africa has created a wide corpus of prison literature and theatre. The prisoner-dramatist, novelist, musician and poet have come out stronger to narrate their ordeal or to fight against oppression in the case of artists such as Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary and The Trials of Dedan Kimathi), Ken Saro-wiwa (A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary)and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Ransom-Kuti, the protest musician was arrested on over 200 different occasions and spent time in jail. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom exposes the author’s experience in jail and Soyinka’s The Man Died is a memoir of the Nobel Laureate’s life in detention. Although plays dealing with prison life were interdicted in South Africa, the actors and director, Winston Ntshona, John Kani and Athol Fugard were vast in the tradition of Prison plays. During the apartheid era, Die Hodoshe Span (The Island)  written by Fugard, the South African dramatist was inspired by a true-life story set in an unnamed prison clearly based on South Africa’s Robben Island prison, where Mandela served his jail term. Kofi Awoonor of Ghana, Jack Mpanje of Malawi, Nawal el Sadaawi of Egypt, Denis Brutus (Letters to Martha) of South Africa and J.M Kariuki of Kenya are others novelists, poets and dramatists that have expanded the scope of prison literature and theatre. While Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas are rich in the literature and theatre of detention, there remains a dearth of critical works on the prison theatre and literature. To this end, this edited volume will examine the representation of prison in literature and theatre. It aims to investigate the experiences of prisoners in drama, prose and poetry.

Subthemes include but are not limited to

  1. The prison in the performance space
  2. Musicians in the prison
  3. Rehabilitation of prisoners through Theatre for Development
  4. The  Language of Trauma in prison literature
  5. Prison and violence in drama
  6. Theatre of the condemned
  7. Jail theatre as revolutionary theatre
  8. Theatre as a prison
  9. The prison as theatre
  10. Performing Prisoners
  11. The political prisoner in literature
  12. Prison poetry as protest poetry
  13. Trauma, terror and prison
  14. Exile, prison and literature
  15. Prison theatre as protest
  16. Homeland, migration and prison in drama

Guidelines for contributors


1. Contributors should submit e-copies of their manuscripts to the editors at, and

2. Manuscript should be typed using MC-word, with double line spacing and not more than 20-25 pages (4500 to 7000 words).

3. Each article should be accompanied by an abstract of 200-250 words, names of the author(s), a short biography of the contributor(s), telephone number(s), email address(es) and institutional affiliations

4. Referencing style should conform to MLA 8th or APA 6th edition

5. Receipt of manuscripts will be acknowledged. All manuscripts must reach the editor(s) on/before 15th December, 2020.

6. The book will be published in the first half of 2021 by a renowned international publisher and each contributor will receive one complimentary copy.


For Further Enquiries, contact:


Stephen Ogheneruro Okpadah                                                                             Kai Horsthemke, Ph.D

Department of the Performing Arts,                                                                     Associate Professor,

University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria                                                                        KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany;

+2348104828524                                                                                              University of the Witwatersrand,                                                                     South Africa



Nkiruka Jacinta Akaenyi, Ph.D

Head, Department of Performing Arts,

Akwa-Ibom State University, Nigeria