Green Haven: Inmate Actors Shine In ‘Thoughts Of A Colored Man’

May 23, 2024

Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), a nonprofit that helps people in prison develop critical life skills through the arts.

RTA has concluded a week of performances of the Broadway play Thoughts of a Colored Man at Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison.

The critically acclaimed play by Keenan Scott II was performed for three nights—two for the general population of Green Haven Correctional Facility and one for a limited public audience.

“… a captivating portrayal of the inner lives of Black men …”

This powerful production featured actors currently in the RTA program at the facility. Thoughts of a Colored Man weaves spoken word, slam poetry, and rhythm into a captivating portrayal of the inner lives of Black men. This is RTA’s first theatrical production of 2024 and included the active participation of playwright Keenan Scott II at rehearsals. Scott was also in the audience for the public performance.

“I’d like to congratulate the entire cast and crew for an incredible week of performances of Thoughts of a Colored Man. Tonight was closing night, and it was a rare opportunity for the public to see how RTA’s programs deeply impact our participants, their families, and our collective community,” said RTA Interim Executive Director Leslie Lichter. “Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, and colleagues were beaming with pride and joy during the performance. Our community came together to create a welcoming space for the incarcerated individuals involved in the production, highlighting RTA’s commitment to valuing human dignity behind prison walls—a value that leads to the success of the individuals participating in this program.”

“… hands-on engagement with the arts.”

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“RTA serves as a catalyst for personal growth and learning for the incarcerated community, and tonight underscored the essence of our transformative program,” said Executive Producer of the play and RTA Director of Programs & Operations Charles Moore. “While working on the production of Thoughts of a Colored Man, I witnessed firsthand how these brave men changed the way they saw themselves and responded to others through hands-on engagement with the arts. Their performances were authentic and powerful, and they will carry this experience with them throughout their time at Green Haven and when they return home. The highlight for all involved with this production was meeting and working with the playwright, Keenan Scott II. The theme of his play resonated with so many of us.”

“I have transformed the way I speak, the way I view the world, and the way I give myself to the world. RTA is a place where the kid you once were can now dream as the adult that you are. RTA is a dream in the middle of a nightmare. It is my second home. A place to be free mentally,” said Co-Director and current RTA participant George Alfred. “Thoughts of a Colored Man are my thoughts; it is my neighborhood; it is my ‘old heads’; it is my barbershop. Through this play, we challenge stereotypes and promote understanding, one heart at a time.”

For nearly 30 years, RTA has worked with professional teaching artists to lead year-round workshops in theater, dance, music, creative writing, and visual arts. The RTA model provides an intensive, comprehensive arts program that builds skills so that people can meet the challenges of connecting with family and community when released.

“… loved ones make positive changes in their lives.”

Since its inception, more than 1,000 incarcerated individuals have participated in RTA’s program, and thousands more have been touched by RTA, including participants’ friends and family who attend performances and experience firsthand how their loved ones make positive changes in their lives.

RTA currently works in the following New York correctional facilities: Sing Sing, Bedford Hills, Collins, Fishkill, Green Haven, Taconic, Wallkill, and Woodbourne. RTA has produced dozens of plays and theater productions, including 12 Angry Men, Macbeth, The Wizard of Oz, Our Town, and A Few Good Men, to name a few.

“… hundreds of RTA alumni are giving back to their communities …”

RTA’s ongoing success is dramatic: Less than 3% of RTA members return to prison, compared to the national recidivism rate of 60%. RTA members often pursue higher education after participating in the program. RTA members and facility staff have recognized a positive change in prison culture as a result of the program. Upon release, hundreds of RTA alumni are giving back to their communities, becoming social workers, advocates, academics, and entrepreneurs.

Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA),

Launched at Sing Sing in 1996, RTA has grown from a single theater workshop to a comprehensive arts program in multiple prisons in New York State and is a world leader in arts-in-prison programming. Our unique programs unlock creative potential, foster personal growth, and community building. With our new reentry program, Reimagining Myself®, RTA prepares incarcerated people approaching release for the social and emotional challenges they will likely face when transitioning back to their communities.

For more information, visit

Photo credit: RTA.

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