GA - Show Page.png

[The Georgia Incarceration Performance Project] Presents:
Developed & Directed By: Dr. Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin (UGA), Dr. Emily Sahakian (UGA)
Dr. Julie B. Johnson (Spelman College), & Dr. Keith Bolden (Spelman College)
Location: Fine Arts Theatre
Dates: Nov. 8 & 16 @ 8PM, Nov. 10 & 17 @ 2:30PM

A first-of-its-kind endeavor, By Our Hands is a cross-institutional theatrical experience between the University of Georgia, Spelman College, librarians, archivists, students, professionals, incarcerated individuals, and community partners. The Georgia Incarceration Performance Project incorporates scenes directly from Georgia history to negotiate our relationship with incarceration, race, and the impact of forced labor through dance, media, and dramatic performance. This unique experience will be limited to four shows only and will be free and open to the public.

This production is available free to the public due to the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Willson Center for the Humanities & Arts, the Ferman Fund, the McCay Fund, the Franklin Excellence Fund, and the University of Georgia Office of Service-Learning through the David A. and Evelyn A. Knauft Endowment for Service-Learning.


UGA Theatre spotlights Georgia’s history of incarcerated labor with “By Our Hands”

ATHENS, GA — UGA Theatre presents “By Our Hands” from The Georgia Incarceration Performance Project, directed by Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, Emily Sahakian, Julie B. Johnson, and Keith Bolden. Nov. 8 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 10 and 17 at 2:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre at 255 Baldwin St. This event is free and open to the public.

The Georgia Incarceration Performance Project production “By Our Hands” is a first-of-its-kind, cross-institutional collaboration between faculty, students, and alumni at the University of Georgia and Spelman College of Atlanta, and Common Good Atlanta, an organization that teaches college-level courses in prisons across Georgia. Developed through several courses in university-level curricula and in the production seasons of three departments, students and faculty from Spelman, UGA, and incarcerated students of Common Good Atlanta generated original writing, composed songs, choreographed scenes, and engaged in critical reflection on the history of incarceration in the state of Georgia.

In a joint statement, the directors pose the questions, “How do we gather a community of Georgia residents to openly look at and discuss the state’s difficult past (and present)? How do we honestly negotiate our own relationship to incarceration, issues of race, and the impact of forced labor on our everyday experiences as Georgians? One answer we suggest is that we turn to performance.”

Through the use of dance, original and historical music, projections, and interpretive performance, the team behind “By Our Hands” have created a wholly unique theatrical experience aimed at interrogating this crucial aspect of Georgia history.

The project brings together a diverse array of people and entities around the Georgia incarceration story to have a conversation, engage ethically, and learn from this history and its impact on our everyday lives. Just a five-minute walk from where the performance takes place is the Hargrett Library’s exhibition “The New South and New Slavery: Convict Labor in Georgia,” a new exhibit chronicling the history of forced prison labor in the state of Georgia. From films like Ava Duvernay’s 13th to the 2018 nationwide 20-day protest by incarcerated peoples about prison work conditions, there has been a national call to look at the historical set of events, peoples, and personalities that contributed to what some have called ‘modern-day slavery’ or “the New Jim Crow.”

For the first time in at least thirty years, UGA Theatre is not charging admission for a season production.

“We felt that it was vital that everyone be able to attend this production, including people who may never before have set foot on the UGA campus,” said David Saltz, head of the department of theatre and film studies. “This piece draws heavily on the stories of real people who experienced unspeakable exploitation and denigration, and we wanted to respect their contribution to the project by avoiding even the appearance that we were profiting from their suffering.” UGA Theatre relies on box office revenue to fund its production costs, and is able to waive the ticket charge as the result of contributions from the Ferman Fund, the McCay Fund, and the Franklin Excellence Fund specifically for this purpose.

This project was made possible with the additional support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Global Georgia Program of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, and a Faculty Research Grant from the Office of Research. From Spelman College, it is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Department of Dance Performance & Choreography, and the Department of Theatre & Performance.

Presented by the University of Georgia Arts Council, Spotlight on the Arts is scheduled for Nov. Nov. 6 – 17 and includes dozens of exhibitions and performances in the visual, literary and performing arts. Many of the events are free or discounted for UGA students, and the annual Spotlight on the Arts Family Day will be presented free of charge Nov. 16.

More information on the 2019 Spotlight on the Arts festival, including a schedule of events, can be found at as well as on the Arts Council Facebook page (, Twitter feed (@UGA_arts) or Instagram (