In this WSB newsfilm clip from October 24, 1969, members of the Barbwire Theater troupe put on the play "The Cage" in front of an audience in Atlanta, Georgia.
The clip begins with the actors on the stage, men representing prisoners in white suits and the guards wearing dark cloaks. In the audience, men wearing suits sit in chairs with papers in their laps. Rick Cluchey, who portrays one of the prisoners, speaks to the audience about the play. Cluchey, who wrote the play while serving a life sentence, explains to the audience that the play "is an indictment of a system that has failed." He reveals the play receives authority from the prisoners who have helped develop it. While the play is allegorical and begins in fantasy, it does include "a tremendous amount of reality." Next, actors perform a scene from the play in which the prisoners fight and are beaten by the guards. Later, Cluchey speaks again about the role of the Barbwire theater troupe to "create an awareness in the community" of what is really going on in the universal world of prisons. He asserts that prisons destroy people. The play attempts to show the "myth of rehabilitation" and show "exactly what does happen."
Rick Cluchey was sentenced to life in prison for robbery and kidnapping. While serving time in San Quentin State Prison, Cluchey and fellow prisoner Kenneth Whelan formed the San Quentin Drama Workshop. The prisoners used plays to call attention to the poor conditions in United States prisons. Governor Jerry Brown pardoned him in 1966 for his work with prison reform. Cluchey created the Barbwire Theater troupe with other former inmates and toured the country with performances of "The Cage" to publicize the plight of prisoners.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.