Knuth Hall was packed to capacity with students and professors for a performance known as the Medea Project.
The Medea Project for Incarcerated Women not only included interpretive dance and powerful retellings of Greek Mythology, but also featured true stories of the performers in the play.
The ideology behind the Medea Project is to highlight the importance of art, as well as providing a creative space for women to redirect their traumatic experiences into an outlet that helps to heal. The project is also used as a way to reduce the numbers of women returning to prison and addiction.
Alexandra Pappas, a classics department professor, was the host of the performance. Pappas told the audience she saw the Medea Project before its debut at SF State, and felt it was important to have the performance make its way to the university.
“I’m very pleased we were able to bring it to San Francisco State University because of our commitment to social justice,” Pappas said. “It seemed like the perfect fit and an incredibly important project at just the right institution.”
The Medea Project explores sensitive topics ranging from their time in prison, sexual assault, the policing of women’s bodies and much more.
By doing so, the Medea Project hopes that by bringing these topics to light, the women are able to ‘speak their truths’ as they say. And by speaking their truths the healing process begins.
“It seems to have been proven by the last 20 years of the project that when women are invited to tell their stories and supported and able to be honest about what they’ve experienced that that can put an end to cycles of addiction and abuse and other kinds of trauma,” Pappas said. “So I think it’s important because it saves lives.”
Performers in the show wore black dresses with the words ‘HIV lives with me’ painted on, including performer Fe Bongolan, an actor who has been with the Medea Project for 25 years.
“I think women are at risk in general, in society and in the world,” Bongolan said. “And I think the more voices that come and liberate women and give them a chance to find their voice are important movements in theater and art.”
The Medea Project for Incarcerated Women was created by Rhodessa Jones, the co-artistic director of Cultural Odyssey, a San Francisco based performance company.
The Medea Project sprouted from Jones being offered a position at a women’s facility as an aerobics teacher, according to Jones during the end of the show’s Q&A.
It wasn’t until recently that the Medea Project for incarcerated women began working closely with the UCSF Women’s HIV Clinic.
Bongolan stressed the importance of finding a safe space with someone to speak your truths with.
“The personal story is powerful. Finding a community to share your story within a safe place is one of the best ways you can start healing yourself,” Bongolan said. Whatever you do, don’t be alone. Share your story. Because you will find you are not alone.”
Jones offered this insight into her life’s work — “Politics don’t work. Religion is a bit too eclectic. But art is that parachute that can catch us all.”