Cologne, May 16, 2024

The CRI Institute had the exceptional honor and privilege of attending a remarkable performance organized by our partner Sommerblut from Cologne, as part of its Kulturfestival. This year’s festival is being held in Cologne from May 4th to 20th at multiple locations, featuring over 18 events. One of these events was the play “HALT,” directed by Elisabeth Pleß and performed by inmates of the JVA Ossendorf correctional facility in Cologne.

A Word or Two About the Play

On the afternoon of May 15th, 15 inmates presented an extraordinary piece combining dance, song, and acting prowess on the theme of utopia. The performance opens with the song’s words: 

“I dream of a land where water flows from the mountains and penetrates the white sand. Where the desire for harmony blooms. Infinite expanses, with no horizon in sight. So close to the sky.”

The title of the play, HALT, means “Stop!” but symbolically can also be read as “halt,” representing everything that keeps the actors stuck in their current environment. It is a work that speaks of safety, order, setting boundaries, and finding freedom within incarceration. The performers brought to the stage powerful, original texts in an intense mix of music, movement, and words.

The performance was part of the AHOS project, which aims not only at creative expression but also at providing professional training for inmates in behind-the-scenes professions, such as costume design and stage makeup. Within the project, inmates acquired valuable knowledge and skills that will assist them in reintegrating into society after serving their sentences.

The play was exceptionally emotional and inspiring, as evidenced by the reactions of the audience, which numbered around 200 spectators. Through dance, song, and acting, the inmates presented their visions of a better future and hopes for a new beginning. Each scene was carefully conceived and performed with great dedication. The choreography was dynamic, featuring complex dance movements that expressed struggle, hope, and community. The songs were emotional, with lyrics that spoke of longing for freedom and faith in a better life.

The actors especially impressed with their sincerity and depth of interpretation. The roles were diverse, showcasing different aspects of human nature and society. The audience was moved by their ability to convey their internal struggles and dreams through art.

After the performance, the audience had the opportunity to talk with the inmates who participated in the play. This part of the event, co-financed by the Creative Europe funding program, allowed visitors to better understand the challenges and successes of inmates in their rehabilitation process. The discussions were open and cordial, giving attendees insight into how art can positively impact the lives of inmates.

This event demonstrated how art can play a crucial role in the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society, while also offering a unique and inspiring experience for all present. The performance proved that creativity and artistic expression can bring significant changes, providing inmates with new perspectives and motivation for the future. The CRI team truly enjoyed every moment spent in the audience.