Artist-in-Residence
Cheryl Dunye
Residency March 19-23, 1999; May-June 1999 

CHERYL DUNYE

During her residency at the Walker Art Center, Cheryl Dunye will develop a screenplay for a feature film, Stranger Inside. The screenplay, and the film that will ultimately be produced, intends to illuminate the incarceration experiences of a young woman in prison. The project will highlight the life of an African-American woman who eventually lands in an adult correctional institution for women where, for the first time, she will meet the mother she never knew.

Using both historical and fictional accounts from the lives of delinquent and incarcerated women, the script will focus on the main character, Treasure, and explore her relationship to issues of race, class, and violence in daily prison life, as well as shed light on the underside of American society and the criminal justice system that shapes her troubled existence. Most importantly, the story will also incorporate the experiences of mother and daughter as documented in women's slave narratives, particularly Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The research will incorporate important insights into many contemporary social and psychological problems that plague the lives of impoverished African-American women today.

Research will involve interviewing several young incarcerated women and prison guards at the Shakopee Correctional Facility for Women. The residency will include reviewing women's prison records and diaries and the study of various psychological, statistical, and journalistic texts at the Minnesota History Center about women in prison. In partnership with AMICUS, Dunye will conduct a reading of the screenplay inside the prison and ask for inmate help in redrafting the script to add authenticity. After revising the screenplay based on the research and workshop experiences, readings of the screenplay will be staged and videotaped both at the Shakopee Correctional Facility and at the Walker Art Center. The readings will incorporate photographic slides of prison interiors and audio recordings of prison sounds and inmate voices to help set the stage.

Cheryl Dunye says "the collaborative process is crucial in making my story, their story. The power of real people telling about real experiences will ultimately help audiences to better understand who these characters are and how they got to where they are in their lives."

BIOGRAPHY

Born in Liberia in 1966, Cheryl Dunye is a media artist whose films and videos have been featured in major international film festivals, including Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, and Hong Kong. Her first feature, The Watermelon Woman, focuses on a black lesbian documentarian who attempts to piece together the screen and personal life of a long-forgotten black movie actress. Moving effortlessly between fiction and mock documentary, The Watermelon Woman is rich with both cinematic and sociological complexities. Dunye bravely unleashes her wit on a whole spectrum of urban life.

Dunye currently teaches filmmaking at UCLA and the University of California/Riverside. She lives in Los Angeles.

CHERYL DUNYE RESIDENCY SCHEDULE

May 10 - 22     Project coordination and research
May 22 - 28 Dunye in residence at the Walker
May 24 - 25 Casting for actors for staged readings
May 26 - 27 Shakopee Correctional Facility script Workshop
May 28 Research meeting with Dunye and researchers

Dunye departs for Los Angeles
June 1 - 11 Teen training program (days and times to be determined)

Project coordination and research continues
June 14 - 30 Dunye in residence at Walker

Research/Script workshopping at prison

Video documenting of process
June 15 - 19 Casting callbacks
June 20 - 24 Cathy Opie photo sessions
June 20 - 25 Script-reading rehearsal and workshop/redrafting
June 26 Script-reading rehearsal at Walker (day)

Script-reading and videotaping at Shakopee (evening)
June 27 Tech rehearsal at Walker
June 28 Script-reading at Walker
June 29 - 30 Evaluation/Review

CASTING CALL

During her residency at the Walker Art Center, Los Angeles filmmaker Dunye will develop a screenplay for her second feature film, Stranger Inside. The screenplay, and the film that will ultimately be produced, intends to illuminate the incarceration experiences of a young woman in prison. The project will highlight the life of a young African-American woman who eventually lands in an adult correctional institution where, for the first time, she will meet the mother she never knew.

During her residency, Cheryl Dunye will conduct research and workshop her script. A reading of the screenplay will be staged and videotaped at the Walker Art Center on June 28, 1999. Actors are needed for this presentation, which will be an open-script, seated reading.

Audition Times May 24, 3:00-8:00 pm
May 25, 3:00-8:00 pm
Callbacks scheduled for June 15-19
For appointments, call the Walker Art Center Film/Video Department at 612.375.7615.

Audition Location Walker Art Center, Lecture Room
725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Check in at Control Desk; second-floor administrative offices between the Walker and the Guthrie Theater.

Rehearsals June 26 (11 am-4 p,)
June 27 (11 am-3 pm)

Videotaped Reading   June 28 (evening)

Audition Material Please come prepared with a two- to three-minute monologue. You will also read from the script for Stranger Inside, which will be available before your appointment at the Walker. Please bring your résumé and a photo, if available.

Stranger Inside takes place in a women's prison. All characters are female except Nelson. Characters use tough street language, including profanity.

Roles Available
Treasure, 18-24, African American with an edge of androgyny; a rebel; emotionally scarred; street-smart and tough; lonely but hopeful; searching for something.

Brownie, 35-45, African American; mature convict; self-centered, guarded, and full of secrets.

Doodle, 18-24, African American/mixed race; bubbly, looks younger than she really is; a "Robin" looking for a "Batman."

Nelson, 45-55, White, male; corrupt, cynical; hardened by working too long as a guard in the prison.

Kit, 20-28, White; smart and tough; will do anything to get what she wants.

Smaller parts for female characters of various ages (18-50) and all races/ethnic backgrounds will be cast at this audition. The role of the female narrator, who reads the stage directions, is available.

College Intern positions: academic credit available
One Project Coordinator to assist Walker Film/Video staff to organize the residency.

One Coordinator of Teen Assistants to assist Walker staff in working with the teens.

One Technical Assistant to work with Walker technical staff in the videotaping and staging of the readings.

Two - three Research Assistants to work with the film's director in researching women's prison records and diaries and to continue to study the texts at the Minnesota History Center about women in prison.

One - two Photo Assistants to make slides of prison interiors and to assist in stage design for the reading.

Teen Assistant positions: honorarium available
Note: Due to the mature nature of the language and dramatic situations in the script, only teens 16 and older will be considered as video technicians or actors. Also, residency activities that take place inside Shakopee Correctional Facility require participants to be 18 years or older; therefore, some positions will be reserved for teens who are 18 or 19.

Up to five Technical Assistants will work closely with the Walker Technical Staff to videotape the artistic process, research activities, and rehearsals during the residency. They will also assist in staging the script readings and videotaping the staged readings.

Up to five Research Assistants to work with the film director and research assistants in researching women's prison records and diaries and in studying the various psychological, statistical, and journalistic texts at the Minnesota History Center about women in prison.

Up to five actors for script-reading. The actors will be cast by Cheryl Dunye at a casting session on Tuesday, May 25. Those selected will read the script in an auditorium in front of an audience. This reading will be videotaped. The actors will not need to memorize their lines since they will be reading from an open script. The roles are intended for older teens, as 18 is the minimum age for incarceration at this type of prison. The reading parts are all female.



THIS RESIDENCE IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUPPORT FROM THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS.