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Felon: An American Washi Tale by Reginald Dwayne Betts

March 4, 2023 · 2:30 pm4:30 pm · Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center

Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Theater; McCarter Theatre
Alone in solitary confinement, a teenager called out to the men in the hole with him: “Somebody, send me a book!” Moments later, Dudley Randall’s The Black Poets slid under his cell door. Those pages were the start of the teen’s transformation into a poet, lawyer, and promoter of the rights of prisoners. Now, 23 years after his release from prison, Reginald Dwayne Betts explores the experience and consequences of his incarceration in a compelling solo theater show based on his poetry collection, Felon. Betts, who recently received a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, advocates for literacy in prisons and is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Freedom Reads, which opens 500-book micro-libraries inside prison housing units across the country and brings contemporary writers and artists together with incarcerated audiences. The theater piece is a meditation on life after prison, criminal justice, art-making and community.

Felon is directed by Elise Thoron with set design by Kyoko Ibe, lighting design by Jane Cox and Tess James, sound design by Palmer Hefferan, and is stage managed by Tyler Sperrazza.

On March 2 the second half of the evening will be a panel discussion including Betts around literature, education and freedom in collaboration with the University Center for Human Values.

On March 3 the second half of the evening will be a call to action conversation and reception led by Students for Prison Education, Abolition and Reform (SPEAR), and faculty and staff of The Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI).

On March 4 a joyful celebration follows the performance marking the anniversary of Dwayne Betts’ release from prison, including PACE featuring The Trumpet Chics, a youth band from Camden.

An exhibition by set designer and visual artist Kyoko Ibe is on view through March 5 in the Hurley Gallery at the Lewis Arts complex.

Presented by the Program in Theater in partnership with McCarter Theatre and cosponsored by the Department of Art and Archaeology, the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, the Princeton University Center for Human Values, School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University Library, and the Humanities Council.

More Information about Felon

Visit the Felon at Princeton page to learn more about Betts, the development of this project, and related events at Princeton University during March 2-4, 2023.

Tickets & Details

All performances are open to the public. Tickets for Felon are $12 in advance of show dates, $17 purchased the day of performances at the box office, and free for Princeton students.

Purchase tickets for Felon through McCarter


Get directions to Berlind Theatre and find other venue information for McCarter Theatre Center.

COVID-19 Guidance + Updates

Per Princeton University policy, all visitors are expected to be either fully vaccinated, have recently received and prepared to show proof of a negative COVID test (via PCR within 72 hours or via rapid antigen within 8 hours of the scheduled visit), or agree to wear a face covering when indoors and around others.


Berlind Theatre is an accessible venue with wheelchair and companion seating available. The performance on Thursday, March 2nd, will be open captioned. An assistive listening system is available and headphones can be requested from ushers. Visit our Venues and Studios section for accessibility information at our various locations, including Berlind Theatre. Attendees in need of other access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at 609-258-5262 or email LewisCenter@princeton.edu at least one week in advance of the event date.

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