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Thousand Kites | Asheville

Thousand Kites


Thousand Kites | Asheville

We are excited to announce the Thousand Kites site in Asheville, NC. Kites is a multi-media arts project created to spark a dialogue about the criminal justice system.

The project uses film, theater, radio, and the Internet
to explore the criminal justice system and bridge racial, cultural, and geographic
divides between stakeholder communities. Our highly
flexible set of tools has been used in communities in
Richmond, VA, Jackson, MS, Toledo, OH and rural Kentucky.

Get involved. Join our email list.

Listen to an audio program about Thousand Kites:

About Thousand Kites | Asheville

When Dr. Scott Walters took his UNC-Asheville Theater of the Oppressed class to visit the Appalachian media arts organization Appalshop, he started a snowball effect. It was there, in the coal-mining town of Whitesburg, Kentucky, he would meet Amelia Kirby and Nick Szuberla, two filmmakers making an exposé (Up the Ridge) about nearby supermax prison Wallens Ridge. A year later he would serendipitously run into Kirby at an AlternateROOTS conference, where the cheerful, brown-haired activist handed him a script, a play that was part of an expansive project she, Szuberla, and a group called Roadside Theater were working on.

The script for Thousand Kites was partly based on the rants, prayers, shout-outs, complaints, poems, and monologues Szuberla and Kirby received when, inspired by the stories they were unearthing for Up the Ridge–the two began a prisoner radio show. The broadcast reached both Wallens Ridge and another area supermax, Red Onion. Letters from inmates began pouring in, and Roadside Theater’s Donna Porterfield eventually synthesized this material (along with some stories recounted by both prisoner family members, and correctional officers) into a protean stage drama, one that could be performed by active communities as well as intrigued universities, conservative churches as well as radical theater groups.

Walters wouldn’t be able to resist:”…even though I was scheduled to do a different production in November, I immediately decided that the opportunity to participate in this project was too good to pass up,” he describes.

Now, according to his blog, the 49-year-old author, teacher and actor, has a song stuck in his head. One of the play’s narrative devices, “Heard Somebody Call My Name” with its bluegrass feel and gospel intonations, written and composed by traditional musician Ron Short–follows him around with its haunting declarations: I keep having this dream, And I awake with a shout. I get to the gate and I can’t get out.

Lipping the song’s lyrics as he organizes a cast and crew of about 40, Walters finds himself pressed for the hours, days, weeks, it takes to deliver a good play.

As with any production orchestrated in a school setting, time is short, participants busy.

Thousand Kites dramatizes a polemic the Wisconsin born theater professor feels very passionate about. So passionate that he’s spent time teaching drama at Foothills State Prison and Western Youth Prison, so passionate he asked UNCA students not just to put on Thousand Kites, but to delve into the various ideas its themes uncover. “They have researched the issues,” lauds Walters in a recent email, “and can speak very articulately about them.”

November 17th, at the Diana Wortham Theatre, Walters and his cast will attempt to bring this dynamic to the forefront of their audience’s minds. “My hope is that people will become aware and concerned about the effects of our prison system on everyone who is touched by it” Walter’s says, “and that they will be motivated to express that concern through individual or group action.” As opening night approaches, a few organizations have already called him up, wanting to know more about the play. Walters’ hopes just may materialize.

The University of North Carolina at Asheville will be the first in the nation to stage a full production of “Thousand Kites.” The debut will be November 14-18 in UNC Asheville’s Carol Belk Theatre. Curtain is 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. All shows are open to the public.

Watch a short video about Thousand Kites | Asheville


Call our toll-free line at (877) 518-0606 to share your feedback or story about the criminal justice system.


  • Performances Nov. 14-18 2007
  • Visit to Aver/Mitchell Corrections Institution in Spruce Pine, NC. Nov. 5.
  • Dress Rehearsal Oct. 24-25 2007
  • Thousand Kites Artistic team visits campus and records interviews. Oct. 12-13.
  • Community dialogue series Sept.-Oct. 2007

Resources | Allies | Partners:

UNC-Asheville Theater Department

UNC-Asheville Thousand Kites Wiki

UNC-Asheville participants blog their experience with Kites

Learn more about Thousand Kites:

Faciliate a film showing of Up the Ridge in your community. Use the screening to kick off a local or statewide reform effort. More.

Work with your local community radio station to broadcast a Thousand Kites radio program and organize a panel discussion about our justice system. More.

Have your members call the Thousand Kites toll-free line and share their stories. Make your story public. More.

Use the play performance and the
audience discussion to get new members involved in your
organization. More.

Please contact us if you need additional information about Thousand Kites. thousandkitesproject@gmail.com or call us at 606-633-0108.