...a rehearsal for a healthy life.


Red Ladder in the Press


Articles about Red Ladder


The Daily californian

Red Ladder encourages inmates to reach higher

by: Adelaide Chen (2017)

“The name “Red Ladder” represents climbing ever higher to reach for a goal. In this case, the goal is to equip people with the skill set necessary to rise above their circumstances and make different choices for themselves. These life skills are acquired through working together as an ensemble to create a play that arises from issues they find relevant to their lives, and by exploring these issues, they can voice their thoughts and feelings, leading to a feeling of empowerment. They go through a process that Piemme terms “playbuilding,” as opposed to “playwriting;” the inmates improvise, experimenting as they try out new ideas. Whatever works well, they keep. Different parts will be shifted and modified, but eventually, the play comes together as a cohesive whole. “



How to Teach Theater Improv Skills with a Sniper Above Your Head

by: Tiffany Camhi (2016)

“Red Ladder Director Karen Altree Piemme says the spontaneity of improvisation helps prisoners expand their sense of what’s possible. “In order for them to live a different life than the one that was handed to them they have to be able to imagine it first,” Altree Piemme says. “That's what we're giving them the opportunity to do through this process.”


Independent Sector

Art and the Path of Transformation

by: Karen Altree Piemme (2016)

“One of the things that you discover when you’re in the prison environment is how incredibly segregated it is, not just by choice, but also for survival’s sake. The staff divides prisoners up by race, and it creates an environment that is designed to marginalize and isolate people to such a degree that their sense of themselves and how they relate to others has become really narrow. So when these guys can come together in a creative environment – when they walk into our theatre workshops and are so excited to see each other, embrace each other, and so many issues are brought up that they want to engage with, they’re able to not only express each of their own ideas individually but in a safe ensemble that can’t really exist anywhere else in the prison system.”

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Silicon valley business journal

Red Ladder sets stage for helping people solve problems

by: Danek S. Klaus (2002)

"The kinds of characters they are creating are not anyone they know, but are imaginary, someone very different from themselves," says Karen Altree Piemme, [associate] director of Red Ladder, and education and outreach programs manager at the Rep. "It really teaches them on a firsthand basis empathy for other human beings."


mercury news

Theatre company uses improv as a teaching tool

by: Mike Cassidy (2008)

"Groups work better when they understand the principles of improvisation,” says Karen Altree Piemme, director of Red Ladder Theatre Company, an outreach program of the San Jose Repertory Theatre. “It’s all about risk-taking and having trust in people and communication.”