The systemic injustices of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex have been put on display through a powerful one-woman play, “The Peculiar Patriot,” now playing at the Detroit Public Theatre through March 5. The show follows ‘Betsy’ LaQuanda Ross played by playwright and performer Liza Jessie Peterson, whose character is no stranger to the New York State Penitentiary system.

“Her regular visits to loved ones in various upstate institutions have made her quite the expert and a self-proclaimed “Peculiar Patriot.” In-between neighborhood updates and gossip, Betsy educates herself and the audience on the systemic inequity within America’s prison complex system and its effect on those behind bars, as well as their family and friends,” the play’s description says.

In her personal and professional life, Peterson has also become closely familiar with America’s prison system. The play was inspired by Peterson’s years of research and personal experiences, teaching and working with incarcerated people, and seeing the effects of the prison system on loved ones.


One Detroit’s Chris Jordan sat down with Peterson at the Detroit Public Theatre’s new theater to learn more about the inspiration behind the play and the impact it had on incarcerated people who’ve seen it performed. Plus, he talks with Detroit Public Theater Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director Sarah Clare Corporandy about the theater’s Shakespeare in Prison program and how “The Peculiar Patriot” aligns with the program’s mission.

The show is offering a limited number of free and discounted tickets to all performances to those who’ve been impacted by the justice system. Find more information about tickets and discount codes here.

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