Audition for Youth Readers at Eastern State Penitentiary

Audition for Youth Readers at Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is holding an audition to fill the role of youth reader during its Dr. Martin Luther King Weekend event.

This role will read excerpts of Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail as part of a public reading and discussion of this landmark civil rights text. Easter State Penitentiary seeks young people between the ages of 15-19 who are comfortable with public speaking – no previous acting experience required and Eastern State Penitentiary does not expect you to read in the style of Dr. King’s speeches. The public readings last about one hour, and the reader speaks for approximately thirty minutes.

The audition will be held at Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA), if you are under age 18, please bring a parent or guardian. You do not need to make an appointment.

Relevant Dates: Rehearsal is on Thursday, January 12th from 5:30 – 7 PM

Letter reading is Monday, January 16th from 10:30 AM – 1 PM.

Selected readers will receive a $50 stipend in the form of a gift card for their participation in the event.

Questions? Contact Lauren Zalut, Director of Education and Tour Programs at, or 215-309-4889.

At auditions you will be asked to read the first four paragraphs of Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail:

While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

More information about Eastern State (and how to use your STAMP pass there) is available at