Tonight we were given the opportunity to see a performance by one of Prison Creative Arts Project’s groups, and we took it!
Before the program began, we facilitators took seats near some members of our ensemble. The conversation quickly turned to our rehearsal script – we need to make the first round of cuts so that we can print the copies we’ll use until June. One of the women had brought her book, and I gave her mine so she could transfer her cuts from one to the other. She and another ensemble member have split the play down the middle – one made cuts to the first half, and the other to the second half. They are finding it difficult to cut because a lot of the banter is very tight. The second ensemble member, who has been in the group for several years, remarked that it was challenging for her, too, even though she is very skilled at cutting, because she doesn’t know the play as well as she would like. We know that we will make more cuts as we work through it together.
Several ensemble members were excited to tell us that they’ve discovered “The Hollow Crown” on PBS, which is a series about the Wars of the Roses. I am definitely going to check it out!
The PCAP performance was a great experience. Women from both the creative writing and theatre workshops performed, showing great skill and ingenuity. When some of the women were clearly nervous, the audience cheered them on – it was one of the most encouraging, positive audiences of which I’ve ever been a part.
After the performance, an ensemble member who wrote and produced an original play at the prison called me over to a friend who’d been in the performance. This friend then sang a couple of songs that our ensemble member wrote, and another woman performed short snippets from the play. This ensemble member has really come into her own as an artist – it seems like there’s nothing she can’t do!
Tonight we had a small group due to some miscommunications – a number of people were under the impression that our meeting had been canceled. Even so, we had a positive evening.
We took our time with our check in. A couple of women shared that they’d had some wonderful and rare visits with family members – very welcome during the holidays, which can be very dark for incarcerated people. We also reflected on the PCAP performance, with all of us saying how much we’d enjoyed it.
At one point during our check in, an ensemble member in her early twenties referred to people in their sixties as being “old.” A woman in our group who IS in her sixties jokingly corrected her, saying, “oldER.” Later, during a theatre game, the latter woman got the first woman out and teased her, saying, “That’s what happens when you’re older!” We all had a good laugh at that.
The game that we played involves sitting in a circle, asking a question to the person next to you, who does not answer but turns to the person next to her and asks another question, and so on. It’s a challenging game, great for teaching us to think quickly and trust our instincts. I won the first round, and a very competitive ensemble member won the second round. The group then decided that the two of us should face off. I jokingly start dancing and snapping my fingers, ala “West Side Story,” and we circled each other for several minutes, peppering each other with questions, until I finally folded. It was hilarious.
As we sat together, the conversation shifted to some personal issues some members of our group have been having. One of the women remarked that often all one has to do when faced with a challenge is to ask for help. Several others pointed out that there are many women in prison who have no one to whom they can go. The first woman insisted that there is always someone who will be willing to help. Others said that first one needs the self-worth and courage to do it, with one woman admitting that she simply has too much pride to ask for help in most situations.
Although we didn’t work on any Shakespeare tonight, it was a good meeting. We need all the positive energy we can muster this time of year. We’ll get rolling on our play again soon