Fall 2017: Wrap up.

Most of our ensemble members were able to come today to provide feedback and reflections. It was lovely to be able to just sit, relax, and talk with them. They had a lot of good constructive criticism and ideas of how to enhance what we’re doing next time around.

It was a wide-ranging conversation. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“This time there was more adversity than any of us planned for, but we kept it rollin’, we kept it pushin’… We worked together and made it happen.”

“After 18 years of being locked up… I’m appreciative of your time. It makes us feel wanted, needed, and like we have a purpose… [Prison] has been my reality so long. It’s been an escape. For those hours I wasn’t in prison. We have very few avenues that give us release… For me, it’s changed the conversation. I can talk to my professors about Macbeth, Othello, and appreciate that everyone else is lost. This program has given me a gift that I never expected I would actually receive. Being comfortable in my own skin is something this program has given me as well… [They got made fun of at first] I guess I made fun of the drama club and glee club, and now, I guess, I’m in the glee club… Except here, we the cool kids on the block. Thank you for making me a cool kid.”

“I got from it… I sat back and thought about everything – I don’t want to take anything out of prison except the knowledge I gained and confidence I gained in this program… It gives you a sense of pride, like, ‘We did that.’”

“It made my time go fast, that’s for sure.”

“Theatre can be used to break all sorts of barriers – race, gender, sexual orientation. Because when we come together, we don’t see any of that. All we see is an individual… Part of a team. It makes you look past the outside of a person and makes you see the inside of a person.”

“I think the opportunities is boundless… This could actually help guys when we make the transition. It could help keep us off the streets.”

“The acting gets us out of our comfort zone. In prison you can be anything you want to be, but here we’ve learned all the potential we’ve got. Then we get out, and we’ve got the same cousins out there doing drugs, selling drugs – we get put back in that same box. We need the positive people back in our lives because it’s not always easy to find those back where you come from.”

“I can almost see this as – this is a small group of people, but it affects the whole population that saw it. I’ve heard people in the dayroom say, “Oh, that’s gay…” A couple days later, they were watching. Later that day, that same person [who didn’t know I had overheard him] came up to me and said, “Good job today. That was actually pretty cool. [It made me think] maybe I don’t have to put a front on all the time – those guys were up there just doing them.’”

“When it’s over, that would shine a positive light on it – [people] would see that this does actually change people’s lives.”

“When I fail, I get so fearful. I was nervous about being in front of all them people... Even just reading and bringing myself out of my element. It brought more positivity and confidence to myself.”

“It’s almost like a support group. We’re able to support each other and keep each other out of trouble.”

“I got out of it, the creativity that it gives you, and the learning… This the type of stuff you need to move on past trauma or any negative thing you’ve done. It pushes you to the limit. I might not amount to anything in the world, but I was able to do this thing. This proves you can amount to anything. All you need is that hope – that ambition. Once you understand yourself, you can understand others and do better things out there.”

“I was at a higher level for [a very long time]. I had horrible social anxiety… This broke me out of it. It gives me a tool to push through it.”

“What we do here affects much more than prisoners… The possibilities are pretty much boundless.” He said that the staff saw the show and talk to each other about it. “It changes their minds about who prisoners are.”

“I’ve got a [young] son out there, and doing this will help me connect with him in school, maybe, because they do plays in school… Being through something like this, I could volunteer and help my kid through the play. It makes me feel more positive. Talking to the mother of my kid, I got to say, ‘I’m in Shakespeare.’” Another man said, “I told my significant other the same thing.”

“It helped me relieve some stress… I could be that [other] person just for that moment… Not having to be us and deal with the stresses of prison – You’re free to be yourself. You’re weightless. It’s like… I can breathe. Through being someone else, you get to finally be yourself.” Another man said, “The whole time you’ve been you. It just took this to bring it out.”

“My wife made me read lines for her on the phone.” Another man said, “I read lines to my daughter over the phone. She’s all excited now, and she wants to do it.”

“I like when I call home… [And I said I’m] acting in a Shakespeare play, they’re like, ‘What?! You’re doing more in there than people are doing out here in the streets!’”

“When I talk to my mom about what I’m doing, she says, ‘I’ve never seen you so excited about something.’ And that makes me think that I have something to give.”

“This has strengthened my drive that this isn’t it for me. When I walk out those doors, it’s like a fresh, clean slate.”

We decided that we’ll work on The Tempest when we start back up in January. We are all very pumped up. I can’t wait to dig in with them!