This blog entry was originally written in mid-September 2015.
Hello there, readers.
Let me tell you about the last three Hamlet plays I've been in. We opened on Saturday, Sept. 12 for people who drive for hours just to see us perform. Not only do these people have to travel from miles away, but the process to get in here is pretty extensive as well. They have to go through the metal detectors, pat downs, ID checks and then walk a long distance to come into the actual prison. The things these generous folks go through to come in to see us is very commendable!
Why would they keep coming back year after year to see "some inmates" convicted of horrible crimes perform Shakespeare? Apparently there are people in society that understand mistakes are made and we are still human beings despite our past bad choices.
There was good feedback on the first performance. I heard someone comment that it was "raw," because it showed the imperfections in the play from not being performed previously and knowing all the stage cues, blocking and timing. I believe that our audience was kind, patient and even if it was an OK performance, they would have been nice to us. Anytime you do something for the first time, it will not be perfect. Practice, practice, practice!
The next performance was Monday, Sept. 14 for the inmate population. If anyone would be honest about our performance, it would be our peers that we live around and see every day. Some have potential to be downright cruel. I am grateful to those who were there to be taken away to a time that was different in speech and dress.
Each year I have done shows, I have heard inmates say that for a brief time they didn't feel like they were in prison. There is something good to be said for having the talent to help someone get away from such a place of sadness, hatred and depression. Do you ever find yourself watching a TV show or reading a book and you got so involved in the storyline that you felt like you were right there watching it?! That was just like watching our play.
We gave another performance to the inmates the next night on the 15th and that was an audience that had great energy. We had an amazing performance to put on in front of a mishmash of all types of people from different backgrounds. I saw faces of people who I have known for years doing time with me. I heard that this acting thing was out of character for me and they admired the tenacity it took to do it. Some of the guys had expressed interests in wanting to try their hand at acting maybe next year. I am so happy for them to want to do that! I would encourage anyone who had an interest in theater to do this as well.
I heard that it is possible there will be an extra performance for the inmate population due to clerical error of a lot of folks not being added to the call-outs. Our last inmate performance will be Friday, Sept. 25. I'll keep you posted.
Our last public performance will be on Saturday, Sept. 26. I am elated that it is coming to a close because this takes a lot out of a person leaving you exhausted the next day. I am also sad because I want to keep doing shows. Performing is such a welcomed rush of emotions; feeling this way cannot be replaced with drugs.
Another reason to look forward to closing night is that the owners Tres Shannon and Kenneth Pogson of VOO DOO DOUGHNUTS, a nationally known business, will be in our audience. They bring products from their shop to share with us. OMG! For those of you not familiar with this place I'd like to ask, do you love Maple Bars and Bacon? Ever had those two items together? They have been on the Travel Channel talking about the business. Google them if you'd like. Being in prison for a lot of years, you miss out on LOTS of things that free people take for granted, like good food.
I don't have a visitor coming to watch me perform at the play, so I'll do my best to make the experience for other visitors pleasant. I am truly grateful that we have such a program at this prison. There is not another one like it anywhere else in the state, not yet. There is a plan to make this type of program available statewide, hopefully in the next year, so then there will be actors appreciated for their talent(s), not judged based on past mistakes!
Take care of yourselves.