Some sessions are easier than others. Sometimes everything runs smoothly. We come, we laugh, we play, we explore. And sometimes it feels hard. Class after class cancelled due to lockdowns. Having to advocate for the smallest things, like a pot of coffee for break time. Sometimes I am so aware that I get older, and they stay the same age. Young men – most of whom have already spent the majority of their lives on the inside, locked up, away from their mothers and sisters and children and partners. There are days I want to cradle their bruised faces in my hands and ask “Who did this to you?”
But we go forth. We come together in spite of the obstacles. We build new relationships within a static and cold structure. We find a way to identify ourselves differently – as artists, as creative beings, as peers, part of a team.
This year we focused on Julius Caesar – a request from a previous participant who has since been released after serving a life sentence. Seven guys completed the program. One was thrown in the hole the morning of the performance. The other six presented a monologue in front of ensemble members and staff from SIR, their teachers, parole officers, and the warden and assistant warden. Two of the participants will be released within the week.
And in the spring we will begin again – renewed by the possibility of laughter, and play, and exploration, and connection – forever grateful for the opportunity to expand these prison walls.