A vital part of SIR’s mandate is to foster a life-long love of theatre (especially Shakespeare), particularly among youth. To that end we have developed a youth and community program which focuses on students that are at risk of not attaining a high school level education: Shakespeare in the City (SITC).
Our goal is to encourage young people who are unfamiliar with theatre and acting to embrace the spirit of personal discovery through an active study of Shakespeare. These workshops are aimed at overcoming the students’ existing prejudices surrounding the text, while building their self-confidence and ability to work as a team.
The program culminates in a public performance of one of Shakespeare’s parred down plays for the friends and family of the participants.
The impact in this program is instrinsically entwined in the self-esteem of every single one of these kids. If they can get up in public and recite Shakespeare’s text covering such topics as domestic violence and racism, then they empower themselves to believe the answers to their fate lie within themselves.
Shakespeare in the Stony Mountain
Spurred on by the success of the Shakespeare in the City program and after watching the documentary on Shakespeare Behind Bars, Program Director Claire felt passionately that the SITC program would be a great addition to the Stony Mountain curriculum…but it would take years before it would come to fruition.
After numerous false starts, and a chance meeting with the Dean of the School from Stony Mountain Penitentiary, Claire’s request to run the program in the prison went all the way up and back down the chain of command. Then in August 2015, three years after starting her initial inquiries, the phone rang and the voice at the other end of the phone told her she needed to fill out the clearance form and could she be there and start in three weeks!
Claire ran the pilot program for 12 weeks (October-January) and to say we are excited and spurred on by this pilot project is an understatement. The Program Director of Stony Mountain says it is one of the only programs they ran in the institution where laughter could be heard from outside the door.
We are poised to take this program to the next level and offer it as a full year round endeavor and are committed to finding the resources to help us do so.
While not without its obstacles; many classes had to be cancelled (or pushed to a later date) due to circumstances outside of our control, such as lock-downs. In one instance the result was a 3 week gap between classes. Through all the uncertainty the inmates participated to the best of their ability.
These men are aware they cannot re-do the day that sealed their fate but are working to become better men while serving their time. It is simultaneously beautiful, profound, and cathartic.
Although it is still in its fledgling state, our contact at Stony Mountain has already asked us to run the program again in 2016.
Together we will prove that something good and beautiful can come from a group of guys who are viewed as inherently BAD.
“From the first class I attended to the last class I have seen our group grow a great deal, we grew as a team. I think from all the laughs we got from the warm-ups we became more fearless and less worried about being judged or laughed at. I never thought that this is something that I could do, nor did I think this is something I would like. Myself and the guys were always listening and showed Arne and Claire all the respect they showed us.
-SITC prison participant