Behind bars with the Bard
Shakespeare puts prison life in perspective
Published: September 12, 2012
Although it will take a few years to measure any success in decreasing recidivism at Huron Valley, the women involved are vocal about the ways they've been affected by their experience.
On a recent Tuesday morning, five female inmates rehearse a scene from Othello, when Desdemona, Othello's beautiful but luckless wife, attempts to defend herself against charges of adultery.
Acting the parts of both the abuser and the battered spouse in a violent relationship isn't far from reality for many female inmates, says L, who plays Desdemona. She says that, by learning to embody the character, she's been able to release some of the anger and pain of "... being in relationships with abusive men, where they run you down, make you hurt."
An older woman with a blond crew-cut says she's most drawn to Shakespeare's humorous side. Inmates, she explains, are not allowed to touch one another, "so there's few opportunities to laugh or play around. I can forget that I'm in prison when I'm on stage."
And that chance to momentarily forget labels like "inmate" or "prisoner" could be the greatest benefit from programs like Shakespeare in Prison, because all of society benefits when each of us is allowed to reclaim our humanity.
Amanda le Claire is a freelance writer and video producer. Send comments to her via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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