Donovan Inmates Write Shakespeare Play for San Diego University

Students at San Diego State University performed a play, “I’M GOOD,” written by inmates at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD).

“In my career, this is some of the best writing I’ve been involved with,” said James Pillar, a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, reported San Diego Union- Tribune.

Experience in theater isn’t new to California prisons. Inmate actors in both Solano and San Quentin perform plays on prison stages.

“I’M GOOD” is an acronym for Incarcerated Men Getting Over Obstacles Daily. The play offers a look at the lives of four incarcerated men, each with unique sets of problems and situations. The 90-minute play illuminates the experiences that led to their incarceration.

Inmate playwright Mickey Trotter, 38, said, “It made me understand the true meaning of teamwork.”

Playwright’s Project, a nonprofit organization, helped the men prepare the play. The organization was founded in 1985 and has worked with various groups including juvenile court, San Diego Youth and Community Services and community school districts.

The Playwrights Project executive director Cecelia Kouma was inspired to work with inmates by a prisoner she met in Leavenworth federal prison. Sometime in 2014 she contacted RJD officials and successfully launched the program.

According to the Union- Tribune article, when Kouma recalled her meeting with the inmates at RJD, she said, “We sat around the table to talk. We asked, ‘What is it you want to say?’ They said, ‘We want people to know who we are, what got us here, and we’re not monsters.’”

One thing RJD attempts to do is create positive impact programs for inmates. The Playwrights Project is a program that seemed to have a positive effect, RJD spokesman Lt. Philip Bracamonte told Union- Tribune.

Bracamonte also said that the warden suggested the program for level–four prisoners, who are in the highest security classification in the state, because he believes it could do the most good with those inmates. Prisoners at that level don’t have as many programs as other inmates.

San Diego State University presented “I’M GOOD” in its Experimental Theater from April 20 to 23. Student actors read the script, but the play wasn’t fully staged, according to Warth.

–Harry C. Goodall Jr.

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