Folsom Women’s Facility has recently become the first women’s prison in California to put on a stage production of a Shakespeare play, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The performance, which took place in May, was sponsored by Marin Shakespeare Company, which first began working with male prisoners at San Quentin in 2003, according to the article.
Thirty guests — including men, women, children and fellow inmates — gathered to watch the 16 incarcerated women and two male volunteers take to the stage and perform “Taming of the Shrew,” one of Shakespeare’s best known plays.
Director Lynn Baker-Nauman, who has been conducting weekly rehearsals and therapy workshops at the facility for more than a year, said, “(The women’s) confidence has grown, and you can see how much they have gained in their own self-worth,” says the report.
Folsom Women’s Facility is 25 miles east of Sacramento. The re-entry hub houses female inmates who have no more than five years left on their sentences.
The Marin Shakespeare Company now works with prisoners at seven California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) institutions: Folsom Women’s Facility, San Quentin, California State Prison- Solano, High Desert State Prison, Deuel Vocational Institution, California Medical Facility and California Health Care Facility.
The discipline required to perform Shakespeare serves as a rehabilitative and therapeutic exercise that seems to have a positive impact on the women.
“It’s definitely taught me that I’m able to come out of my shell a lot more,” said Tamsyn Jones, who played the lead role in the production. “It’s taught me what I have inside of me that I never knew was there,” she said, according to ABC News 10.
Many people believe that the work of Shakespeare is timeless. “Shakespeare has a certain universal relevance,” Scott Jackson of Notre Dame University commented, as mentioned by the Bee report. “And the themes that are found in his works are still very much in play today. Whether it’s jealousy, greed, murder or infidelity, they are still with us,” Jackson adds.
Most important, preparing for a successful performance calls on the actors to support one another, which contributes to the development of important qualities such as teamwork and nonviolent communication.
“They learn skills to present themselves to be able to get jobs and learn about relationships and be back in society,” said Baker-Nauman, according to ABC News 10.
Monies obtained through grants from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, facility by the California Arts Council, help cover the cost of maintaining the prisoner Shakespeare program, making it possible, added Ananda Rochita of ABC News 10.