Renowned acting company finds emotional connection with incarcerated actors
First visiting the historic and innovative prison in June, this time the Hamilton gang filled an entire row of the SQ chapel for an original theater experience inspired by Shakespeare.
“I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did,” said Darilyn Castillo, who plays dual roles. “The comedic angle in some of the pieces was really refreshing.
“And it was great to hear the ‘public service announcement’ from that guy—what was his name? Rauch [Ronell Draper]?—to take that pause from performing for a moment of realness. I felt it. It was real.”
Asst. Company Manager Crystal Clayton visibly shed a tear or two during the two-hour collection of short plays.
“Right from the beginning it was very clear how hard they worked to showcase their pieces,” she said. “I laughed. I cried.
“I felt so many emotions sitting in the chapel, watching them perform one by one—each so different, yet all filled with so much heart, passion and emotion.
“They should be extremely proud, knowing they are not only creating change amongst themselves, but changing each and every one of us who had the pleasure of watching them.”
After the show, the Hamilton folks made sure to speak with the SQ acting troupe for as long as time permitted before leaving to perform back in the city that evening.
Lead standby Marja Harmon’s warm, broad smile stood out like a spotlight as she shook hands and congratulated the SQ Shakespeare company.
“Watching the men perform their original pieces was incredibly humbling,” said Harmon. “It was a perfect reminder of the healing power of theater and music.
“The vulnerability and creativity that was on display was remarkable. It was a beautiful transference of energy and connection.”
Hamilton understudy Rebecca E. Covington has personally seen mass incarceration affect her own family’s past. “Coming into San Quentin truly means something each time for me,” she said. “It’s very healing to interact with you guys.”
The correlation between Hamilton and the SQ performance hit home for Castillo. “Everything that was performed today had this great connectiveness that was very fitting to each person,” she said. “Not lost in that connection was all the individuality.
“That’s the same thing that makes Hamilton so meaningful for us as actors—it’s not cookie cutter. We all get to be ourselves.
“And that’s what made today so special—that same connection and support. We felt that in there.”
Marin Shakespeare Asst. Director Marianne S. told SQNews later, “I’ve seen this actual cast perform. Donald [Webber, Jr.] plays Aaron Burr to the fullest as he turns to the dark side and kills Hamilton.
“I told Ray Ray [Raiveon Wooden] to ask him, ‘What’s it like to be the villain?’ Accessing your dark side and having the audience dislike you—that takes courage.
“It was great to see him engage with Webber and have that conversation.”
Wooden’s eyes lit up when asked about their interaction. “I put my whole heart into that show,” he said later. “It was a real gift for us to have these professional actors in the house watching us.
“He [Webber] told me what a great job I did—that I really channeled all my energy into being the bad guy. To hear him tell me that in person. Wow.”
Webber himself appreciated both theater communities getting the chance to mingle. “These guys are real actors. I feel re-inspired for our show tonight,” he said. “I heard they’re doing Othello next. I’d like to come back for that.”