The players enacted The Winter’s Tale and Two Gentlemen of Verona
Shakespeare at San Quentin performed The Winter’s Tale and Two Gentlemen of Verona on consecutive Fridays in May in the prison’s Protestant Chapel. Marin Shakespeare Company began its first Shakespeare program at San Quentin in 2003.
Director Suraya Keating of Marin Shakespeare, invited each audience of more than 100 people from the local San Francisco Bay Area community and almost 90 inmates to sit together and enjoy the plays.
About The Winter’s Tale Keating said, “One of the themes is that our minds can either enslave us when we get stuck in negative thoughts, or it could free us.”
In the play, King Leontes heads toward a destructive path when he is hooked on the (false) belief that his wife Hermione is cheating on him with his best friend, King Polixenes. Rather than checking his own thinking, Leontes is set on pointing the finger of blame and punishing those he believes are at fault. As with most thoughtless negative behavior, Leontes’ hurtful actions end up hurting himself in the end.
Regarding Two Gentlemen of Verona she said: “What does love mean to you, and have you experienced love? I want you all to get in groups real quick and talk about this.” It got the audience into the spirit of love.
Two Gentlemen of Verona is Shakespeare’s first play, a story of two best buddies Proteus and Valentine who are infatuated with Sylvia, the daughter of Duke of Milan.
“Theater teaches me to look at other issues besides mine and realize that I need to be empathic with others for the greater whole, to sacrifice for the greater whole,” said inmate Chris Marshall who plays Valentine, a gentleman of Verona. “Valentine is a young gentleman from Vero- na, who is in love with Silvia. However, he is unaware that she loves him; he’s on a quest for friendship. The only problem is that his close friend is also in love with Silvia.”
Keating says giving inmates the chance to perform Shakespearean plays is therapeutic—it’s called Drama Therapy.
Daphne, an outside actor who played the role of Silvia and is currently working on a Master’s degree in Drama Therapy said, “Acting has taught me not to judge; I cannot judge and be real with myself — in one word empathy.”
Raiveon “Ray-Ray” Wooden who played the Duke of Milan said, “It helps me embrace my true self. I’m very animated; Shakespeare gives us a chance to reflect on the characters we play and how we can put those experiences to use in our real lives.”
Wayne Belize Villa Franco, who played Crab, Launce’s dog, said, “I played the dog role because it re- minds me of my past dog Kilo, who loved me, but I didn’t know how to love that dog because of my addiction. I now know how to love. I played this role to say sorry to Kilo for not loving him properly. Acting has taught me empathy and compassion for all life.”
Drama Therapy is another form of rehabilitation, which affects the individual, and helps create social change in the community, according to Keating.
“When I told my friends that I was going to a play within a prison they were somewhat conflicted. How- ever, this was a great experience to see you all in your creative form,” said Cindy, an outside guest during a question and answer period after Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Another audience member, Karen, told the inmate actors in Two Gentlemen of Verona, “I believe in social justice theater. You men today have shown us all that you are rehabilitating your- self and breaking down barriers in the process.”
“I have seen Shakespeare all over the world, but I’ve never seen such living theater as I’ve seen here,” commented Vicky, an audience member of The Winter’s Tale.
Another audience member, Nancy, who is a Shakespearean actor, told the inmate actors in The Winter’s Tale, “Your humanity landed in a way I’ve never seen before. I think we can all identify with thinking freely as a community as we break down that fourth wall that’s in our heads.”
Actor Chris Thomas said, “Judging people or situations with a jaded eye can have dire consequences,” regarding his take on acting in The Winter’s Tale.
Actor Angelo Falcone add- ed, “I look not for beauty, nor color of skin, but for a loyal heart, deep within. For beauty will fade, and skin will grow old, but a loyal heart will never go cold.”
To learn skills of using the study and performance of Shakespeare and Drama Therapy to effect individual and social change, visit Marin Shakespeare Company: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about training workshops.
The Characters in The Winter’s Tale:
King Leontes, King of Si- cilia: Antwan Banks Williams R. Mamillius, son of Leon- tes & Hermione: Adamu Chan
Camillo, Lord & friend to King Leontes: Raiveon “Ray-Ray” Wooden
Paulino, Lord of Sicilia & brother to Antigonus: Richie Morris
Lord 1 of Sicilia: G. Jordan
Cleomenes: Nythell Nate Collins
Oracle of Apollo & Mariner: Rauch Draper
Time: Eric “Maserati-E” Abercrombie
Polixenes, King of Bohemia: Maurice Reese Reed
Florizel, Prince of Bohemia & son of Polixenes: Drew, Jr.
Clown, Shepherd’s son: Philippe “Kells” Kelly
Perdita, daughter of Leontes & Hermione, raised by Shepherd: Suraya Keating
Autolycus, a roguish peddler: Chris Thomas
Hermione, Queen of Sicilia: Sharon
Emilia, friend to Hermione: Losdini
Antigonus, Lord of Sicilia: Ben Tobin
Jailer: Jad Salem
Lord 2 of Sicilia: Belize Villafranco
Dion & Bear: Red Bone Time: John Ray Ervin, Sr. Shepherd: Darwin “tall”
Dorca, a shepherdess:
Music Director: G. Jordan Stage Manager: Brotha Dee
Music & Songs by: Brotha Dee, Chris Thomas, & G. Jordan
The characters in Two Gentlemen of Verona:
Proteus, a gentleman of Verona: Jack Spat
Launce, servant to Proteus: Edmond Richardson
Crab, Launce’s dog: Belize Villafranco
Valentine, a gentleman of Verona: C.R. Marshall Sr.
Speed, servant to Valentine: A.A.
Julia, a lady of Verona (later disguised as Sebatian): Nythell (Nate) Collins
Antonio, father to Proteus: Darwin Tall Billingsley Panthino, cousin to Proteus: Tommy
Lucetta, lady friend to
Duke of Milan: Raygeta Sylvia, daughter to Duke of Milan: Daphne
Thurio, suitor to Silvia:
Maurice “Reese” Reed Eglamour, butler to Sylvia: A.D.A.M.U.
Host: Drew Jr.
Outlaw 1: Jeanne
Outlaw 2: John Ray Ervin, Sr.
Outlaw 3: David Anthony
Strouth Outlaw ensemble: Brotha Dee, Geno, Tall, Tommy Music & Songs: Tommy, David Anthony Strouth,
Blakk Flame Stage Manager: Brotha Dee
–Juan Haines Co-authored this story.