The Shakespeare for Social Justice Program and Veterans Healing Veterans — from the Inside Out — presented “The Field” on Dec. 16 in the ARC building.
San Quentin veterans, working with the Marin Shakespeare Company, told their stories via a genre called “Reader’s Theatre.” The men did not memorize but rather read their parts from a script of their own stories, written by the volunteer Ruth. That is what gives the name Reader’s Theatre to the genre.
Director Lesley Currier explained that the style “allows us to focus on the meaning of the stories that are being told, without concern for memorizing.
“By forgoing memorization, the actors have flexibility to tell these stories in a way that feels true to them in the moment, cultivating a trust in themselves, as well as in one another.”
The men who performed are veterans of many things: military service, war, trauma, pain, trouble, and imprisonment.
The “fields” they narrated were a succession of scenes that described childhood trauma, growing up too fast, military service as mere teens, and ordeals encountered in their service.
Later “fields” were scenes of struggles to return to civilian life, followed by trouble that led to crime and prison. Guitar music and songs accompanied the narratives.
The stories told in this performance originated in a circle that the men formed on Dec. 7, 2018, where they began the process of sharing their experiences with one another.
COVID-19 shut down the original performance scheduled for April 2020. When the group came together again in June 2021, they decided to carry on from where they left off when the pandemic interrupted their work.
A flyer for the performance included “Reflections from the cast,” as follows: “Steve: ‘The honor is to serve and perform with these men and women.’ Doug: ‘Sitting thru the fire is e ssential t o h ealing. M y thanks to the men and women to my left and right.’ Jim: ‘Negative expectations lead to negative results, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.’ Ray: ‘My band of brothers.’ James: ‘This group’s brought light to a dark place in my life.’”
The players included: Douglas Ingham, U.S. Navy; Jim Snider, U.S. Navy and Veterans Healing Veterans; James Wilcoxson, USMC; Phillip, U.S. Army; Bruce L. Bowman, U.S. Air Force; Ray Melberg, U.S. Air Force; Mario Gomez, U.S. Navy; Steve Drown, U.S. Navy; Johnnie Fluker, USMC; Andrew Gazzeny, U.S. Navy; Daniel Chairez, Jr.; Anthony Virgle; Ernest Blackwell; Jasjit (Tony) Singh; Ruben Martinez; Ted, USMC, a volunteer to the Veterans Healing Veterans group, and Tina, of the Marin Shakespeare Company.