Nine original skits put modern personal trauma and healing on full display this past October.
The audience discovers how Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors had inspired a troupe of actors to present original works of how trauma is passed down across generations until a choice is made to heal. The troupe used intimate personal skits to express complex emotions arising from bullying, death, jealousy, revenge, betrayal, cancer, to loss of a parent.
Music and laughter led by Oran “Artwork” Hutson were used to loosen up the crowd of more than a hundred. With interlude and supporting music by Quentin Blue (Lee Atkins, Mark Kinney, Dwight Krizman, Chris Koppe, Chris Thomas, Rich Morris) and additional interlude by Eric “Maserati-E” Abercrombie and Gino Sevacos.
Audience Q & A
Q – How did the Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors inspire you?
A – My estranged relationship with my brother. He passed, and the whole play is about brothers that are never together.
A – The power of bullying and loss of a life – to do a show allowed honoring the dead and moving on… Suicide of my friend John.
Q – What really got me was how you incorporated the music – how did you do it?
A – Really lots of hard work. How to mix these two distinct mediums together. Dwight:
A – all expression helps us get through this prison experience. Where is my humanity. The help of outside, telling and supporting our self-expression – of all types. Thank you for coming in!
A – We are a support group for each other and an alternative to other tools for coping like exercise, church, groups, and dope. We really hope that when these tragedies come, we can share our loss with the community of artists.
Q – “You guys are the cure for pain” – You have used performance to show us all the things we have experience. “Life is poetry.”
A – Take with you what empathy really is. Things like race, age and gender no longer matter. Empathy will allow you to both understand others and yourself.
Q – What touched me so much was the vulnerability shown – especially in an environment where others don’t have it.
A – You want to talk about vulnerable, try to imagine coming from a Level 4 yard and having to put on a dress! The guys had fun, but I realize “this is what women go through” wow – this program has transformed me.”
A – Key is to open up and there is a lot of healing in this group, each of other has a way of healing and the different forms of expression we all have.
A – We have to be vulnerable, to be able to change. If not able to hear what is broken, how can you fix it.
We recycle cans and bottles, why can’t we recycle people?
Q – I hope you guys get how you touched us from tears to laughter in an instant. Thank you for letting us in.
So when are you musicians going to put the album out?
Lesley Currier of Marin Shakespeare Company took a moment to explain, “There are now arts programs in all the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities, including Marin Shakespeare in many prisons.”
In STAND TOGETHER by Raygeta, the parody of violence in a classroom and the jolt of a friend’s suicide – bullied for his differences. How to mourn such a loss, triggered by simple things to more violence calling for revenge and the cycle continues.
MIND YO BIZ by Darwin “Tall” Billingsley dealt with how to express love, jealously, including great Hong Kong-styled martial arts, and finding a way to admit, that the attacker is the one that needs help.
HEAL TO CHANGE TO SAVE by Ronell “Rauch” Draper Presented as a mix the spoken word with dance and music. As read by Surya Keating the repetition of “Heal the world; To change the world; In order to save the world.”
UNTIL THEN by Antwan “Banks” Williams was a conversation, facing a wall and asking, “Do you see me?”
“In April, my brother passed away. Does my pain want you to be closer? Your prospective will change with mine – too busy staring at what behind me or ahead of me….”
WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? By Andrew Wadsworth A conversation in a car about how to take care of a friend, retaliation, the blood debt cycle of violence while keeping of another promise to be a success. How to say goodbye at a father’s funeral. The power of a father’s love reflected in a son’s farewell.
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL by Maurice “Reese” Reed was a meditation of Shakespearean style on how beautiful is Black. The use of movement to demonstrate the words made physically manifest.
FREEDOM: DISCOVERING WHO WE ARE OR ARE SUPPOSED TO BE by Markelle “The Gazelle” Taylor with musical backup by Gino Sevacos on how a boy took a stepfather’s bitter lesson on learning to read and created the defense of lying to survive. Translated into a man’s lesson of “Free in the mind. Free in the heart and no one can take that away from me.”
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY by Richie Morris earned the most heart-warming applause on the defensive skill of being invisible. How to learn to be seen by going all the way back into one’s past – to understand our path to crime and how to return to the community.
“I am no longer a ghost in my own life.”
The central path of music with a wide range of string instruments where music and word again mixed into a powerful magic of song.
EVERYBODY NEEDS LOVE by Derry “Brotha Dee” Brown on the fear of cancer and how we men support each other through such times. The rhythms of prison life, the waiting, escort, group sign-in, etc. and how to deal with the consequences of aging in prison – God is called upon by the group.
As a finale, the cast had the audience join in sing EVERYBODY NEEDS LOVE.
Marin Shakespeare Company began its program in San Quentin in 2003 and in San Quentin’s H-Unit dormitory yard in 2018. The program now has expanded to 11 prisons. Videos are hosted on www.marinshakespeare.org.