Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ava Roy speaking at the Commonwealth Club

Follow this link to hear Ava Roy speak about site specific theater and Hamlet on Alcatraz, in conversation with Stuart Bousel.  Recorded at the Commonwealth Club on October 20, 2010.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hamlet on Alcatraz final weekend waiting list

I just want folks to know that we have given waiting list pre-placement priority to folks who had reservations to shows that were canceled due to inclement weather back in October.  As a result, our waiting lists for the final three performances of Hamlet on Alcatraz (Friday @ 3:10, Saturday @ 3:10, and Sunday @ 11:35) already have approximately 15 names at the top of each list.

Additional names will be taken starting 1 hour prior to performance start time.  Come to Pier 33 to add your name to the list.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Not much I can say that hasn't been said ("All You Need Is Love") just appreciation to have been part of the Hallowe'en Hamlet audience (thanks A&A). I couldn't imagine at the beginning of the project how it would be accomplished, but it was and so well. The scene where Claudius tried to repent and Hamlet wouldn't kill him since he thought he might get into Heaven made me think of the prisoners and their struggle to exculpate themselves. I thought of all those men in their cells and wondered how many repeated that agony and how many broke under the weight of it. The themes of the Play and the Park seemed to join so smoothly. Anyway, I posted a review on FB that I hoped sounded like some kind of 'telegraphed in' piece, which a 'Friend' said reminded him of the Fat Guy/Skinny Guy movie review TV show. Here's the post and my reply:

I saw the We Players production of Hamlet on Alcatraz yesterday, Hallowe'en. The foreboding emotionally intense action propels the audience forward, anticipation building, toward the ultimate horror. The play reanimates the hopelessly guilty karmic soaked landscape and the ghostly grim abandoned architecture with the murderous motives and methods that landed men on the forbidding Rock in the first place. It is Alcatraz as nothing else could be.

and a comment:

Ha, I was goin for somethin, Fat Guy Critical maybe, got off track by the win fireworks, mini riot, cop cars outside, and it turned out kinda cryptic, tortured syntax, grammatical violence - hah, cryptic - hallowe'en - tortured - violence - Alcatraz - hah hah

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

WE on West Coast Live, streaming here!

WE were thrilled to share the airwaves with musical groups Tango #9 and Albino!
as well as deeply honored to share space with the wise and beautiful Alice Walker.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WE PLAYERS on West Coast Live this Saturday 10am!

WE on West Coast Live !

This Saturday, 10/30
aired in the SF Bay Area on KALW 91.7FM
and other pulbic radio stations nationwide.

Show is streamed live 10am-12pm at

more info on the show at

Join us as part of the live audience! Reserve tickets at 415-664-9500

We'll share a few scenes from our current production of Hamlet on Alcatraz, followed by interview with director Ava Roy and cast members.

Join us live! and on the air!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Waiting List for Hamlet on Alcatraz

double double toil and trouble...

The typhoon blew us off the Rock yesterday, and our magic wand seems to be on the fritz...
Some conditions are beyond even the powerful charms of WE.

Thank you for your patience and understanding the nature of site-specific work.

WE are entirely booked for all performances of Hamlet on Alcatraz.

If you don't already have reservations, the waiting list is a good option!

We begin taking names for our waiting list 1 hour prior to performance start time/ ferry departure.
Come to Pier 33 and look for the Hamlet on Alcatraz signs and the crew in red t-shirts.
We release unclaimed reservations 15 minutes before departure.

Remaining shows as follows:

Friday, October 29, 3:10pm
Saturday, October 30, 3:10pm
Sunday, October 31, 11:35am
Saturday, November 6, 3:10pm
Sunday, November 7, 11:35am
Saturday, November 13, 3:10pm
Sunday, November 14, 11:35am
Friday, November 19, 3:10pm
Saturday, November 20, 3:10pm
Sunday, November 21, 11:35am

See you on the Rock!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Performing New Lives, with Jonathan Shailor

Meet Dr. Jonathan Shailor
author and editor of Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre

888 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110


Jonathan is the director of The Shakespeare Prison Project
and the editor of a new book: Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre
(Jessica Kingsley Publishers - to order the book, click here).

Ava will be joining Jonathan at the reading to share in the conversation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hear what the audience has to say about Hamlet on Alcatraz:

"This is an amazing artistic effort that creates an experience that truly transports you into another world... The visual beauty of this performance will knock your socks off." —mdn

"The audience was intimately mixed with the cast and the setting such that the brilliant words were coming from in front, behind and ultimately inside my head... I feel much more alive having seen it." —andywolpert

Other audience thoughts: The Opposite of Truth, Theo's, Cameron Maddux, My Grainy View, Love and Eggs

Thank you for all of your thoughtful reactions.

We Players at The Commonwealth Club!

We Players' creative director, Ava Roy, will be speaking at The Commonwealth Club on Wednesday, Oct. 20th at 5:30 PM. To purchase tickets and learn more about the event, visit the Commonwealth Club's website.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hamlet on Alcatraz filled to capacity!

what an honor!  over 2,500 reservations placed just after opening weekend!
We are taking names for our waiting list 1 hour prior to listed performance time and releasing unclaimed reservations 15 minutes prior to ferry departure.  Follow the signs to the reservations table at Pier 33.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Off WE Go!! Celebrate our opening with Reason to Party!

Thank you to everyone who joined us on our opening weekend! WE are celebrating with Reason to Party at Medjool, a roof-top bar in the Mission, on Thursday, October 14. Purchase your advance ticket for $25 (or $35 at the door) HERE. Reason to Party brings together Bay Area communities and awareness for local charity organizations -- and next week they are throwing a party for WE. Come join us and meet the cast and crew of Hamlet!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What Cannot be Taken Away: Families and Prisons Project

WE just visited Evan Bissell's show at SOMArts called What Cannot be Taken Away: Families and Prisons Project. The show grew out of a series of workshops and dialogues between the artist, incarcerated men and local youth with incarcerated parents. Bissell documented and displayed the process of the project in order to emphasize the collaborative nature of the portraits on display. The exhibition also includes interactive wall drawings, installation pieces and audio. The show will run through September 19th. Be sure to check it out! Additionally, Evan Bissell will be offering a visual arts workshop related to healing and justice on Saturday 11, 2010.

There are over seven million youth in this country with parents in the legal justice system.

Public Secrets

According to Sharon Daniel, creator of Public Secrets: there are secrets that are kept from the public and then there are "public secrets" - secrets that the public chooses to keep safe from itself, like, "don't ask, don't tell." The public secret is an aporia - an irresolvable internal contradiction between inside and outside, power and knowledge. Public Secrets is an interactive testimonial in which women incarcerated in the California State Prison System reveal the secrets of the war on drugs, the criminal justice system, and the prison industrial complex.

Explore Public Secrets' stunning website and hear the voices of women incarcerated in the California Prison System.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

WE's night out!

WE had a blast at Elixir in the Mission last night. Thanks to all who joined us! Special thanks to Elixir for hosting us and La Mediterranee for the DELICIOUS food. Next party? VOLUNTEER training! Sign up to help out with Hamlet on Alcatraz.

Monday, August 23, 2010


We Players is seeking volunteers for our upcoming performances of Hamlet on Alcatraz.  WE are looking for responsible persons, interested in theater, and for whom creating art on Alcatraz would be an exciting adventure.  We have myriad volunteer opportunities, which we have separated into three different categories -
  1. Stage and tech crew*
  2. Front of house Crew*
  3. Off-Site or work day helpers (specialized training not required)
Please click on the appropriate link/ volunteer title to provide the required information and choose performances to crew.  More detailed information will follow via confirmation e-mail, once you sign up. 

If you would like to crew a performance with a group (school class, office, team, etc.), please contact Outreach Coordinator, Elizabeth Nichols,

Thanks for your enthusiasm and support!  ALL volunteers will be listed and thanked here on our project blog. We look forward to you joining WE in making history on Alcatraz!

* Specialized training is REQUIRED for Stage & Tech and Front of House crews. Volunteers for these crews are also REQUIRED to attend our final dress rehearsal on Friday, October 1st, 4:40-9:40pm. Stage and tech crew and front of house volunteer positions consist of a 26 hour minimum time commitment over the next 2 1/2 months.  These trained volunteers will receive a We Players on Alcatraz CREW t-shirt, (2) advance-book reserved spaces for Hamlet on Alcatraz, and name listing in our program.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shakespeare Behind Bars

Shakespeare Behind Bars, a documentary about the process of putting on a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest in Luther Luckett Prison in Kentucky, shows the transformative power of art and theater in the context of the prison system.

Monday, August 16, 2010


We Players guest artist Anna Martine Whitehead is leading a puppet making workshop with volunteers via the San Francisco Sheriff's office.  She and her volunteers are creating large puppets for our upcoming production of Hamlet on Alcatraz. Anna needs some help with paper mache THIS WEEK!  The party will be held in the East Bay, ~ 15 min walk from a BART station, at the following times:
Tuesday, 8.17 from about 2pm probably til 6pm
Wednesday, 8.18 from about 1 or 1:30 to probably 5 or 6
Thursday, 8.19 possibly in the morning, if need be, from about 10am to 12 noon

Please e-mail if you're interested in helping out.


Thank you Kickstarter supporters!!!

You can still spread the word and support WE
click the DONATE button here to donate via Paypal!

We also have a materials wish list, posted below.
Let us know if you can help provide: food, fabric, bells, rope, lanterns, lumber, paint, a megaphone, 104 melons. These are some of the things we seek.

Total of 20 hours working on-site this weekend, yeeeeeow.
We are in continual practice
Training our bodies and voices for this epic feat.

thank you for all your help.

Celebrate our KICKSTARTER campaign and come PLAY with WE!

Friday, August 13, 2010

WE are in the New York Times!

Read about Hamlet on Alcatraz in the NYT! AND... Today is the last day of our KICKSTARTER campaign. Help us reach our new goal of 12k! HUGE thanks to all who have supported us already. Keep spreading the word!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Help We exceed our Kickstarter Dreams!

Thank you all for donating to We Players via Kickstarter!  We have raised over $9,000, well exceeding our $7,000 goal. ALL money pledged will be received by We Players and will be used to produce Hamlet on Alcatraz, so please keep encouraging your circles of friends and family and coworkers to donate!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


happy solar eclipse...
WE start rehearsals NOW!

help kickstart the rehearsal process and help WE reach our $7000 goal!

please visit and search for We Players

or just click here: KICK IT!

please spread the word!!!!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

 October 2nd - November 21st

Stay tuned here for information about show times,  
salon events, work-in-progress showings and 
special gala performances on-site this summer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wish List

Rehearsals for HAMLET on ALCATRAZ start in one month!

Help WE gather necessary materials and supplies!

Here is our current WISH LIST.
Contact if you can donate or connect us with any of the following...

Paper (especially card stock - any weight)
Fabric (especially blacks, velvets, heavy fabric, canvas)
Clip lights
Electric kettle
Electric coffee pot
Hot water pump dispensers
Compostable plates, cups, forks, spoons, napkins

Food Stuffs: Water in bottles, Juice/ tea in bottles, Cookies, Crackers, Coffee, Nuts, Dried fruit

First Aid: lip balm, tampons, advil, water jugs, rescue remedy, emergenC, cough drops, extra socks, hats, burn balm, tiger balm, Neosporin, allergy med, Benadryl, arnica gel, aloe

Transportation: Air travel, Gas cards, Bart cards, Fastrak passes, Muni passes

Printing: glossy posters and flyers


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thank You, By Heart

A big Thank You to Judith Tannenbaum for sharing BY HEART with us last Saturday!

Your work is inspiring and powerful.

Please check out Judith and Spoon's book, By Heart.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BY HEART reading on May 29th

reading with author Judith Tannenbaum

Saturday, May 29, 2010
1029 Dolores Street, SF
(private residence)

“By Heart” is a two-person memoir written by Judith and Spoon Jackson. Spoon was Judith’s student at San Quentin in the 1980s, where he found himself as a poet and writer, and played Pozzo in the prison’s 1988 production of Waiting for Godot.

Judith and Spoon are very special friends of We Players and some of their poetry will be included in our work on Alcatraz.

Visit their websites at:

“This is a book about poetry, about struggle, about freedom and incarceration, and most of all about heart. It is a wonderful read.” - devorah major, San Francisco Poet Laureate 2002-2005

Monday, April 26, 2010

from a friend, wrongly accused

he sent this to me yesterday... and gave me permission to share on this blog.  
what an intense story.  what a challenging reality.  
how is jail different for those who actually committed a crime, and those who definitely did not? 

(transcribed from original scraps of paper)

A true test of my nerve and my strength of will. I thought I would be tough if I ever came into danger; but I am not as tough as I thought. I am terrified. My pulse races with the constant thought of my peril.

I cannot be humbled, because I am innocent. The crime I have been charged with deeply offends me. This charge of kidnapping is ridiculous, born out of someone's paranoia and profiling. I was only trying to help the child. He bumped his head, and wandered forward into the parking lot, looking at the ground, quietly saying "mommy". I walked with him, trying to ask him if he was alright, what was his name, where did he last see his mother, can he show me... when a woman hurries up, identifies him, takes his hand and hurries him off to reunite him with his mother. Confident that the matter was resolved, I continued on to my car and left, as I had intended to do before my concern for the boy. Next thing I know, I get pulled over and arrested under suspicion of child abduction! The cops don't believe my story. They think I "fled the scene". I am being kept in maximum security. I'm on the news! My photo and name on television and in the sunday paper! They say I kidnapped that child! I've been demonized; they've turned it into a witch hunt. Now I am surrounded by violent criminals... who all think that I kidnap little boys.

I have asked for protective custody, and I am confined to my cell. I have broken NO laws; I have been arrested and imprisoned merely because of someone's false interpretation of what they saw. In my hat and trench coat, I had been stereotyped as a villain.

Room is six sided polygon. Stainless steel sink and toilet. Mirror and small stainless steel shelf. Wooden shelf and large wooden shelf/desk below the first. One buzzing tube light. Two ventilation ducts, in and out. Cement base bed and padding, with a pillow and 2 blankets. Two narrow barred windows near ceiling which look out to a red brick wall.
145 and 5 thirds tiles on floor (deep red)
46 tiles on wall base perimeter, covering half of 24 wall bricks.
460 bricks and 45 half-bricks (excluding the 24 above mentioned bricks) on walls (white paint)
2 tiny spiders about 2 millimeters squared.
Cell paced 2,600 times.

Why do I fear death? Because I have barely begun my life of service to the future generations; I have barely done anything to leave this world better than I found it. Only when I am satisfied with my works, will I be able to die in peace, and not fear and regret, which is the worst kind of death.

Justice must be done, or I shall wither away in here, a punching bag for the resident monsters. All I can do for now is watch the shadows move on the brick wall outside as the Earth turns.

When my innocence is proven, I will demand the media run a story to clear my good name. This absurd misunderstanding has slandered me; I am disgraced in the public eye.

Some of these inmates... they are so filled with hot hate and anger; unstable; irrational. This place is a mad house. I don't belong here. My rights, my freedom, taken away so easily.

Another paper to write on. I've thoroughly brushed my hair, washed my face, my armpits, brushed my teeth twice since dinner, and done more sit-ups and push-ups than I ever have in one day before. I think, I hope, that I'll be seen in court tomorrow, and they will set my bail. I just want this ugly mess to be over and get on with my life.

I have a feeling that the boy scout troop won't want me teaching the kids. From now on, everyone in town is going to treat me like I'm the scum of the Earth.

I'm not allowed to exercise during lights-out, and all I have to read is the Inmate Information Manual Rules and Regulations, which I have read. I'm tired but I can't sleep.

Dawn. My arraignment is today, at 13:30. My charge will be read (kidnapping 2), and they may set my bail amount; they might not. I hope it won't be over 10 grand.

This is infuriating! I only wanted to make sure the boy was okay, but who will believe me? At least those who know me will know I tell the truth.

I am a sheep amidst wolves. In this place, I have seen the dark side of humanity. I've come face-to-face with a murderer who has gotten the death penalty. He seemed proud. These monsters, they pray on the weak, and judge everybody. They assume everyone (me) is guilty. It was by sheer luck that I avoided getting attacked in the waiting room before court; the man who wanted too didn't only because he has a child on the way on the outside and want's out, which means not starting any fights. I'm going to get eaten alive if I stay here. I can't be in my cell all the time. All I can do is keep my mouth shut.

Another night in this cell; this uncomfortable bed. At least I have a book to read now; I was able to get it from the common room. A Traitor to Memory, by Elizabeth George. A British mystery. It seemed all that they had in that cupboard were mysteries and thrillers.

One of the inmates down the hall has been cussing, shouting, and singing (badly) for hours on end. If someone tells him to shut up, it starts him into a fit of insults. Gods, I hope they set my bail tomorrow. I thought they would do it today after my court appearance. I need to get out of this accursed place. There is nothing here but hate, vanity, insanity, and indifference in the absence of the former.

I can't stop thinking about how badly this can go. This is crazy. If I get out of this jam, I will be content to just plant trees for the rest of my life.

A terrible encircling darkness of anxiety curses me.

Bad things happen to good people.
There is no justice in it;
It is just the world that we have made for ourselves.

After my release:
Bail security deposit paid - $35,000
Under house arrest. Cannot leave house unless authorized.
Shackled with electronic surveillance tracking devices.
Attorney working very hard to find facts.
Witnesses may not wish to come forward out of fear.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poetic Justice link

Deborah Tobola
is creating theater with formerly incarcerated people. Visit:

This video is quite poignant, a short documentary about how having a family member in prison affects the lives on the outside.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

eat cake and read hamlet

April 23, 2010

William S. turns 446.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark turns 387.

Join WE for a read through of HAMLET.

Friday 4.23
at OCSC (sailing school)
1 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley

We'll read from the current working-cut. Help shape the final version, for performance on The Rock.

Various people will read various parts
(rsvp if you'd like a scene assignment)

it will be a working session
with birthday cake !



Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring. Birth. Give. Create.

Dear Friends

please consider donating right now!

$5, $10, $20, $50
whatever you can give
it all adds up
each one of us
makes many of us
makes we
and gives WE the fuel to carry on.

(consider it a birthday present to me ;)

we have an incredible cast and team and crew
but we have a long way to go to fund the project
please help us.

click the DONATE button to your left now!



Friday, March 19, 2010

How much more ?

You hafta look at this article, . Lonnie Morris, San Quentin lifer, convicted cop-killer, and by almost all accounts (not counting the San Pablo PD and the dead Cop's family) he's a model of rehab, reform, redemption, all the re-s. Somehow he got turned around, more like he turned himself around, but he can't get paroled. Somehow he become a murderer and then somehow he managed to find redemption ? How do you change from being a murderer ? If a man changes, finds a new self, gets reformed in prison, does this mean that the system worked ? We say this about lots of other programs when people complain of money wasted, 'but if one person is helped?'. What is it about about Lonnie Morris and Alcatraz cons like John Banner, Leon 'Whitey' Thompson, Jim Quillen, who received a Presidential Pardon or Darwin Coon who fostered nine children after he got out, that enabled them to change in jail and why is it that other men can't or couldn't, men like Alcatraz cons Robert Stroud and Henri Young ? Is it some kind of program that changes men, or is it something else, some inner quality, a spiritual experience, or that human desire to be free ? You know the story about the Zen master that ordered a hot dog from the street vendor asking for "One with everything" and handed over a Five. When the vendor didn't give him anything back, he asked for his change and the vendor replied "Ah, change must come from within". How much more does Lonnie Morris have to change ? What would happen to him if he did ? What is this really about ?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


A thank you to Sharon Daniels for this powerful website.

"Don't ask, don't tell." 

What are the rocks we choose not to look under? What things  are out in the open that we choose to ignore, choose to pretend don't exist? Is it a conscious choice? Where does the fear of knowing come from? Is there ever such a thing as knowing too much? 

An exploration: 

Public Secrets.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

gathering the troupes

auditions were awesome
thank you to all of you who came out to play!

still working on final callbacks and decisions
we will post our cast list soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


"Since 1980, the number of people in U.S. prisons has increased more than 450%.

Despite a crime rate that has been falling steadily for decades."

from the book: "Golden Gulag" (Ruth Wilson Gilmore)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Another comment left on an envelope at the dinner party:

"While we know that prisons aren’t perfect, still remember that some people need to be in prison (or something like it). Some people “deserve” to be dealt with."

Thank you for this - for bringing this into the conversation. Actually this has been coming up a lot for me - that my natural sympathy, and desire for understanding is not meant to excuse or justify crime. But how can we heal, how can there be rehabilitation without trying to understand what motivates crime/ violence in the first place?

I have been reading James Gilligan's book: VIOLENCE.

Phew - check it out. Pretty intense, and really interesting how Mr. Gilligan has found in his 30 years of working with some of the most violent men in the nation - as an MD and psychiatrist - that Shakespeare and the Greeks provide some of the most useful information and archetypes for getting at an understanding of even the most horrendous crimes. But rather than turn this post into an exploration of Gilligan's book - I return to my the quote above...

So I recognize that yes, I tend naturally to be sympathetic to the struggles and experiences of people in prison. The more I learn and expose myself to - the more painfully obvious appears the injustice of the justice system. A system that in many cases, works to break the spirit and souls of the prisoners, quite contrary to any sense of rehab. Why bother trying to understand why people commit crimes? I mean not just the MOMENT of the crime, but the larger social and cultural conditions urging someone, the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, the pressures, confusions. Can you imagine only being remembered for the rest of forever as the one worst thing you ever did ? To have your whole self condensed into that one instance ? Okay so this trying to understand is not meant to gloss over the real horror of the crime committed, the suffering unleashed upon the victim and relations, not to justify or ignore the crime that put someone in prison, but trying to place it and understand it within a larger framework - that this could be a way to uncover solutions for healing and change.

And I'm finding that many effective programs exist – art, education, and meditation based programs that return a sense of Self, Strength, and Hope to a person – except these programs are getting slashed and burned.

I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to meet some of these artists / educators / activists working within the prison system and learn from them. We Players will strive to incorporate what we learn and gather into our performances.

The other part of WHY is this...

We all have one thing in common - we are Human Beings.

This is at the heart of the work in the theater. It's a vehicle for better understanding myself, this being human, the layers, subtleties, complications, influences...Who Am I? How Must I Act?

i believe it is part of our job as artists is to remain open and curious and willing to feel. all of it.

and it's all breaking my heart a little every day
it's also strengthening that same muscle

On the Menu

At are some of your comments from the February Feast:

(and thank you for the lovely pictures on your envelopes too!)

“I noticed that Hamlet called Denmark a prison…You probably noticed this.”

We thought there was some kind of connection in there! ;)

“Invite ex-prisoners to come see the show” / “Will (former) prisoners be able to participate in the production?”

Yes! In fact we are exploring a number of ways for prisoners to be involved in this work. Including incorporating their poetry and artwork, and inviting some former prisoners to be involved as crew and performers.

“Local schools would love to see the energy of We Players!” / “Get local schools to come on field trip?”

We agree. Our thanks to Michele Haner, who will arrange for Ava to visit the French-American International High School and lead a discussion about site-specific theater, and using theater as a tool for social action. We plan to arrange student internships for the summer rehearsal and production period. We are hoping to team up with other teachers and existing outreach programs to incorporate work with at-risk youth.

Please let us know if there's a teacher you think we should talk to!

“A haiku for We:

You are amazing

Your manifested beauty’s

Magnified by love

Keep it up.”

Thank you. We are buoyed up and strengthened by your support!

“How long by homing pigeon flight is a trip from Alcatraz to San Quentin?”

Very good question. Please let us know the answer. Although it may be more relevant to ask this of cormorants, gulls, egrets…other bird species that make their seasonal nesting home on Alcatraz.

“How are the prisons related?”

Amazing how few people are asking that question. Thank you. We will provide information through the project, and infuse our work on site with current stories and statistics to help make the connection between the two.

“Can we watch the play from a boat?”

Do you think we would leave out any detail?

“Will you reinstate the Alcatraz garden?”

Please check out:

The volunteer garden crew on the Rock is amazing. They are restoring the gardens throughout the island.

In November we ate figs from the trees as part of our harvest / fire ceremony.

“What prisoners were sent to Alcatraz and why?”

The so called “worst of the worst”. That is, if you went to prison, but then got in trouble there you could be sent to Alcatraz. Very few prisoners were sent to Alcatraz directly. It was, “reserved for those desperate and irredeemable types”.


“The insane are often incarcerated. Is Hamlet insane? Depressed? What about Ophelia? I’m excited to find out.”

Me too.

“Put Hamlet/We player info on the Alcatraz/Park Service website (including background on Shakespeare and the play itself)”
Despite our partnership with the park, we are running into fields of red tape on this one.

Please consider sending this request to the Park Service!

A story from Stanley Williams who was executed at San Quentin in 2006: A friend snuck a rose petal in to him on a visit to death row. Stanley took it from her, held it in his palm for a minute, then put it in his mouth…and swallowed it. He told her he though it might be his last and only chance to connect with the natural world and he wanted to experience it fully.

How can I support you without giving money? / I would like to be of service, even if I can’t give money.

There are so many aspects to this project. We welcome your support, your talents, your thoughts, your questions. Please write to and tell us what you're interested in, what aspects of the project ignite you, and we will find a fit. YES. We want your help.

Can we tie race into the picture?

Yes please. This begs a longer response...perhaps a blog post unto itself...

More opportunities like this for fans and supporters to get together and get to know We Players better. Doesn’t have to be as lush as this one, even a pot-luck would do.

Salons / work-in-progress / conversations this spring. Stay tuned here.

I’ve left out most of the general praise and support of we comments – though we thank you truly – oh but here are a few anyway...

Take good care of yourselves throughout this process and KNOW that you are serving this community in a profound way.

I can’t wait to see the show! Your company is singular in making these spaces available through a trans-historical yet extremely current performance tradition. Bravo!

This has been magical.

I’ve never attended an event such as this. I have nothing to add or change.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I am he as you are she as you are me and WE are all together.

Apologies to the Beatles for changing their I Am The Walrus lyric to be gender inclusive (ooooohhh I'm so evolved, I wear my short sleeved shirt over my long sleeved shirt over my short sleeved shirt). I gotta get this thing out about the AZ Overnight, remember that game WE played there, getting the nod and walking across that circle, leaving your safe place to take another's place? Made me feel so weird when I left my spot, like I didn't exist for a moment, reminded me of this conversation I had about quantum physics where scientists can see an electron in one shell before it jumps to the other shell, then see it in the other shell, but they can't find any evidence of its existence when it jumps, when it's in between those shells. Then I heard about these eleven dimensions where you can exist in different dimensions/times/places at the same time, spending years somewhere else in between moments. I brought a book that night because it had a scary story, Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, where she describes her grandmother's experience at a medical school in China where all the women slept in a dorm, when there was a fine empty room, but it was haunted. Well, Grandmother took that room and battled a ghost all night, she left her body in the battle and was gone twelve years, and then woke up in that room the next morning. What does this mean? What's it all about Mr. Natural? Well, that night I thought that's what life was like on Alcatraz, a parenthesis, a dimensional jump, where there was no evidence of a man's existence, a place where men battled ghosts. One man described it as closing his eyes and seeing things then going places in his mind, that's how he dealt with it. Anyway, in the morning WE were all there, no matter where WE went that night, the one chance WE had to sleep in those cells. So for me that night was all about existence, being and non being, here and there, now and then, "to be or not to be" and everything in between.

By Heart

By Heart, a two person memoir by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson

We are really excited about both of these poets! We are in conversation with Judith, who has over 30 years experience teaching poetry and working with men in maximum security prisons, and hope to include some of Spoon's writing in our performance on The Rock.

Bookstore Readings

Thursday April 8, 2010 7 PM Diesel, a Bookstore 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, CA

Sunday April 11, 2010 4 PM Booksmith 1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More on the 2010 Season and We Players Rock Residency…

HAMLET is particularly suited to the island for many reasons. It is a story of a man in isolation wrestling with conscience and consciousness, and is fraught with themes of grief, madness, loss, revenge - all of which extend from the core project themes of isolation, incarceration, and justice. We hope that the play, centered around these issues, will act as a catalyst for conversation.

The root of this conversation is about FREEDOM.

What is it to be free? Is it something that can be granted or taken away?

Or is it something more fundamentally personal than that?

How must I act? To do or not to do?

The show will be built in such a way as to serve both the regular park visitors, with many elements occurring in public areas, as well as the designated audiences who we will guide through a carefully crafted route through the space.

We have already begun conversations artists and teachers who work with local justice advocacy groups, juvenile offenders and with people living in maximum security prisons. We are building partnerships, gathering research, collecting works of art – all of which will be central to the final stage of the residency, culminating in summer 2011.

The Players are a group of traveling actors within Hamlet – and in our production, the Players will be performing virtually non-stop in a public area. In addition to the classical text, they will perform a wide variety of other material which is intended to contextualize the themes…this text will include poetry and first hand materials by those people directly affected by the issues we are exploring - people in prison and their families. The Native American community has a deep connection with the island, and we are inviting their voice into the process as well.

Alcatraz has a magnetic draw. About 5000 people per day in the high season visit the fog enshrouded island in the San Francisco Bay. It is legendary both in the national landscape and within international awareness as well. Both We Players and the National Park Service are asking, “What experience are people having?”, “What are they coming away with?”. This project reflects a true partnership between We Players and the NPS as we join in the shared goal of stimulating more critical conversation of important current issues, issues that are entrenched in the multi-layered history of The Rock.

We feel a tremendous responsibility to those people whose lives are immediately affected by these issues. Please send us your thoughts, reading suggestions, direct us to organizations and individuals you think we should contact.

Write to:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

HAMLET on The Rock.

O god, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space......

We Players proudly announce our 2010 production
Shakespeare's HAMLET
to take place as an interactive, island-wide journey on the legendary
Alcatraz Island
this October/November

Stay tuned here for information about salon events, work-in-progress showings and discussions, and special gala performances on-site this summer.

This production is part of our three year residency on The Rock,
in collaboration with the National Park Service.
We are developing outreach programs and diverse on-site installations in conjunction with the production of Hamlet, to incorporate voices of under-served populations, such as people in prison and their families.

write to us at
with questions, suggestions, or to get involved.

an enterprise of great pith and moment

Join us!

Friday, February 5, 2010


thank you dear friends and supporters and performers

for filling the church with warm and joyous presence

for savoring and celebrating

this. now. yes!

(more soon. prep for San Quentin tour now...)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

join us at the feast!

"That when I waked, I cried to dream again..."

Don't let tomorrow night, THURSDAY February 4th, pass you by!

seriously incredible food and so much heart and spirit poured into every drop and morsel
donations from organic farmers across the land
cases of wine sitting in my living room, waiting for you
hilarious performers lie in wait
music and merriment
WE and YOU

help us manifest this crazy Alcatraz adventure

WE can't do it without YOU...

shall we dare to dream this dream?

you tell us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

draft menu for 2.4.10

the months of preparation are coming together!  I had a lovely time visiting our kind farmer-donors once again this morning, sampling the fruits of the season (California is amazing), and calculating bulk quantities with our fabulous head chef, Pauly Plotkin (herb'n palate supper club).  Maybe I can entice those of you who are on the fence about attending our 2.4 dinner theater fund raiser with a rough sketch of the menu:

Antipasti marinated mushrooms, roasted red and yellow peppers, olives, cheeses, etc.
Potato Soup with wild-harvested mushrooms (thanks Pauly!)
Rabbit and Rooster or Vegetable Ragout with creamy polenta and side vegetable
Salad with blood oranges and candied walnuts
Apple Cake
homemade Pistelles with candy-cap mushroom dust (tastes like maple sugar!)

visit the link in the left column to buy your tickets!  see you there!  We look forward to pleasing your pallets!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Media on the Inside

Inside Story: Prison media (click to view)
More than a dozen small-scale, prisoner-produced magazines are written, edited, published and distributed within British prisons today....
An article from the UK's Independent...


A blip from a guide book: 
Alcatraz, the Rock, 25 acres in size, is set in cold gray waters 1-1/4 mile from San Francisco. Even when it's hot in San Jose or Oakland, the cold winds across the rock never stop. It is truly a place of punishment, meant for the irredeemable.
And from Merriam-Webster..

Main Entry: re·deem
Pronunciation: \ri-ˈdēm\
Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Middle English redemen, from Anglo-French redemer, modification of Latin redimere, from re-, red- re- + emere to take, buy; akin to Lithuanian imti to take
Date: 15th century
1 a : to buy back :repurchase b : to get or win back
2 : to free from what distresses or harms: as a : to free from captivity by payment of ransom b : to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental c : to release from blame or debt : clear d : to free from the consequences of sin
3 : to change for the better : reform
4 : repair, restore
5 a : to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby b (1) : to remove the obligation of by payment 2) : to exchange for something of value trading stamps> c : to make good : fulfill
6 a : to atone for : expiate b (1) : to offset the bad effect of (2) : to make worthwhile : retrieve

A societal construct of redemption.
What does it mean to us? What does it mean to label a person as irredeemable?
What does redemption look like?