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.