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Shakespeare In Prison
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Shakespeare in Prison
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MGT Shakespeare In Prison Blog

Click on the banner above to visit our blog dedicated to this program.

 

To Save One

Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company and author Elizabeth Dembrowsky of New York City are partnering on an experimental piece of art that bridges the gap between theatre and literature. Dembrowsky’s To Save One explores the story of an American-born woman and a Romanian-born man who meet in New York, fall in love, want to get married, but have to convince the American government to let them spend the rest of their lives together in the United States. But the story is not just about one couple, or one train of thought, or one country. It is about everyone’s love, all of our needs, and the hope that grit and hard work will eventually win out. 

The staged reading of To Save One at Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company will be performed in autumn of 2014. Various other programs and workshops related to the novel will be announced as the artistic process progresses.  

Donations towards the production of To Save One are deeply appreciated and may be made at http://www.razoo.com/story/To-Save-One#or at www.magentagiraffe.org. 

About the author: Elizabeth David-Dembrowsky serves as the Executive Director of Keren Or, Inc. (www-keren-or.org).  Her novel My Monk was published in 2009 by Heliotrope Books.  She holds a BA from Boston University and a Masters in Writing from the University of Warwick, and she hopes to have her JD from Brooklyn Law School in the spring of 2014. She lives in New York City with her husband and her law books.

 

MGT Shakespeare In Prison Program

WHAT IS SHAKESPEARE IN PRISON?

Shakespeare in Prison is a program facilitated by Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It empowers inmates through theatre exercises and Shakespearean text to think creatively, re-examine decisions they’ve made, become more in touch with their emotions, and develop crucial life skills to be used both in and out of prison.

There is an idea that only "great actors" can do Shakespeare "right," and that is absolutely false. Anyone can perform Shakespeare, and everyone has the right to create art as part of being a self-aware and individual human being.

Inmates who volunteer for the Shakespeare in Prison program form a tight ensemble and work for nine months with the option of performing a fully staged work by Shakespeare at the culmination of the session. After a profoundly successful 2013-14 season working on Romeo and Juliet, the 2014-15 ensemble have chosen to explore The Taming of the Shrew with the goal of performing it in June 2015.

HOW DO WE KNOW IT WORKS?

Magenta Giraffe’s program is modeled after Shakespeare Behind Bars, the oldest program of its kind in North America. The founder and artistic director of that program, Curt Tofteland, has been advising the project’s founder and lead facilitator, Executive Artistic Director Frannie Shepherd-Bates. Participants in Shakespeare Behind Bars have had only a 6% recidivism rate, as contrasted with the national rate of 67%, and Magenta Giraffe hopes to continue that trend with its own program.

While it is too soon for Shakespeare in Prison to boast data like its more established counterparts, participants have been very vocal about the positive effect their work in the program has had. Though the program is still young, participants who have completed Shakespeare in Prison and have been paroled currently have a recidivism rate of 0.

WHY IS SHAKESPEARE IN PRISON IMPORTANT?

Many women who are incarcerated have been “beaten down” over time, made to feel worthless, labeled as being "bad," "criminals," or worse. Within the prison system, they most often go by their last names and identification numbers. Many incarcerated women have not had opportunities in their lives to develop confidence, self esteem and the ability to be an empowered individual.

Shakespeare in Prison helps to change all of that for its participants. The women gain skills such as the ability to speak confidently in front of an audience and see their reading skills improved, but, perhaps more importantly, they experience many things for the first time that most people take for granted:

-They learn to work as a team toward a common goal;
-They attain that goal;
-They express their opinions, which are heard and valued;
-They learn to trust the group enough to express deep emotion;
-They find comradeship and sisterhood in a place where it is severely lacking;
-They develop as leaders and learn to give constructive criticism, becoming able to argue a point without verbally attacking people with whom they disagree.
-Working specifically with Shakespeare gives them an opportunity to take on what seems like an enormous challenge and prove to themselves and others in their lives that they are very capable of doing this seemingly impossible task.

With the development of these skills comes increased confidence in all areas of the participants’ lives. Several of the women who completed the program and moved on did so with eagerness to try new things while incarcerated and with greater confidence in what they will be able to accomplish when they are released into the community. The development of all these skills helps the participants constructively reintegrate back into society, making them less likely to re-offend.