Posted March 07, 2013Hi Folks,
First of all I want to say that it is a real and profound pleasure to be able to sit down and write to people that have stepped forward and offered support to this project. This is a new thing for me, as I have always relied on 'the kindness of Government Agencies" in the past. -- so thank you again, just for being there.
I am writing today to share with you something special -an interview with actor/prisoner Timothy Walker - and hope you'll take 4 minutes to watch and listen sometime over the next week. And then join me in sending special prayers and wishes of good vibrations to Mr. Walker. I met him at Green Haven Correctional Facility in 2010 -- where he starred in a stunning production of Macbeth. Apparently he has been having a tough time recently and is suffering some dark times, even for prison.
Here's a piece of his interview - which embraces much of the wonderful work that Rehabilitation Through The Arts accomplishes. I suspect that you will be struck by his intelligence, kindness and general spirit. Soon, I will share with you an excerpt of his commanding performance.
Actor/Prisoner Timothy Walker -Recitation and Analysis - Macbeth.
thank you all again, for being part of this team effort.
Posted February 21, 2013Hi Folks,
Once again, I am deeply indebted to each of you who helped us get to Woodbourne and record what was an extraordinary week of conversations with people behind bars.
After the prison visit and video shoot - I was invited by the World Shakespeare Project at Emory University to visit, meet students, lecture and co-teach with Sheila Cavanagh and Kevin Quarmby. It was an exciting week -- and my two public talks were very well received. I showed excerpts of the prison shoot - and want to share two reels with you now.
Please remember, these are very rough excerpts - basically straight from the cameras - there is no story line yet. The good new is that I'm very encouraged by what we accomplished -and hope you will agree. The level of intelligence and articulation of complex ideas is not what many people imagine when they think of violent offenders.
Please comment and let me know your reactions:
this one is from our class - and is about Othello and domestic violence
This one is from our interviews -and has a really strong discussion of issues
involved with some issues of African Americans relating to Shakespeare
there is a lot more to come ---
PS - huge thanks to our team --
Katherine Vockins and Ricki Gold of Rehabilitation Through The Arts
My co-facilitator, Josie Whittlesey
and film crew - Matt Bockleman and Harold Smith.
Posted January 26, 2013Short update --
Heading to Emory University on Sunday -- Invited by World Shakespeare Institute -led by Profs Sheila Cavanaugh and Kevin Quarmby- will give public talk on Tuesday night -- and share a few short excerpts from the prison video shoot! Also meeting with film professor Matthew Bernstein, music professor Dwight Andrews, and others.
Received an email from Katherine Vockins, director of Rehabilitation Through the Arts -- she tells me that the men at Woodbourne have asked to fill out evaluation forms for the Globe to Globe Workshop. She tells me that while evaluation forms are often handed out to the prisoners, this is the first time she can recall that the men asked to fill out forms. Apparently the fellas have things they want to say. I will get the evaluations - and if permitted, will share some excerpts with all of you.
Posted January 23, 2013Hi Folks,
finally an update.
The film shoot was a huge success. Sort of a realization of what I had dreamed of - but far beyond what I could have imagined. Five very intense days --
taking equipment to the prison each morning. Met by cooperative, even helpful Correctional Officers, charged with inspecting each bag, and checking each item to our pre-approved list. Each item needed to be accounted for going in, and more importantly, on the way out at the end of each day. Nothing to be left behind that could be used as a weapon, or in any way to harm someone inside the facility.
We had support all the way through from Deputy Jean King - a wonderful woman with over 30 years experience working in the NY State Correctional Facilities. She is the Deputy of Programs for Woodbourne - so every college class, every lecture, every talk that occurs there is under her watch. She is a believer in the value of education - and repeated to me that she wanted the men to be treated the way she would like her own son to be treated, were he imprisoned.
People who work there, and volunteers, like Katherine Vockins, the amazing force behind Rehabilitation Through the Arts, must walk a line between developing connections with the men inside, but without becoming too close, too familiar. It must be a fine balance and both Jean and Katherine are expert at it.
On Day 3, Monday, January 7, I started feeling sick. That night, things got worse, and Tuesday morning I stayed in the motel to rest. Josie took over and showed the men the film, The Winter's Tale, from Nigeria. I was up later and went in for the evening session. This turned into a very powerful conversation about redemption and forgiveness.
The Winter's Tale, you see, is a story about a powerful man who has it all. He is a king, with an adoring wife, a son and a daughter on the way. He is admired by his friends, and his subjects. The play begins with him unraveling, suspecting his wife is having an affair - and his actions cause him to lose everything. He imprisons his wife, orders her new baby to be exiled and his son dies of grief.
The men were elated to see an African production of this wonderful story. In fact we talked a bit about the magic in the story and wondered if it may have in some ways influenced the grand tradition of Magical Realism in South American writing. And later the conversation turned to redemption and forgiveness. The king finally realizes what he has done - that being impetuous and stupid he has destroyed all he had. And 16 years later, there he is wondering how he made such a mess of his life - and those around him - and wonders if he can ever be forgiven.
The broad strokes very similar to young men, who, at 17 or 18, did something horrifying and stupid - and now, 10, 15, 20 years later, as grown men, are also asking can they be forgiven, can they rejoin society and have a new life?
Our expert film crew - Matt Bockelman and Harold E. Smith worked their own magic. Operating 3 cameras between them, and dealing with tough lighting situations to capture some very delicate moments of conversations between the men.
I'm just beginning to sift through the material, and so far it all looks fabulous.
I'm heading to Atlanta next week, to give two public talks at Emory University, and will show some rough excerpts from the shoot. I'm greatly looking forward to that discussion.
Also, when I return to Seattle, I'm hoping to visit the high school classes of my friend Ruth Hunter, whose terrific students sent over a list of powerful questions they wanted me to ask the men in my interviews. I wasn't able to ask them all, but those I got to provoked some profound answers. I want to share some of this with Ruth's students.
One of the most important things is that the workshop seemed to inspire the men. That was its main purpose, and from what I can tell, it met that goal. We will know more once the men have some time to report back to Katherine.
Our last session, at the end of Day 5, was very moving. I'll report to you on that soon.
I'm on the move and working hard. I do want to thank each of you once again, truly from the heart, for helping me get this project to this point. It was very important that we document these proceedings. The story will put some personal faces into the debate about prison reform and what Michelle Alexander calls "The New Jim Crow".
The one thing that I think most viewers will wonder is how is it possible that men this articulate, this thoughtful, and this knowledgeable are incarcerated for so many years? There will be a suspension of belief as this group of men from Rehabilitation Through the Arts defy the stereotypes that nearly all of us have about what kinds of people are locked away and nearly forgotten.
Posted January 07, 2013DAYS 1 & 2 --
BIG SUCCESS. PROJECT IS MOVING AHEAD WITH ENERGY --
THANKS TO EACH ONE OF YOU.
(please note, there are some of you that I have not personally thanked yet -
I will do it this week -- I'm so sorry - I have just been swamped with getting the details right --- your support is HUGE and deeply appreciated. )
Our first two days of shooting went great. All very powerful. The night before, at the urging of my wonderful sister-in-law Kathy Wayland, who works with California death row inmates, I watched a wonderful lecture by attorney Bryan Stevenson about injustice - which I highly recommend:
On day 1, I shared some of his ideas w the men. ESP the idea that no one should be defined completely by their worst deed or moment.
For them, wrestling with guilt is powerful. The Winters Tale and Othello will bring this up as both involve domestic violence and murder and then deep remorse. Henry IV, Pt 1, brought up issues of fatherhood, honor and manhood.
The men were moved by the first 5 minutes of each video we watched on day 1. They were thrilled to know this is one of the first screenings anywhere of these 3 videos. They were delighted to know each company has prepared a message directly to them.
Trust exists now in our circle. It will continue to grow. Happy to have 3 more days to explore with them. Wish it was longer.
One talked of being "savage" gang member to becoming Rasta in prison. One spoke of his neighborhood sensing a badge of honor for those returning from prison more than for veterans or college grads. He described a "prison glow" of proud young men returning having endured the 'passage'.
One was Black Panther at age 13, then a national Merit Scholar with chance to go to Harvard. Involved with shoot out w police. No one died. Been there 32 years so far. Another was defending housing project from drug dealers. Police were shaking down dealers letting them continue to "work" there. They began to push dealers out themselves. He is charged w murder of dealer. Also been there about 30 years.
Hard to process all of this. Conversations about Shakespeare are powerful.
So much to process and consider. Have to find ways to tie together all of this but that comes later. The group process is very strong. Men responding. They seem deeply appreciative of being listened to. Eager to share. Listening intently to each other.
Think I will watch that Bryan Stevenson talk again today. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to be there to ask questions and to listen. A lot has gone in to my being ready for this.
Our team , Matt, Harold and Josie is ideal. I am so lucky to have them. I suspect it is fair to say that we are all learning a great deal.
RTA, Katherine Vockins and Ricki Gold have been so supportive. This is really all about RTA's brilliant work and the possibility of transformation and human connections. And the focus on RTA and its impact is the focus of this entire project. As they know, I am deeply grateful for their trust and all next steps will be done in consultation, harmony and partnership with them and with their guidance.
Big thanks to Dominic Drogoole who created the Globe to Globe Festival and gave me permission to screen the videos, for allowing this to happen, for his vision of Globe to Globe overall and for allowing this to happen. The effect of G2G will be felt for many years as conversations like these continue to happen provoked by the wonder of Shakespeare being considered and processed all over the world.
Nothing is set about this story. All is fluid and moving. These are merely some reflections waking up this morning after day 2.
Thank you ALL for making this happen.
We have 3 more days-- "Othello, The Remix" on Monday, "The Winter's Tale" on Tuesday, interviews and wrap up on Wednesday. I will just continue to be in the present and allow energy to flow. I have no doubt that powerful ideas and images will continue to emerge.
Director / Producer
To Whom Does Shakespeare Belong
"Shakespeare Changes Lives"
Posted December 31, 2012Thank you 'shout outs' --
of course I need to send shout outs to each of you, and I do -- but today was so big in reaching our goal - I would like to say thanks to a few at first. Walter Philips, my dear friend for so many years. Sol Schwartz who made a donation from the foundation which carries on the work of his amazing wife Elayne P. Bernstein, who had deep connections at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA,
and Chad Latham, whose donation of $43 was doubled by Walter's gift, to meet our goal exactly! The matching funds are there for another $2457. Thanks to all of you. more soon,
Posted December 31, 2012HUGE NEWS!! PROJECT MEETS INITIAL FUNDING GOAL!!!!!!!!
thanks to the generosity of all, and two very generous donors today, the project has just, a few minutes ago, reached its initial goal of $16,898 -- which allows us to get to the prison later this week, get our rental equipment, pay the crew, do the initial transcoding to prepare for the editing, and more!!
In addition, the second donor has put a new challenge on the line -- he has put a second donation of $2500 into reserve - as a full 1:1 match for anyone who contributes now - which extends our total and will give us a start on the sound mixing and editing!!! This is a huge deal.
If you know anyone 'sitting on the fence' who might still contribute, and still interested in an end of year donation - any donation, up to $2500 will be matched.
I'm totally knocked out by the generosity of spirit that has brought us to this point- and that has brought us all together - from the $10 donations and up --
each one has been a vote of confidence for the project, for the idea - support for RTA, support for prison reform, support for The Globe to Globe International Shakespeare Festival, support for sharing Shakespeare as a tool of social justice and talking about world issues. From the heart and to the heart.
SHAKESPEARE CHANGES LIVES.
thanks, with love, and all the best for a great New Year.
Posted December 28, 2012Photograph of King Henry IV, Globe to Globe Festival, May 2012, London.
Photo, Steve Rowland
Posted December 28, 2012Update #3
OK - this is cool. Each one of the theater companies is sending along a video message to the prisoners at Woodbourne. They have each joined you in supporting this project and have donated their time and resources to create a 10-12 minute video which I will play for them before we screen their video.
The first one is from Mexico City and is about their amazing, beautiful, intense production of Henry IV, Part 1. This is a powerful play that centers on the relationships of 4 strong men - King Henry IV (who just murdered Ricard II to become king), his wayward hard playing hard drinking son, Hal, who is in line to become Henry V (spoiler alert), Hal's 'mentor' Falstaff, who is one of Shakespeare's great characters (and played brilliantly in this production) - and Hotspur - a rival of Hal's - out to dethrone the King - but also has the King's admiration for his deeds as warrior.
All wonderful stuff to talk about 'manhood' with the prisoners, don't you think?
so, if you have 12 minutes, see what the director and actors have to say to the prisoners. You won't be seeing this video anywhere but here!
thanks all of you (each of you?) for your love and support!!!
Posted December 28, 2012Update 2:
The sound for this film will be a critical component. And I hope each of you knows a bit about my commitment to recording top quality sound. My approach is simple: use the best tools.
That's about it. (maybe a few years experience helps, but good equipment is the foundation)
Recording 12-14 men in a drab prison classroom and getting good sound is a challenge. I have had a number of meetings with top sound designers about this -including one former CIA sound restoration expert, one top Broadway sound engineer, experts in recording gear and of course experts in microphone technology. We've come up with a plan -and the plan is based on using one of the more expensive recorders available anywhere -a wonderful USA built (Wisconsin) recorder made by Sound Devices. This recorder records 8 distinct channels simultaneously - and will allow us to spread the mics around the room so each man is close to a mic -and later on we will just use the ones 'on camera'.
And the great thing is that this wonderful company, Sound Devices, has joined all of you in their support of this project and will be loaning us this crown jewel of audio recorders!
Thank you Sound Devices!!!
Posted December 27, 2012Update 1:
This is the first time I have ever done any fundraising in this manner. In over 25 years of producing high quality, socially conscious documentaries, i have relied solely on writing grant applications. (and a few times asking my parents for help - always graciously offered). I'm not too good at asking for help. I'm not too good at asking for money. I know there are a lot of causes in the world -and it is hard to put value on a series about Miles Davis, or Coltrane or Bernstein -- when there mouths to feed.
But this experience has been rich and wonderful.
The idea of making this project a group effort is hitting me hard - in a delightful way. I can't do this myself. We already have an amazing team of people working on this -- the fabulous people at RTA (Rehabilitation Through The Arts) - Ricki Gold and Katherine Vockins. My new friend and co-teacher Josie Whittlesey. Harold Smith and Matt Bockelman - our camera team -- folks who are donating sound equipment for a week.
Then there is the support from Shakespeare's Globe Theater - Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole who has been supportive of this from day 1 - and without that support this would not be possible. His exec assistant Jennifer Lusk. The other great folks at Globe to Globe including Tom Bird and Tatty Hennesey, and Globe's finance director, Helen Hillman.
Then there are the artists -- the ensembles from Mexico City, Lagos and Chicago. Each team is sending a custom video message made especially for this project, this group of prisoners.
And then there is each of you - those people who have now contributed nearly $10,000 to make this happen. Wow. How is that possible?
it is giving me a real sense of community to have this support and your belief.
And if you are reading this and have not been able to put money in, you are still part of the team - because you cared enough to get this far - and maybe you know someone else you can share this with.
A big part of this is awareness -and we have a long way to go. Ultimately, the whole point of this is to celebrate the work of RTA -and encourage people to have more dialogue about prison reform. And that will be a long time outreach project that we can all keep adding to.
For now, I feel blessed to have this opportunity, and your love and support, to make this happen, to record on film the exciting conversations that will begin just one week from today - and ultimately to get them into the world.
I know this will work. I have that feeling inside. It is the right thing to be doing right now.
More soon. Please keep sharing this.
Offenders at Woodbourne Prison watch videos of Shakespeare performed in Spanish, Hip Hop & Yoruba and talk about how the works translate.