Last night there was a viewing of “Shakespeare Behind Bars” and a talkback with the volunteer director of the program, Curt Tofteland. Since the mid-90’s, Tofteland has been directing Shakespearean plays in the Luther Luckett Medium Security Prison in Kentucky as a means of healing. Over the years, the theatre troupe has cast themselves into roles that depict portions of their checkered past and in doing so, the rehearsals and performances have become therapeutic.
The play that the troupe is rehearsing in the film is “The Tempest.” I am not so familiar with “The Tempest” (even though I have Jack’s copy of the play in my office and plan to sit in on his Shakespeare classes), so I will let the SBB website speak about the play. Take Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest with its violent seas, windswept island, crucial connection to nature, and underlying theme of forgiveness, and bring it into a prison, the ultimate venue of confinement. The result is an extraordinary story about the creative process and the power of art to heal and redeem–in a place where the very act of participation in theatre is a human triumph and a means of personal liberation. www.shakespearebehindbars.com
One of the most powerful statements in the film comes from one of the inmates (I cannot remember what his name was). As he is speaking about his experience, he reflects on how that the most undeserving people do not merit forgiveness but these individuals are the ones who need it the most. He would know. His comments made me think about the comments that I posted on Nov. 7 and remind me of the necessity of grace. When I think about some of my own disciplinary experiences with students, I am very mindful that I have the opportunity to give grace where it may not be deserved.
I cannot speak to the power of theatre but there is something about it that is transformative. I am hoping to go to the Luckett facility in April with some HU students to see a play with my own eyes.