Providing opportunities for incarcerated men and women to study, rehearse, and perform the works of William Shakespeare.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
The Shakespeare Prison Project: BEYOND BARS
Nick Leair embraces his daughter Ally at his Jan 13, 2013 performance
evening about 40 people attended the very first production of THE
SHAKESPEARE PRISON PROJECT - BEYOND BARS at the Rita Tallent Pickens
Center for the Arts and Humanities at the University of
Wisconsin-Parkside. Nick Leair, a former inmate and participant in the
project, joined guest actors to perform scenes from THE TEMPEST and
HENRY IV, PART 2.
Many of Nick's family members were there, including his mother, father-in-law, brothers, and a sister. Also in attendance: Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, Dean Yohnk, a consultant to The Shakespeare Prison Project; Wisconsin State Senator John Lehman; and Emeritus Professor of English and Shakespeare scholar Andrew McLean, a consultant to the project who has also offered his own Shakespeare classes behind bars. Roseann Mason, a co-author of the Wisconsin Humanities Council grant that first brought me to Racine Correctional Institution in 1995, was also there.
Nick's 12-year-old daughter Ally
joined us on stage during the talkback. I asked her what her main
impression of her Dad was back in 2007 when she saw him perform for the very
first time (which happened to be in prison, where he was serving a 30-year sentence). She looked at me, paused a moment, and then said simply, "He looked happy."
Then she proudly took the
stage and read the prologue from one of her Dad's favorite plays: ROMEO
other former inmates/Shakespeare Project participants attended the
program and joined in the discussion, and another contacted us via email. All of them are doing
well--reconnected with family, employed, and/or in school. They all credit their
experience with The Shakespeare Project as an important element in the
building of new identities and productive lives.