Monday, August 22, 2011

Beyond "The Bard or the Yard"

Saturday in the village ended with a most extraordinary experience.  I was excited to attend a performance of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" at an innovative new venue: The SPOT.  I have loved the Studio Theater and Dance (Studio of Performing Arts) building there since our daughters learned to sing and dance in Annie, Grease, and more.  For years I helped with set design, building and painting. In fact the front door of the SPOT with all of its color, is one of my designs.  Terilee was one of the people who helped to paint it.

Times are changing and this vintage building, (once a dairy and then hardware store) is now redesigned to serve the classes of students and performances more effecively.  Under the direction of Jake McGuire and Shannon Lowrie,  The dance studio is in the back and stage (the SPOT) up front.  Jake has kept the old warehouse character and added high tech sound, lighting, comfy old school theater seating for 50 and finished off the space with a giant, crumbling medieval castle wall in the back.  They have offered a variety of entertainment with movies, dance shows, concerts and theater.

This particular weekend's show was presented by PoeticJusticeProject. I had seen a performance that was produced through the efforts of PJP Director/founder Debbie Tobola  and director Bruce Wall of LSW Prison Project called "Rounding Shakespeare" at CMC here in our area.  Debbie's proposal to offer inmates a choice between "the Bard or the Yard".  I was excited to see this next stage of her vision.


The production (under direction of Jake McGuire) was profound in its straight forward performances, simple sets.  It was genuinely a team effort and, of course, it was Steinbeck.   There were many questions after the performance as they provided a Q and A time.  It was moving to see how grateful these actors were to have this opportunity to be involved. It was not about being a star, not about showing off talent, or just entertaining.  They are truly giving back to community and to society, giving back  and being equal parts of an effort that would not have been the same without them.  They talked about the difficulties and challenges of transitioning from  incarceration to society.  They shared how art transcends differences between people, and the courage, the encouragement and confidence they gained from their involvement in the Poetic Justice Project.  I commend Debbie, Jake, the sponsors of these efforts and of course the cast and crew who are making a change that benefits themselves, their families, and for this weekend, our community.  We are enriched by this experience. Thank you!