A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
On August 27, several members of Milwaukee's Optimist Theatre Company came to Racine Correctional Institution to offer an open acting workshop. I was hoping that the excitement generated by a professional theatre company might also work as an effective recruiting tool... and it did.
One prisoner, who I had never met, was asked why he had come to the workshop. He spoke his thoughts aloud, questioning his own reasons for being there. He pointed out that the posters around the institution had been promoting The Shakespeare Project as an opportunity to develop "critical thinking" and "self-awareness." It wasn't clear to him how these abilities were related to acting. The folks from Optimist Theatre eagerly explained that critical thinking and self-awareness are essential to an actor's ability to understand the character s/he is playing. The skeptical inmate took this in, nodding slowly.
That man, tall, barrel-chested, with strong features and long, raven-black hair, came up to me at the end of the workshop. He told me he was intrigued, and that he had decided to join The Shakespeare Project. He is now our Titania.
Other gifts from The Optimists (as I like to call them):
* an edited version of the play that brings the estimated performance time down to our allotted two hours (thank you, ML Cogar!)
* an approach to "cold readings" of Shakespeare's texts that has the actors on their feet - immediately! - this has inspired us to get up and moving and experimenting right away