CYMBELINE (2017 - 2018)
A review of The Shakespeare Prison Project's CYMBELINE (2018)
by Valerie Wayne, editor, The Third Arden Edition of CYMBELINE
As the editor of the Arden Shakespeare edition of Cymbeline, I had already seen 13 live productions of the play in England and North America. I had watched 9 other shows on video or film and read about many more. So I speak with some experience when I say that this production was an impressive accomplishment.
One of the most meaningful parts of my time at RCI was the meeting we had with some of the actors... Hearing them talk about how they related to the roles they played, the backstories they wrote for their characters, and what they found in themselves that helped them act out their characters showed that preparing this play prompted their meaningful self-reflection and self-discovery. Each man found something in himself to illuminate his character and contribute to the whole. Theatre works best when that happens, and their comments showed how important the process was to them. One cast member said that working on this play helped him dig the honesty up, not just of his character, but of his own feelings and reactions. Rehearsing the play provided a safe place in which he could discover pieces of himself and put them forward. He said the process worked in ways that more traditional therapy did not -- and would not if it was imposed from without. Another cast member mentioned that acting requires him to be present 100% of the time and to share his own investment in the play with everyone else, since it is a group effort. When that collective effort succeeds, it reminds each man that he has something meaningful to contribute to the larger world. We all need that sense of purpose to want to live on from one day to the next.
The Shakespeare Prison Project is an exceptional program that accomplishes an important mission. It deserves as much support as possible. The success of this Cymbeline attests to the significance of the program, and it attests beyond that to the resilience, honesty, strength, and intelligence of the men who staged it. They all deserve the opportunities this program affords them. Our society will also be stronger and better for what they and others like them learn from this experience.