THE COUNTY HOME SCHOOL THEATRE PROJECT is a five-week program that uses playwriting and theatre to educate and transform the lives of incarcerated juvenile offenders who are nearing the final stage of their treatment and are preparing to re-enter the community. Through developmental writing workshops, theatrical production and mentoring relationships the workshop develops creative self-expression, social interaction and discipline. The workshop channels the diverse emotional energies of the participants into structured forms of artistic expression. Check in here over the next few weeks to hear about this years project as we head towards our performances August 14 & 15 2pm @Pillsbury House & Theatre
This year we started with a group of 12 young men and over the past 2 weeks we’ve come down to 7. As artists we forget the courage it takes to stand in front of a group of people to speak openly about who you are, what you want and how you plan about going to get it. Just standing in front of a group of your peers and doing a simple acting exercise can be your worse nightmare. Now imagine if you’ve been placing all your energy into maintaining the image that you are this ultra hard, not-caring tough man child. You’ve taken on this role as a means of survival, and now you’re asked to begin to tear down the wall, to take an imaginary ball of energy in your hands, shake it, vibrate your entire body and pass it to the person next to you. The young men standing in the circle with me are being asked to re-imagine themselves as artists, to shed the bravado of the streets and reactivate their imaginations, to take the first steps toward creating a performance that shares how they’ve made mistakes and inwardly long to get a second chance.
Some of them we never see after the first day. The idea of looking silly in front of peers is too much. Others make it into the second week and the 3.5 hour sessions, four days a week is, as promised, “tougher than summer school.” The 7 who’ve decided to stay all have different reasons: for some it’s something different in the day making their time behind bars more bearable. For others it’s a way to learn to redirect their anger. Still others are trying to hone writing and performing skills to become better rappers.
This year the one that has touch my heart is a young man who stated in the circle “I always give up on everything so this time I’m going to push myself to finish something and see if it makes a difference.” So far he has done what he said he would. Some sessions have been challenging for him, yet he’s hung in there. On days when the group is all over the place, and I’m ready to quit, watching him push makes me take a breath and move on.
My prayer each morning is to see them the way God sees them: filled with possibility and one choice away from discovering a new path. Sometimes i can and sometimes i fail. So each day I learn as much from them as they do from me.
Please join us at one of the performances (Auguest 14 and 15 at Pillsbury House Theatre) and help celebrate the sucess of having reached the goal.