Like the ARC’s organizing force, Lara Mielcarek, I was first made aware of the concept of producing Shakespeare performed by inmates of a correctional facility by listening to Jack Hitt fascinating and moving episode of This American Life, “Act V” in which men from the Eastern Missouri Correctional Facility had been presenting Hamlet, one act at a time.
Lara posted a Go Fund Me appeal for funds last year, and my meager contribution reaped an incidental reward I did not expect, an invitation to the performance.
Ten women performed “The Scottish Play” in a common room in the facility, using the most basic of costume pieces (capes, plastic crowns) and as you might expect, nothing like actual weapons. Even the daggers used to murder the king were small, flat-ended, wooden crosses.
The entire performance was conveyed through the remarkable passion, drama and humor of the performers. Yes, they were all volunteers to this program, but even so I found these performers eloquence, and their ability to convey to towering emotions of this classic work, remarkable. Few if any had previous experience in the performing arts. All of them, however, know how to tell a good story.
Following the show there was time for a brief Q&A. Their Malcolm acknowledged her previous need to keep to herself, and that she was always generally a solitary person. At the end of the performance, she was delivering a powerful speech, and loudly hailed as King of Scotland.
After last night, I may never listen to the characters of the Gentlewoman and the Doctor, who witness Lady Macbeth as she sleepwalks, the same way again.
DOCTORA few of the performers were still on book, but only for a few pages. Lara informed the audience (and it was a surprisingly large audience) that they had a choice, to perform in May before they were ready, or work until June, when they would lose at least one of their actors who were due for release.
Go to, go to. You have known what you should not.
She has spoke what she should not.
Here’s the smell of the blood still.
During the Q&A someone asked who was leaving the company. Macduff said she had thirteen days “and one wake-up.”
Today that’s twelve days and one wake-up. "The time is free."