Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Husband Went to Prison!

It's true. But he's back now. He got up bright and early this morning (Saturday) and headed to the California Institute for Women in Chino.

Cornerstone, the theater company K works with, took their original play about the criminal justice system, "For All Time," to perform for the inmates. The play was based on conversations with some of the prisoners as well as with victims of crime.

I saw the play when it was performed here a few months ago and I found it pretty affecting. But K's report of today's events blows away anything that could be experienced by an audience member removed from direct experience with certain harsh realities. People heard their voices heard, their stories told. For some of them, this might have been the first time they felt any validation of their experiences. Who knows how this failure to feel validation led to bad choices in their past? Who knows how the experience of validation may lead to better choices in the future?

There are those who might question whether resources should be spent on providing theater to the incarcerated community. But lives are changed through this kind of work. And what is the point of a criminal justice system, if not to change lives for the better?

I love the videos on YouTube of the dancing Filipino prisoners. And while that is a very different use of art than "For All Time," that warden also found a creative way to reach people who mainstream society would just as soon forget.

Art is powerful. Art is useful. Those who haven't been exposed to the arts often denigrate its role in our society. When school budgets are cut, it's arts programs that are the first to go. We always ask if a presidential candidate can ensure national security. But doesn't national security begin from within? - with a (well) educated electorate?

If great societies are remembered for their arts and for their wars, for which would you prefer us to be remembered?

2 comments:

Jayne said...

I really liked this post. It's very well-written, and so true. Kudos to your husband for taking the play to the prison. Art really does make a difference in people's lives.

Why S? said...

Thank you, Jayne. I appreciate your kind comment. I know I'm opinionated. I just hope not alienating. Sometimes I wonder.