Monday, January 28, 2019

SCU LEAD at San Quentin Shakespeare in Prison Workshop

SCU LEAD Scholars Attend Shakespeare at San Quentin Workshop

This past weekend, I am grateful to have attended a workshop with students from the SCU LEAD first-generation program at San Quentin hosted by Lesley Currier of Marin Shakespeare Company. Our LEAD first year writing courses read Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption and the students who volunteered to take part in the workshop were motivated to learn more about the themes of justice and mercy.


Shakespeare in San Quentin program has been around for some 16 years and men incarcerated in San Quentin have the opportunity to learn about and perform Shakespearean plays. During our time at San Quentin, our group had the opportunity to walk through the prison yard and speak with participants in the program before we began a more formal workshop in a small building on the parameter of the yard. The participants in the program were extremely welcoming and commented on the willingness of our students to engage and take part in the workshop.


 (SCU LEAD Students with Profs. Maura Tarnoff and Cruz Medina)


Our group had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and interact in large and small group sessions, talking with incarcerated participants in the program about scenes from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Merchant of Venice. In large group, Lesley Currier helped talk through the themes of justice and mercy in relation to the meanings of the monologues and in small groups; we had the opportunity to speak with members of the program about the relevant themes in the text, with many of them speaking about their own experiences and how they can understand how the themes Shakespeare wrote about remaining relevant in their lives.


(After the workshop with San Quentin background)

The many men in the program were welcoming and invigorated by working with younger people, with some men commenting that they had children or grandchildren the ages of our students. When we had a chance to speak with the men more informally after the workshop session, I spoke with a few who encouraged me to look at their writing on the San Quentin Shakespeare Workshop website because they were proud that they could share their stories, many of them focusing on how much they have changed as people because of their ability to take part in a program like this one.

To learn more about programs in San Quentin, I would also recommend listening to the Ear Hustle podcast from San Quentin (shout out to Sam Blackmon who turned me onto it): https://www.earhustlesq.com/ 

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