Prison Work

On my “About” page I mentioned my involvement with a lifers group in a Maryland maximum-security prison.

The women wanted to make a difference from behind bars. They wanted to reach out to young people and warn them of the consequences of bad choices. And they wanted to show the world they had changed, that they were not the same people they had been when they committed their crimes, and that they deserved a second chance at life in the outside world. They wanted their voices heard.

The play we produced, FACES,  became a phenomenon. Judges, legislators, prison officials, church groups, community groups, youth leaders, and many other caring citizens came to the prison to hear the women’s words.

It was hard work for the women. Only two had ever stepped on a stage—one from a high school production and one from a third grade play. They developed a mantra: If we can help just one kid, all this work will be worth it.

And it was worth it. We have documented proof of three girls—hard core kids—who turned their lives around  because of the women’s efforts.

In 2013, FACES led to an opportunity for me to write and direct a play at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The production, FROM PRISON TO STAGE, was a composite of ten plays—including FACES—written by inmates from prisons across the country and performed by professional actors. The program was sponsored by Prisons Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that promotes the artwork and literary efforts of incarcerated men and women across the United States. The performance was well-received by an enthusiastic, standing-room-only audience.

For the 2014 show, I chose four plays and supplemented the script with poetry and prose published on the Foundation’s web site: It was difficult material, but thanks to the beautiful writing, the talented actors, and the gracious Kennedy Center staff, the show was incredible. It was an honor to work with these amazing people.

FACES ran in the prison for two years, with a series of performances every few months. Over 1000 people experienced the production and came away with a new understanding of and compassion for people behind bars.

When the play was cancelled, the women were broken-hearted. They asked me to write their stories. I promised I would. FACES, the book, is the fulfillment of that promise.



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