I’ve blogged about Mary Driscoll and OWLL, the nonprofit she set up to help ex-offenders break vicious cycles. Soon she will launch her play Generational Legacy, about what happens to children when mothers are imprisoned. People who had experienced prison helped her write it.
Because I am very interested in this and other ways that people use the arts to help prisoners turn their lives around, an article about using Dante and Shakespeare in a women’s prison caught my eye.
Joel Brown writes in the February 24 Boston Globe,
“Lynda Gardner, Saundra Duncan, and Deborah Ranger will give a reading of a new play at a Harvard University conference next week. A different kind of alma mater qualifies them for this appearance: York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn., a high-security state facility for female offenders.
“While behind bars at York, all three joined theater workshops with Wesleyan University professor Ron Jenkins and students from his Activism and Outreach Through Theater course. They got to know Shakespeare and Dante, and it changed their lives.
“ ‘I spent my first six months [in York] trying to figure out ways to kill myself, and the next four and a half years trying to see how much more I can live,’ says Gardner. …
“Saundra Duncan said, ‘When I looked at Dante and saw how he was in exile . . . I saw a lot of that situation in [myself].’ “
I especially liked this comment on the Inferno: “I’ve been in a lot of the circles of hell … It really isn’t about hell; it is about hope. Climbing out of those circles.’’