Special bonus material! An exclusive in-depth interview with Elaine Blanchard, creator and coordinator of Prison Stories. (29:46, 27.8 MB)
Cast & Crew
Performer: Gail Black
Performer: Miranda Fisher
Performer: Jo Potter
Performer: Randi Sluder
Performer: Jaclyn Suffel
Performer: Ann Wallace
Musician: Virginia Ralph
Producer: Ben Fichthorn
Director: Brian Fruits
Creator / Coordinator: Elaine Blanchard
Artist: Jerre Dye
Special Thanks to:
- Jerre Dye and Voices of the South
I wrote a play, For Goodness Sake, with David Prete. The story is about my innocent participation in a racially motivated beating of a black boy in Gainesville, Florida. I was five years old; the year was 1959. David Prete directs the play and I perform all fourteen characters. A live audience first engaged with the story at TheatreSouth in Memphis in October of 2009. The experience changed me, awakened me to recognize and respect my own gifts, strengths and talents. It became clear to me that something beautiful would rot and die if I did not share with others what I had learned from my own story-sharing experience. I considered who might most benefit from the opportunity to share his or her story. I imagined various groups and wondered who might need to realize and respect their own gifts, strengths and talents. That thought process led me to the Shelby County jail for women where I have worked for three years with groups of women in a program called Prison Stories.
I sit in a circle with twelve women. We meet twice a week for four months. We have conversations. We just talk to each other about the ordinary stuff of life. Guest artists visit the class: writers, singers, musicians, actors, directors, photographers, dancers, visual artists, and yoga instructors. We consider what it means to be creative and how exercising our own creative potential can open doors for others as well as ourselves. We imagine a better future.
I take the stories that are shared and write a script. I invite theater people to participate in staging a performance for audiences inside the jail and for audiences outside the jail. The inside performance is spectacular! All of the women in the county jail are included, along with the writers, their families, and the employees of the county jail. Following the performance each woman writer is called to the front to receive a certificate of completion and to say to the gathered community what it has meant to her, this story sharing and writing experience. Their statements are emotional and powerful.
Carolyn said, “I thought I was a bad person, a fast girl. Then I took this class and told my story. I could see, I could hear for the first time that I ain’t no bad person. I’m a person who had bad things done to me. This Prison Stories class has been a healing thing for me. I’ve still got a future story ahead of me.”
Everybody has a story and we all want to tell our stories. We long to be noticed and heard. Being listened to is much like being loved. Once I recognize that I am loved then I can find a way to love myself. And if I am capable of loving myself then I can find the way to loving others. Our stories connect us and build bridges for healing and hope.
- “Cradle of Creation” (4:49, 5.0 MB)
Written and performed by Virginia Ralph
Produced by Ben Ficthorn