The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.233 Thursday, 21 May 2015
Date: May 20, 2015 at 4:43:45 PM EDT
Subject: Shakespeare at Pendleton
I have been silent on this list for quite some time, but I have recently completed a project I thought I would mention briefly. On April 23rd, 2015, Shakespeare at Pendleton performed Coriolanus. I began Shakespeare at Pendleton in October 2013, as a natural extension of my long-time voluntary involvement with Shakespeare Behind Bars in Kentucky and Michigan. Shakespeare at Pendleton runs independently of Shakespeare Behind Bars, but it is modeled after what I have been able to observe over eight years of visiting them. The Pendleton Correctional Facility is a maximum-security prison located about 25 northeast of Indianapolis.
We had 18 men involved, none of them with prior experience performing Shakespeare and with an English professor for a director (me) who had never directed a play before. Yet, somehow, working together, we were able to get a show together that I think our men have had every reason to feel proud of. We reduced the play significantly, performing 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 2.2, 2.3, a part of 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 4.1, 5.3, and 5.6. These were scenes the men had chosen as presented a complete, though shortened, story. Our Coriolanus, by the way, seems to have been the first ever performed by incarcerated men and the first within a prison.
I have long had an odd affection for this play, which I feel is too often not given its due value in Shakespeare’s canon. The men seemed to love working on it—a very masculine play dealing directly with issues of anger they have been familiar with through their own experiences. I also learned some things about the play from the men, that it may have humor you would not expect (revealed in the performances of our tribunes and the Third Citizen) and that Volumnia may be performed with pathos, not just bitchiness.
I have done a short interview with Northeast Indiana Public Radio about this experience, http://wboi.org/post/shakespeare-pendleton-brings-bard-life-behind-bars. There will also be an upcoming half-hour show on Indiana Public Radio (out of Muncie, IN) about Shakespeare at Pendleton. And, if anyone is interested, there is a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/shakespeareatpendleton.
We will be taking a summer break, but when Shakespeare at Pendleton resumes, we are planning a show of scenes from various comedies, including Dogberry’s scenes from Much Ado about Nothing and Bottom and the Mechanics from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
So that’s where I’ve been.