This week I am performing in the prisons. Freehold’s Engaged Theater project with music by Gino Jevdjevich performed by myself and Michael Owcharuk as the biggest 2-person orchestra we can muster. This is my 5th tour taking Shakespeare into prison and I consider it some of the most – if not THE MOST – important work I do all year.
Music specifically, and art in general has a particularly special way of opening people up. Emotionally, psychologically, physically and metaphysically opening people so that their bodies can in turn heal themselves. It is powerful business. I believe it is some of the most powerful magic we have access to. And to take that experiential tool to the most captive audience I can think of, is an honor I find few adequate words to describe.
For this tour, we take the work to two men’s units, the women’s prison, and juvenile detention. What I can say about what I’ve learned thus far is doing this work is that it is the most passionate and intelligent audience I ever perform for.
Each person there has come to a recognized personal crossroad, and intersection of ideas, needs and feelings that have engaged them in a heightened state. None of us know what it would take to push us to any particular line, what set of circumstances and outcomes would stack to push us in a direction that causes such choices that may land us in incarceration. We simply don’t know what could happen or what could push it all over the proverbial line. And that doesn’t even begin to address the school to prison pipleline, the privatization of prisons, or the inherently disregard in our country for people of color, or financial status, who are more likely to be arrested for minor infractions at a rate of nearly 3 to 1.
Even putting these actualities aside, this work forces me to look at all of our humanity – and to look deeply at my own humanity and privilege – and see all the possibilities.
None of us on the outside know what it would take to cross the line that would land us in that environment. And none of us can process the psychological, emotional and physiological impact of living in that environment either. Treated in so many ways, as subhuman.
The reality is that no matter what has happened, no matter what you have done, you are still human and I believe the pathway to peace (individually and collectively) is through elevating your humanity – and elevating empathy.
I deeply believe in the power of sound to clear the body and cleanse the soul.
So for those hours on the inside, I hope to offer a chance for people to be free to heal, from the all of it. To arrive in a present moment and move forward from that state. Elevating Empathy.
We must lend our energy to each other to move forward. That is always the case.
I am so grateful to be a musician. To music which has saved my life many times over. And to my community for being able to offer this gift to others.
#artisthedisciplineofbeing #livehumans #musicismedicine