By: Keith McGill

shakepseare behind barsA few years ago, Matt Wallace asked me to join the Shakespeare Behind Bars juvenile facilitation team working with incarcerated and at risk students. For years we made a formidable team, and as much as I gave the students, they gave me tenfold.

Recently, Matt became the Producing Artistic Director of Kentucky Shakespeare and he asked me to be the lead facilitator for SBB. And my first group, thanks to a Fund for the Arts Community Arts Grant, was Maryhurst School —the first Shakespeare BEYOND Bars program exclusively for girls. The process was full of discoveries. One young lady knew all about Shakespeare’s life. Another confessed that she thought it would be boring but actually started looking forward to it. Every girl gave her all to scenes from Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, and (by special request!) Othello.

On the last day, as we ate celebratory homemade banana bread, a girl had a breakthrough. I asked what they learned from SBB that they could use in their lives going forward and she was saying “we” are not failures and “we” can do anything “we” want. I said “Change that ‘we’ to ‘I’ and say that again.” It was really hard for her, but she was finally able to say “I am not a failure”, for the first time in her life I’m sure. All the other girls were so encouraging that they applauded when she finally said it. I love this gig. It literally changes lives.

*Shakespeare Behind Bars received a 2013 Community Arts Grant for $2,000 and is using the first thousand to start the first all-female Shakespeare BEYOND Bars program at Maryhurst facilitated by Keith McGill

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