Teaching theatre and writing in a prison is the epitome of working under the watchful eye of Big Brother: no spiraled notebooks, no sharp objects, candy, gum, stickers, and no writing about escaping from jail. Absolutely not. It's against the rules, and what good would it do them anyway?
Christine and I, however, make an escape each week. We walk out of Lake County Jail to fresh relatively small town air and the view of the beautiful lake. We stop at Fong's for our weekly treat, breaking our diets with Chinese food. A train ride seeing countryside, scenic little villages, clean cut Evanston, and the sometimes dirty vacant lots of the city. Sometimes we nap, sometimes we stare out the window taking in the view.
Our senses are delighted.
We've had the women write so much this year, and as we draw close to a culminating experience we reflect back on and reread almost every word written. So much of it is prison break writing in disguise: to be like the water flowing freely to all the parts of the world. To be like the air, everywhere, omnipresent. To be like the earth, a stable place for the weary to rest their heads. The women write about the touch, the taste, the smells, and the sights of memories, of freedom, holding their children again.
They hope that their senses will be delighted again soon. I think of them often when I see something beautiful that resonates with me, when I smell dinner being cooked in the next room, when I see the smiles of children on the street. I wish that they could feel what I feel, that their senses could be bombarded with joy like mine are. I hope that the writing we do can bring them to those places, that even behind bars they have escaped a little.
I have faith that I'm not the only one who hopes for these things. If you hope too, don't be afraid to give generously for the Persephone Project so that we can continue to bring joy to women who need it, just like us.
November 30, 2011