Idol Chatter

shakesbehindbarspicic.jpgThere are a handful of movies that I can say have not only inspired me, but haunted me. A little-seen documentary from three years ago “Shakespeare Behind Bars’ has been one of those movies. The stories surrounding a group of men in search of truth and forgiveness as they courageously band together to perform a Shakespearean production, moved me. In fact, the movie moved me to the point that a few weeks I did something I have wanted to do for more than a year: I visited Luther Luckett Correctional Facility and spent a few days experiencing the Shakespeare Behind Bars program in person. I sat in on rehearsals and spoke with the inmates about many more topics than just Shakespeare. It was one of the best—and most transforming— experiences I have ever had, and on Thursday night I witnessed the end of this program in its current incarnation as the director of the program, Curt Toftelund, is moving on to other opportunities.

Last night was not so much about the production of “Julius Caesar”—which was amazing—as it was about the men’s emotional testimonies as they shared what Toftelund and his family and co-workers have meant to them. It was about prison guards stepping forward and sharing what the program had meant to them. And it was also about how men who may never be released from prison have had a profound impact on strangers like me because college students, scholars, and others from various parts of the country sat in on last night’s finale and gathered to talk at a restaurant afterward.We had all learned valuable lessons from the men and from Curt as, at different times, we had each previously visited the SBB program.
But why am I sharing such an intimate experience here on Idol Chatter? Well, I guess I would just like to challenge all of us to find opportunities to impact others in ways even close to the way Totftelund did with these men (And the courageous, heroic men are insisting that though Toftelund is gone, the show will go on next year.)
I also just wanted to recommend— again—that if you haven’t checked out the DVD that provides a glimpse into this program, please do so now! You can also read about the lives of some of the cast mates in the book “Inside Shakespeare: Bard Behind Bars.”

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