Life after AE by Erika Phillips. Submitted by Bridget Cantu Wear

A DEEP COMMITMENT

By Erika Phillips

The Old Globe launched its free Globe for All Tour program in 2014, bringing free professional productions of Shakespeare to community centers, homeless shelters, veterans’ facilities, and other venues—places where our work would have the greatest impact by reaching our most isolated neighbors. For this reason, it was important to us to include Las Colinas Women’s Detention and Reentry Facility, San Diego County’s only women’s jail, and an institution focused on its population’s rehabilitation and reentry into society. Unfortunately, at that time Las Colinas was undergoing a rebuilding process, and we had to delay for a year.

It was worth the wait. The first tour at Las Colinas, 2015’s Much Ado About Nothing, was a smashing success, and soon after we deepened our relationship with them by bringing our Reflecting Shakespeare program to their classrooms. Reflecting Shakespeare is a 12-week program that uses the Bard’s text as an entry point for team building and reflection. It allows the women to unite over a shared challenge: reading and acting Shakespeare, and in the process, learning to take risks, push comfort zones, discover new skills, and create community.

According to Jennifer Montiel, a counselor at Las Colinas, “For the bulk of the women who participate in the program, they feel, ‘Yeah, I was nervous, but I did it.’ It’s a rare opportunity in jail to do something that people are going to applaud you for.” Montiel admits she was skeptical at first about Shakespeare classes. “But now I see that every program has been beneficial for the women. These individuals are gaining confidence, and they’re learning to be supportive of one another. They’re gaining tools they can use when they get out, evenif they never have another connection to a theatre activity.”

Karen Ann Daniels, Associate Director of Arts Engagement at The Old Globe, adds, “We’re introducing them to new kinds of choices that, for whatever reasons, they’ve never been able to consider. Plus, with their determination as they work through our programs, something is being transformed in how they think about themselves.”

The women who are eligible to take part in our programs (which now also includes our Community Voices playwriting classes) are individuals who have shown a deep commitment for self-growth through classwork and programming, and who have earned the right to care for the facility through a variety of jobs. The Old Globe’s programming therefore often serves a community of women who are hungry to use any new tool for their personal transformation.

Working with these women can be incredibly inspiring, and in the fall of 2018 we saw the happy convergence of multiple programs at the site. Halfway through working on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Reflecting Shakespeare, The Old Globe brought a performance of the play to Las Colinas through the Globe for All Tour. The women relished the opportunity, and it was one of the most responsive audiences on the entire tour. Some of the women even mouthed their lines along with the professional actors.

When it came time for the women’s own Midsummer performance, they shared their reflections on the themes of the play, including its happy ending. One participant said, “It’s time to step up to the plate. How? By not allowing this wrong turn I made to determine my life. So here I stand before you to tell you: you too can receive the same benefits I did to make the necessary changes starting from within. This experience has been an incredibly humbling life lesson to say the least.”

Whitney Kear