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The Power of Telling the Truth


I recently was privileged to direct a very heartfelt and inspirational show, “Parallel Play: Original Theatre Inspired by Hamlet” with incarcerated men at San Quentin State Prison. Never before have I been to a show in which each of the 10 men who performed received a standing ovation for their performance – and each of those 10 men – quite honestly – deserved it. How powerful it is to tell the truth. How powerful it is to share the truth amidst a loving and accepting audience. The power of community to heal was very present in my mind that day: it was the deep presence of the audience and the power of their compassionate listening that made it possible for each of the men to share in the way they did. But there was another way in which “community” promoted the healing of the men who performed, and this healing process began way before we had sent out invitations to our show. The “community” I speak of is the ensemble of actors in the Shakespeare at San Quentin Program, who had been together – some for several months and others for several years – creating theatre together. They had worked together, combining their creative energies to create something beautiful. Something stunning. Something truthful. And it is in the sharing of their truth, over a period of time, with a group of trusted others, that helped the men to realize they were safe to be who they were. They were safe to be human beings full of gifts and flaws, full of joyous memories and painful ones, full of good choices and bad choices. In sharing the truth of who they were, the men not only gave a great gift to each other – they also received a great gift: the gift of themselves.


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