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To Be or Not to Be

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Last night, after I finished my exam and my brain had oozed out of my ears and then been reconstituted, I listened to a recent “This American Life” that KMZ recommended. The hour-long show was entirely devoted to a production of Hamlet . . . inside a St. Louis jail. Staging hamlet inside a maximum security prison presents unusual challenges: security (no paperclips allowed, and the actors have to undergo a strip search simply to make it to rehearsal); the fact that prison rules prevent the incarcerated men from congregating for long enough to view the play in one sitting; and, of course, a shortage of trained actors. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

But it’s not. Guided by the founder of Prison Performing Arts (a local nonprofit), the men channel their lived experiences into a surprisingly moving (and good!) rendition of (one act) of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. And guess what? They prove that if we were actually willing to funnel money into programs like this, rehabilitation wouldn’t be such a pipe dream. At least for some.

I can’t do the program justice, so trust me and go listen to the podcast of the show. It costs $.99 since the show took place more than a week ago. But it’s worth every penny.

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