Lauren Johnson writes about Performing Possibilities

Cast Aways?!

Performing Possibilities is a vision that has been a long time in coming. A vision that was realized last night! I remember Kat telling me about her inspiration for it. And the full dream of creating an ensemble created from group of formerly incarcerated women – those that society often deems disposable. We hope that our performance will start to change that perception.

At first I imagined it would be a huge production. I couldn’t picture how it was going to be pulled together. The bigger vision, is this will be a long running show. And provide an employment opportunity for the participants to make it easier to participate. The population of ex-offenders is often too busy trying to make ends meet and face their own demons of stigma to devote their free time to extracurricular activities. Even more so for women who are often coming home to care for children and family members!

I am not particularly a ‘theater’ person. Even though I have enjoyed a 15 second spotlight as an extra on the last season of Friday Night Lights, I don’t usually feel a strong pull toward the art of theater. I remember taking it in 7th grade and feeling nervous and awkward to have to perform, even in a small room full of other students all doing the same.  I lacked confidence; I felt out of my element. What Conspire is working toward with this performance is using the elements of our past, and creating a space where we are the experts. Only we have lived our lives, and only we can tell the tale.

Having been so involved with the work that Conspire does, it was a no-brainer that I would participate in this historic event. I was informed that we would not have to memorize lines, but wasn’t sure how that would play out. Ideally, it was to be a group of ten women. In the end, there were only four. After two days of intense work, play, and watching it all culminate to the final product – I can’t imagine how we would have fit 6 other stories into the performance. Once again, things are just as they should be.

Having the opportunity to spend time with so many amazing women has been a phenomenal experience. The other three participants, the facilitators, and the volunteers are all incredible women in their own respects. From day one, getting to know them has been tremendous. The  energy and ideas in the room, the  immediate and intensive bonding that has occurred, feeling supported and loved, being able to identify with women who have all walked similar but different paths – has created some wonderful lessons that won’t be soon forgotten. Many different journeys have merged together to create a masterpiece.

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