This was my first time inside a jail. Perhaps I have watched too much TV, but I expected to be separated by a glass wall or to be in a separate room observing the performance. I was surprised and nervous when I found that we were in the same room and participating in warm-up theater exercises! I am a normally shy person, but soon I found myself smiling and laughing with the women in the room. My anxiety and hesitation melted away as we started with stretches and improv games. I think when people engage in “play” like this, it quickly builds an amicable bond. For these moments I did not feel like an outsider or an intruder. We were all playing together.
I am thankful to Meg and Kat for inviting me to see this project. Even though I only spent less than a day in the classroom: I saw joy, I saw tears. It was a very uplifting experience. I felt a sense of connection, I felt a sense of hope. I am humbled that all the women in the class shared their personal work with me.
An experience like Conspire quickly humanizes everyone in the room. Preconceived notions go out the window. Women laugh, sing, cry, dance, and express themselves. A creative outlet like Conspire is healing and empowering. If the justice system is meant to rehabilitate people, then there needs to be a creative space where people can reflect on their past and dream of a better future.
Graduate Coordinator at the Center for Women and Gender Studies at UT