Today was our last day. What a mix of emotions – sorrow at leaving, joy at being able to have another class after the performance and delight at learning a new game from a couple of women called Shake, Shake. Some of y’all might already know this game, but it’s new to me.
Jump in the car, shake shake,
Put your foot on the gas, shake shake,
Jump back! shake, shake…
There’s more but I’m keeping it a secret! If you ever see me in person, I’ll sing it for you.
We started the day as usual, with freewriting and stretching. After that, I led a discussion about the class in general. What did the women like? What worked for them? What didn’t? Meg took notes and I’ll type those up later but generally, the women kept coming back to several themes. They appreciated having a space where they felt respected, both by Meg and myself and by the other women in the class. They liked that they could be goofy and express themselves in the class without being told to shut up or sit down. They reiterated that our class was one of the only times when they could forget about where they were and all the problems associated with it, where they could laugh and be joyful. They also said that they got to know each other differently in our class and that they could open up and be themselves. They could be more than their mistakes. When I asked what they didn’t like or what didn’t work for them, I didn’t get too many responses. One woman said that she wasn’t really sure about the stretching when she started the class but that she got used to it and understood why we did it. The class also said that sometimes it’s hard from them because our class is first thing in the morning for them. Often they’re yanked out of bed with five minutes to get ready before they come to see us. One woman said that she wished we had organized the sharing a little bit better.
This opened up an interesting discussion about process versus product. Meg explained that our work tends to focus on the games and the exercises, the doing and learning of new techniques every class. We don’t go in with any idea of what the ‘performance’ will look like, so we leave its organization til the very end. It was a loose, informal affair and it was true that not everyone knew what came next or who was doing what. It’s a challenge to plan a sharing at all when we aren’t sure who will be there from day to day or what we can reasonably ask from women dropped into it two sessions beforehand. I would love to have something more formal and structured but I don’t think that’s totally possible here. We’ll have to think about it. Most of the women said that they liked the approach of process over product and they enjoyed learning something new everyday. They share this with the other group we worked with over the summer, who were always eager to try new things and a little reluctant to rehearse or go over things again and again.
After our discussion, I passed out little cards with envelopes. “We’re writing notes to ourselves in the future,” I said. “Write down something that you want to remember from this class or from this time. Tell yourself something that you’ll want to remember in the future.” Meg and I wrote ourselves notes as well. I asked if anyone wanted to share. A couple of did – one that struck me was how she wanted to remember that she liked theatre, wanted to take theatre classes but not back in the jail! Her note was a reminder to pursue these things outside of jail. I said that I’d hate to be the reason anyone would up back in there – because they wanted to take a theatre class! The problem becomes though, where will she take it? Why do so few of these get these opportunities before they’re incarcerated? Or after? It’s great that we’re there and can serve the women in the jail but I want to work in the free world as well. Women should be able to express their creativity and find this kind of joyful release on the outside as well.
After that, we played games – zip zap boing, shake shake, Simon says and statues in the park. Before I knew it, our time was up. I stretched it out a little longer, as I always do. We went around the circle and said one word about how we felt. Rejuvenated, heavenly, satisfied, hungry, happysad (from me, who couldn’t find one word to express them both) and fantastic. A good way to end. Several of the women have told me that they’ll keep in touch. I hope they do. They asked when we would be back, told us to make it soon. “As soon as I can,” I said.
As soon as I can.