Jesse Turk

Jesse graduated in the Cornell Class of 2014 with a double major in Performing and Media Arts and Psychology. Focusing specifically on creative authorship, Jesse spent much of his time directing plays and films, large and small, at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts and in other capacities while at Cornell. Originally from Boston, he is currently living in Los Angeles. He hopes to make his way towards professional directing and producing for film and television. He became involved with PPTG as a cameraman for filming the final rehearsals and performance of “An Indeterminate Life.”

Many people spend their final days of college spending time with friends, relaxing, and enjoying their last moments as a carefree student, so when I was given the opportunity to work with PPTG, I was hesitant. Thankfully, I dove in and didn’t look back. Meeting the men of PPTG and sharing in their stories, work, and performance was an incredible experience that, although only spanning just a few days, has changed me forever. Listening to these men speak as people, filled with inspiration and creativity, the way I have watched peers in performance classes, left me with a new outlook on what makes a person human. I was able to learn right along with the men that the crime is not the same thing as the criminal. A crime may scar or forever affect the criminal, but it does not change their humanity.

To see these men grow through theater and find ways to rehabilitate through the process of creating art was so impactful and reminded me of the power that performance can truly have. I felt this all come to a head at the times when we had to part ways with the men. After connecting, communicating, and developing work and relationships with these people, we had to simply sever such connections and allow them to return to unimaginable circumstances. Theoretically, they received a sentence for having committed awful crimes and justice is served, but the incongruity of that idea with the reality of leaving these complex human beings, not just numbers on a jumpsuit, behind to be searched and sent back to a cold cell after having warm, meaningful discussions and creative critiques in the way I would in a normal acting or directing lab was heart-wrenching and left me wondering how much we were doing versus how much more we could do. I have never felt such a visceral reaction to a range of emotions. Regardless, PPTG and the ending public performance in the prison felt like a step, perhaps a large stride in the right direction.