This Sanctuary

In our latest Blog Post, Sheldon (aka “Superb”) Johnson discusses what he has gained through his participation in two theatre programs, the first at Great Meadow Correctional Facility and now with  PPTG.  It is his tribute to the transformative and redemptive power of such programs.

My first actual stage play, well it wasn’t actually a stage, but a prison classroom at Great Meadow Correctional Facility fashioned to be a stage in every primitive sense. I remember vividly being told by a friend that he thought I should audition for the play. “What play?” was my response. Some “Shakespeare-on –Lock & Key,” he stated. There weren’t any programs of substance at Great Meadows, so I was craving something, anything to shatter the ritualistic monotony. Long story short, I auditioned and ended up playing three different characters in Shakespeare’s “King Richard”.

Through that enlightening experience with volunteers from Green Mountain College, whom I grew to embrace and cherish as friends, I was introduced to what I would later learn to be Rehabilitation through the Arts (http://www.rta-arts.org/): where body, speech, mind, thought, conscience and emotion evolve into a transformative tool that reflects and evaluates not only my interpretations, motivations and choices, but also those of the character I embody.

That was five years ago, and today I am once again spiritually drawn to this Sanctuary; this transformative place where I have learned so much about myself, the choices I have made and the moral choices that my characters must make.

In PPTG, however, it is different, made more intense by the application of technique; Characterologies, articulating exercises, monologues and Rasa Boxes that are designed not only to be fun but therapeutic. Not to mention, some really awesome, talented and dedicated people, who devote their time, energy and resources, with whom I can let my guard down, and not worry about hidden agendas or motives. Our own community within a community.

Here we delve into profound moments of the self by replaying and re-evaluating our deepest regrets, passions, fears and aspirations. It is a beautiful and frightening place all the same! It is our metaphorical Garden of Eden where we plant seeds of impossibilities that, when cultivated, nurtured and nourished in the photosynthesis of our beings…we bear witness to the fruits of free will: the choice to do that which the morally good person would do; the greatest good!

While interacting with my friends and allies in PPTG I have unearthed the power of self-discovery, a creativity and sense of empowerment not only toward imagination, but the realization that the chance to amend, reconsider and apply alternative courses of action do exist. But most importantly, the recognition that options and opportunities are available.

In this SANCTUARY, I have developed the courage to shed and let go of so many misconceptions, socially learned behaviors that caused me to make horrible decisions; I have learned to think critically and analyze my behavior in-depth, just as I would do with one of my characters; I learned to weigh and consider what I am about to say, just as I memorize my lines for a character; I have learned the skill of critical listening as if awaiting a prompt; to engage in, embrace and admire team work.

It is in this SANCTUARY of theater, while playing Macbeth, that I came to understand we are all walking shadows, players in some stage of our lives, strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage… a tale told by time, full of sound and fury, heard forever more!