by Michael Rhynes

We who are the Phoenix Players Theatre Group of Auburn believe in the redemptive flame of rehabilitation. We affirm that we live in the dark ages of prison expansion and the warehousing of souls.

While our legislators and the courts debate how many souls can be stuffed into a single prison cell, we have embarked on a quest to become better human beings and productive citizens.

We seek atonement for catering to our base nature, because we acknowledge that the choice to do right or wrong has always been within our power. We wish to atone for those human beings for whom we’ve caused so much pain and suffering. We wish to atone to society for not living up to our organic contract by loving and caring for our neighbors. We wish to atone to our families for failing to reach our potential and their dreams for us.

We who are PPTG make a conscious decision to walk into the flames of your pain, suffering suspicions of our motives, disbelief of our goodness, your downright anger, and your grief, in hopes of being recreated in your loving, compassionate, and empathetic images.

Higher education is a myth behind these walls. In order to resurrect our souls, we have decided to grasp the Holy Grail that is the arts. If the arts can transform mud-baked villages into metropolises of light, why can’t it transform us who live in hovels of despair?

We would rather have men writing plays than conceiving how to deprive innocent people of their lives and property. We would rather listen to men in this prison eulogize Caesar from the stage than hear it from the mouths of the clergy about how innocent people’s lives were shattered by violence. We would rather have twelve men acting angry on stage that facing a jury of their peers.

Based on the polling of the men in this prison, we’ve drawn the astounding conclusion that drama courses with the hope of putting on a production would make a successful reintegration tool for us.

We seek not to make every man in this prison a professional dramatist, but to reconnect us to society, our communities, and our families, by learning through drama how to love, what it feels like to be compassionate, to forgive and be forgiven, to reach into the depths of our beings and bring forth our humanity.

We don’t come to you as beggars but as men with hopeful hearts, along with the vision of changing this dark, dank world into a kaleidoscope of hope, where the diseases of idleness and worthlessness are banished forever.