What Does He Need?

May 1, 2020   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

I know every organization with which you have ever brushed shoulders (remember brushing shoulders?) wants you to know that they are ‘with you’; we’re thinking about you and, of course, we are thinking about the men behind the walls at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility. It’s an incredibly unsettling time.

Moose Lake has the largest outbreak of COVID-19 in the Minnesota Department of Corrections. We are not getting any updates from the staff at the facility, which makes sense to me; in times of crisis, staff tend to push programming goals to one side in order to focus on keeping everyone safe, fed, and alive. I can think of no bigger crisis.

Last week, we sent in a packet of materials for the members of the Redeeming Time ensemble. Our goals at this point are to invite them to think about something else for a bit, to remember that they are part of this community, to remind them that we are thinking about them and that we will eventually all be back in the room together, learning about ourselves through this work we do. We sent a monologue from Richard II (I have been studying how I may compare / This prison where I live unto the world:”), a scene from Hamlet, some discussion questions (i.e., What is this guy talking about? Where is he? What is he trying to understand? What does he need? What might he be afraid of? Can you tell what he loves? What happens if you whisper these words?), some writing and drawing prompts, a couple cartoons, and a Shakespeare word search in the packet, so that each ensemble member can engage with the text in whatever way is most compelling to him right now. 

We know that the men’s movements are constrained right now; everyone is staying within his own housing unit as a means of containing infection. In each housing unit within the facility, there are three or more members of the RTP ensemble. Our hope is that the men might read through the scene together and debate and discuss with one another. A miniature version of our circle, as it were.

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