MARIN COUNTY (KCBS)— One of the toughest prisons in the United States is showcasing talent that shines new light on the plays of Shakespeare. Behind the walls of Marin County’s San Quentin Prison, inmate actors perform ‘Macbeth’ under the direction of the Marin Shakespeare Company.
Since 2003, the company has had a presence at San Quentin, where Shakespeare’s popularity has somehow penetrated both the boundaries and inmates ‘consciousness. The program grew and now full-length plays are performed.
The prisoners like Shakespeare because his plays contain life, love, hate, envy, pride, tragedy and triumph; something they can identify with all too well.
Julian Luke Padgett starred as Macbeth.
“I’m trying, man. I’m trying to be better, man. It’s not easy. I’m in here for burglary, arson, car theft and first-degree murder,” said Padgett.
He says the audiences have enriched his life. Padgett and the ensemble performed Macbeth in the prison chapel. They delighted the audience with contemporary references.
Inmate actor Antwan Williams cracks up the audience of peers by lapsing into a line from a Lionel Richie song during performance.
“I am in prison for a second-degree robbery,” Williams said. As to his chances of getting out, he says he has four years to serve. When he gets out, he says hopefully he’ll be in the Marin Shakespeare Company.
He may find a place because the theater company is getting ready to launch an ex-offender acting program.
“Shakespeare speaks to me. I was born on the same day as Shakespeare was, April 23rd. So we’re kindred spirits,” said Jarvis “Lady Jae” Clark. 26 years ago, Clark was convicted of murdering a man and is now serving a 25-year-to life sentence.
Before she and the others hit the stage, the ensemble gathered in the wings of the prison chapel giving thanks and dedications to each other and those who came to watch from both the inside and outside worlds.