What About Performing Arts?

I have posted before about bringing in performing arts into the prison system. I still am strongly attracted to that idea. I know of many men here who would be active in a play community. There are so many talents here that could be refined through performing arts somehow. There are artists, musicians, actors etc etc etc. Plus, what a confidence booster to be able to do something positive and gain positive attention for it. 
I often think about what a play, a well put together play, by inmates for inmates would do to the moral around here. I know that if you do a book reading of any sort and then show the movie it’s like Christmas morning for a 10 year old. We are giddy with excitement. It’s actually kind of strange. Then when we get movies that play on tv, the dayroom all but clears out. We come out on commercials and exchange our thoughts and cry with each other when beloved characters die or there is some injustice.
But what about using that same energy we put into entertaining ourselves and using is as a tool to get us to think differently. For a long time performing arts has been used by societies all around the globe to captivate the audience. To get them to think about what they are seeing, to tell a story that they normally wouldn’t listen to, to engage in something that they normally wouldn’t engage in. I know that when I see something beautiful I stop…dead in my tracks I stop. 
Heck, I get confused when I get a visit and see a colored shirt. Stay in a place with only brown, white and grey as the color scheme and then have someone walk in with a brightly colored shirt! It’s not offensive, but it sure make you stop, whether you mean to or not. Becuase at that point it’s foreign, something strange, or not often seen by us. SO if you introduced a staged performance by another inmate it would immediately keep our interest, especially if many aspects wer introduced. Like music, and dancing and watching our peers fully commit to a role or a dance routine. Wouldn’t that give us a stage to be able to send clear messages about positive change. It sure sounds good.
All that sounds so basic to understand, but here, it’s like speaking a foreign language that no one understands. I can’t even get them to allow me to mentor other men. I ain’t no saint, don’t get it twisted, I don’t have everything figured out, but I know how to stay out of fights. I know what it takes to stay drug free, I know what it means to have to deny yourself sex when there is many, many gorgeous willing suitors around you all the time. I know what that takes becuase I do it, and I do it with some happiness and drive. But it’s hard to pass that knowledge and thought process on to someone while we are walking the yard, or going to the chow hall. It’s only a few minutes at best and when we do have more time we are getting teased because there is more then one of us together and that means to most guys around here that we are doing something sexual. When in fact, usually it is not. We generally talk about what we are going through, but we can’t get to involved in our emotions out there because its not an appropriate place to shed those.
One day though, DOC is supposed to be providing me an answer to my proposed group soon. Perhaps the wait is a good thing, it means they are taking me seriously…and that’s a start. It also means that if I only ever reach a handful of guys and together we help each other become positive people, why wouldn’t that be a great thing?

Here’s hoping! On a side note, I have recently gone over all the symbols for LGBTQQAIP and I found that I am someone who is considered Gender Queer because I believe in androgyny.


With Love

Jeff Utnage