Seeing Past Their Hidden Faces

Hidden Faces of Courage is a one-act play based on the writings of a group of female ex-offenders who had served time for non-violent crimes. These women crafted their testimonials through artistic workshops led by the Executive Director of OWLL (On With Living and Learning), Mary Driscoll. Driscoll is also the Playwright and Producer of this play, as well as the Artistic Director of Fort Point Theatre Channel. Suffice to say, this lady carries many hats and wears them well.

When I walked into the Fort Point Theatre, I was given my very own “Reentry Packet”. Inside was the Playbill, a Community Works brochure, and a feedback form.

I didn’t’ quite understand. What’s a “Reentry Packet” anyways?

The stage area was small with minimal props, but very well-lit, with white curtains as its backdrop. A soft music layered well with the audience chatter. The venue seated 50 people comfortably and every seat was taken.

As the lights dimmed down, the Corrections Officer (played by Johnnie McQuarley) sternly instructed the audience on the rules of viewing the show, and he sarcastically ended with, “I am a nice guy.” I heard slight giggles throughout the crowd and quickly surmised that these came from the privileged few who have never felt the heat of unwarranted authority in their face.  In nanoseconds, I was convinced that no matter how well performed this play would be, some folks just wouldn’t understand…

Surprisingly and, moreover, gratefully, I was wrong.

In approximately 60 minutes we had become immersed in the lives of a young kid subjected to her brother’s incestual whims; a daughter of a well-to-do city official with fraudulent habits; a woman who fell in love with the wrong kind of man, twice; a girl who had seen her mother devalued before her eyes; and a child whose innocence had been violated by her own father. Had these story-lines been enacted by lackluster actors with mediocre writing and directing, the audience would have remained as lighthearted as they seemingly walked in. However, Tasia A. Jones, Director, was able to wonderfully weave musical transitions, flashback sequences, and storytelling into a seamless piece of art.

The most poignant moment, for me at least, was when one of the women recounted a rape she had endured in her youth. She didn’t scream. She didn’t call for help. She just endured the agony; all the while praying the “Our Father”. In almost whispers, her sisters prayed it with her, giving a shared voice to her pain. It was simple, yet intricately divine hearing these women praying in solidarity. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

And when the lights dimmed out, I was left looking for the next character, the next transition, something. I needed to know the process by which these women “reentered” society and became “productive citizens”. But it was over.

Fortunately, after the show Driscoll had allotted time for a talk-back and we were able to gain a little more insight into the real Hidden Faces of Courage. Three of the women portrayed were in the audience for closing night. These former offenders were well-dressed, soft-spoken, and even a bit timid. Yet, their message was loud. When “reentering” society, all they were given were informational packets designed for men, but “tailored” for women, with hot-line numbers of nearby programs and possible shelters that they could call home. They were not given any comprehensive assistance in their transition back into society, or even the means to overcome the lifestyle that had originally brought them to jail. I was grateful that my “Reentry Packet” provided actual information on ways to create change, and not useless material on the food pyramid.

This production premiered in Boston on Friday, November 8th and ran for two straight weekends to a sold-out venue. With additional funding opportunities, this work could be seen again and expand to other theatres throughout the state.

And it should be seen again. And again. And again, until all women have the proper tools to break the cycle that have already claimed too many of our fellow sisters.

For more information:

http://onwithlivingandlearning.org/

http://www.fortpointtheatrechannel.org/index/#/hidden-faces-of-courage-production/

~ It was a story to tell ~

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