OVERRIDE

Shakespeare Behind Bars

The Power of Drama In A Women's Prison

Jean Trounstine

St. Martin's Press

A deeply stirring account of one woman's experience teaching drama to women in prison.

I began to understand that female prisoners are not "damaged goods" and to recognize that most of these women had toughed it out in a society that favors others-- by gender, class, or race. They are Desdemonas suffering because of jealous men, Lady Macbeths craving the power of their spouses, Portias disguised as men in order to get ahead, and Shylocks who, being betrayed, take the law into their own hands.

So writes Jean Trounstine in Shakespeare Behind Bars. In this gripping account, Trounstine who spent ten years teaching at Framingham Women's Prison in Massachusetts, focuses on six inmates who, each in her own way, discover in the power of great drama a way to transcend the painful constraints of incarceration. We meet:

* Dolly, a fiftyish grandmother who brings her knitting to classes and starts a battered-women's group in prison
*Bertie, a Jamaican beauty estranged from her homeland, torn with guilt, and shunned for her crime
* Kit, a tough, wisecracking con who stirs up trouble whenever she can-- until she's threatened with losing her kids
* Rose, an outsider in the prison community who lives with HIV and eventually gains acceptance through drama
* Rhonda, a college-educated leader whose life falls apart when her father dies and who struggles in prison to reestablish her roots
* Mamie, a nurse in the free world, now the prison gardener who makes cards with poetry and dried flowers and battles her own illness behind bars

Shakespeare Behind Bars is a uniquely powerful work that gives voice to forgotten women, shed a compassionate light on a dark world, and proves the redemptive power of art and education.

A deeply stirring account of one woman's experience teaching drama to women in prison.

I began to understand that female prisoners are not "damaged goods" and to recognize that most of these women had toughed it out in a society that favors others-- by gender, class, or race. They are Desdemonas suffering because of jealous men, Lady Macbeths craving the power of their spouses, Portias disguised as men in order to get ahead, and Shylocks who, being betrayed, take the law into their own hands.

So writes Jean Trounstine in Shakespeare Behind Bars. In this gripping account, Trounstine who spent ten years teaching at Framingham Women's Prison in Massachusetts, focuses on six inmates who, each in her own way, discover in the power of great drama a way to transcend the painful constraints of incarceration. We meet:

* Dolly, a fiftyish grandmother who brings her knitting to classes and starts a battered-women's group in prison
*Bertie, a Jamaican beauty estranged from her homeland, torn with guilt, and shunned for her crime
* Kit, a tough, wisecracking con who stirs up trouble whenever she can-- until she's threatened with losing her kids
* Rose, an outsider in the prison community who lives with HIV and eventually gains acceptance through drama
* Rhonda, a college-educated leader whose life falls apart when her father dies and who struggles in prison to reestablish her roots
* Mamie, a nurse in the free world, now the prison gardener who makes cards with poetry and dried flowers and battles her own illness behind bars

Shakespeare Behind Bars is a uniquely powerful work that gives voice to forgotten women, shed a compassionate light on a dark world, and proves the redemptive power of art and education.

REVIEWS

Praise for Shakespeare Behind Bars

"I read every word, crying as I went. Prisons are monuments to ignorance, yet Congress has seemed to decide that the appropriate thing to do is keep the ignorant ignorant. It's frustrating in the extreme to understand what is so obvious to Jean Trounstine and to me but which the powers that be choose to ignore."--Jean Harris, president and founder of the Children of Bedford Fund and author of Stranger in Two Worlds

"[Trounstine] has crucial things to say for theater itself, for the meaning of Shakespeare, and how, in the stripped-down environment where mirrors are a luxury, theater and literature become a necessity-- a daily bread that is not entertainment or a commodity, but spiritual and social nourishment that nurtures the health of the spirit through the offering of hope, self-esteem, and a process that enables critical self-examination and collective bonding."--Paula Vogel, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright

"Jean Trounstine has written a courageous and hauntingly powerful testimony of the lives of six women behind bars and their struggles for reclaiming their dignity as well as their humanity. Through the power of drama and the beauty of art, Trounstine and the women of her story no longer belong to the realms of the invisible and the forgotten. On the contrary, Shakespeare Behind Bars is a story of fortitude and hope, transcendence and courage, as well as the solidarity of the human spirit in adversity. An indispensable contribution to literature, human rights, and world justice."--Marjorie Agosin, winner of the United Nations Leadership Award on Human Rights
"I read every word, crying as I went. Prisons are monuments to ignorance, yet Congress has seemed to decide that the appropriate thing to do is keep the ignorant ignorant. It's frustrating in the extreme to understand what is so obvious to Jean Trounstine and to me but which the powers that be choose to ignore."--Jean Harris, president and founder of the Children of Bedford Fund and author of Stranger in Two Worlds

"[Trounstine] has crucial things to say for theater itself, for the meaning of Shakespeare, and how, in the stripped-down environment where mirrors are a luxury, theater and literature become a necessity-- a daily bread that is not entertainment or a commodity, but spiritual and social nourishment that nurtures the health of the spirit through the offering of hope, self-esteem, and a process that enables critical self-examination and collective bonding."--Paula Vogel, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright

"Jean Trounstine has written a courageous and hauntingly powerful testimony of the lives of six women behind bars and their struggles for reclaiming their dignity as well as their humanity. Through the power of drama and the beauty of art, Trounstine and the women of her story no longer belong to the realms of the invisible and the forgotten. On the contrary, Shakespeare Behind Bars is a story of fortitude and hope, transcendence and courage, as well as the solidarity of the human spirit in adversity. An indispensable contribution to literature, human rights, and world justice."--Marjorie Agosin, winner of the United Nations Leadership Award on Human Rights

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Jean Trounstine

  • Jean Trounstine is a professor of humanities at Middlesex Community College who has won many awards and grants for her work. She has extensive experience in theatre and an M.F.A. in drama from Brandeis University. She is the cofounder of the women's branch of Changing Lives Through Literature, an educational alternative to prison, and the coeditor of a book by the same name. She lectures frequently and has been featured on The Today Show, Voice of America, and The Connection, and in more than thirty articles nationwide. Her writing has been published in Working Woman, The Southwest Review, The Boston Globe Magazine, and many other publications throughout the country. She lives with her husband in Massachusetts.
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Available Formats and Book Details

Shakespeare Behind Bars

The Power of Drama In A Women's Prison

Jean Trounstine

  • e-Book

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

St. Martin's Press

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