21 Feb Shakespeare at Pendleton Prision
After volunteering with Shakespeare Behind Bars for seven years and conducting four different summer seminars with their program, Dr. Jack Heller (right) decided it was time to pursue his own prison program in Indiana. Heller is assistant professor of English at Huntington University.
This fall, Heller began a program to guide inmates through the study and performance of Shakespeare at Pendleton, a maximum-security prison near Indianapolis that has over 1800 inmates.
The program seeks to increase the cultural opportunities of the inmates while using Shakespeare to help them re-examine their lives.
Currently, the inmates are working on “Coriolanus,” the last tragedy written by Shakespeare with anger as the central theme. Because this program is so new, the men are currently approaching the play as a readers group. They will eventually work toward a performance of some kind.
“I would like for the men to wrestle with what roles they are assuming,” he said, explaining that many times when an inmate chooses a character, he can become conflicted because it will resonate with his past life.
Heller said that he would like to take groups of Huntington University students to Pendleton like he did with the Shakespeare Behind Bars program.
“You realize the purpose for visiting the prisoner is what we can do for them,” Heller said. “And that’s important, but it’s also about what we can learn about ourselves, and that can be our motivation to keep involved in the inmates’ lives.”