Dear JDPP friend,
When we started our performance residencies at York Correctional Institution in 2005, we were permitted to take the piece that we had developed at York, Time In, out to the public. It was performed by the JDPP Ensemble and singing group Women of the Cross to standing-room-only crowds at Charter Oak Cultural Center. Each performance was followed by a talk back. At one of them, a woman stood up and said that she had once hired a woman who had returned to the community from prison and, although highly recommended, had stolen from her employees. The speaker had sworn that she would never make her employees vulnerable again by hiring someone with a prison record. But seeing Time In had made her reconsider.
A week later she sent me an email that a woman, also with a strong recommendation, who had been in prison for a brief period for larceny, had interviewed for a job at her business. She told the applicant about how her previous experience caused her to hesitate but that feeling had lessened after seeing Time In. The applicant had seen it, too.
A week later I received another email from the business owner, saying that she had hired this applicant, who would be starting that week. She said she felt good about it, and I certainly did too. A second chance was made possible — a performance caused a rethink and opened an audience member to making a change1.
That story is such a wonderful proof that art makes change, and that small changes, if enough people make them, can make a very big difference.
Today, when our country feels like it could be on the edge of falling apart, when we think about what we can do, what can make a difference, I am reminded of this story.
Let’s find our way through the culture wars, climate crisis, and screaming biases of today to a better way of being. Take a step, no matter what size, toward creating a better present and future. And then take another. And another.
In peace and with gratitude,
1A more detailed account of this story can be found in Jonathon Shailor’s Performing New Lives, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011 in the chapter that I wrote, “Time In: Transforming Identity Inside and Out” (pp 83-101).
Just a few of the small steps that can become large ones: