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Shakespeare as a controversial force of good behind bars

While serving a life sentence, trans woman of color (and first-time blogger) Dana “Gee” Gibson is always looking for ways to stay positive, and recently took up playwriting as an outlet for creativity and activism after a controversial prison-production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” sparked her interest in the craft.


“Shakespeare Under Lock and Key,”
by Dana “Gee” Gibson.

Prison is an environment that can change you as a person in a more negative way or in a positive way, depending on how you choose to spend your time and how you choose to deal with the situations of imprisonment you face. But maintaining your sanity and not allowing your environment to become you is the main goal.

As I am currently serving life in prison, I am one that strives to find positivity in here. This brought me to take part in a prison-based production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” at great Meadow Correctional Facility. I was drawn to the production based upon the unity I saw amongst my fellow prisoners to do something positive. Imagine this: gangbangers of rival gangs, people of all religions, whites, blacks and Latins, heterosexuals, gays, transgenders and bi-sexuals banding together in the name of Shakespeare to produce a play without any words or actions of violence. Prior to this, I had never read about Shakespeare, let alone performed in a Shakespeare play, but I found it to be a humbling and positive experience. The production was sponsored by professors and volunteers of Green Mountain College’s “Shakespeare Under Lock and Key” program. Our performance and production of Macbeth was featured and written about in the Albany Times Union newspaper, where we gained rave reviews from our public performance.

But as Niccolò Machiavelli once said, “hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.” Prison officials did not appreciate the positive support and views we were getting from the public as prisoners, and without reason, discontinued the program. It’s that positive experience that opened my eyes and mind to Shakespeare and to write theatre plays as a positive means to a negative state of imprisonment. Accordingly, I want to thank all of my fellow prisoners at Great Meadow Correctional Facility that brought about the Macbeth Production with a special thanks to professor Gary and all the volunteers and faculty of Green mountain College – you all showed me that I could be part of something positive in a negative environment.

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