When I got out people were saying oh you can’t stay off the streets and I just think of it like - I got through the project what makes you think I can’t get through regular life? It’s hard to say no to your homies that you’ve known for years. You have to get over it because if you don’t get over it you’re going to wind up locked up or dead.
The boys’ growth and experience throughout the process of creating and rehearsing the show was really what was most important and meaningful to me. To see them write and then speak such powerful, emotional, and poetic words during rehearsals was extremely eye-opening to me. We, as human beings, tend to forget, or take advantage of, the privileges we have. I have always been aware that I am lucky and privileged, and I have always known in theory the different experiences people have. I have not, however, gotten a chance to get this close and open to people from such different life-paths. All of the boy would gladly share their experiences with me, from how they got to camp, tohow they’ve lost loved ones from gang violence. I think theatre is one of the very few arenas in life that allow people to share themselves in that deep and open of a way, and I love that I can do that with this profession. One of the biggest challenges with programs like this, though, is keeping that positive energy and connection alive after the program ends. I got very close to one ofthe boys who was released on the day of our performance, and he actually came to see me the next day. We got to talk about the whole experience, and he shared with me his fear of getting into trouble again and being back in the system. He felt that it was simply inevitable for him. It was such an example of how much we are all a product of our environment.I’m glad that this program allowed him, along with the other boys, to experience another environment and create friendships with all of us. Because of this program, he felt comfortable enough to share those feelings with me, and I was able to talk to him about it and offer my help now and in the future if he ever needed it.I hope that the friendships we all made in this production can continue into the future because I really think it would change all our lives in a positive way to continue this partnership of teaching and helping each other by sharing our different experiences.I also hope I can continue to be part of programs like The People’s Voice that allow friendships like that to be made. It completely motivated me to continue to find ways to make acting a truly active art form that can affect people from all kinds of backgrounds in different ways. I always thought growing up that I would be helping the world through my acting simply by making people feel things, but I have really learned this past year in college, especially with this project, that theatre can, and should, be so much more than that.
My life was pretty much institutionalized. I thought the man in the black robe ran my life. It made me realize that I have choices in life. The Odyssey helped me realize that. I want to tell my kids something that I wasn’t told when I was young that you can make a choice. Everything is a choice.
I’m so grateful for the relationships this program nurtured: in themselves, as I plan to keep in contact with the guys and see them continue to grow, but also because of the profound insight it gave me into my own life path.I also really appreciated the structure of the course. I had a few conversations with the parole officers, and they seemed like friendly, well-intentioned people. But their perception of their own authority and the division it created between them and the guys didn’t seem to inspire much respect on either end. Creating a safe space where we were all on an even playing field cultivated this sense of camaraderie, support and respect that is so necessary for personal growth and nurturing creativity. The Odyssey Project has blown open my ideas of what it means to be an artist, and reminded me of the endless creative and connective possibilities of art and the theater.
Once they get to know the real us inside of us, we just like- love each other. The Odyssey made me mature more and made me respect my life by the things I have in my life.