Yesterday I went to prison.
Maximum security. Green suits. Gates and metal detectors and hand stamps and guards.
What was I doing in prison? Going to Narnia.
My Dad and I performed a two person version of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for twenty five inmates. It’s a play written for children, and none of the inmates were kids.
I was nervous before performing in a way I’ve never been before. Usually when you’re nervous, it’s because you’re afraid of failing. But I was nervous for other reasons. This time I was nervous because, well… er… may audience is um… possibly violent?
It’s funny, and maybe it’s not PC, but it’s true. I had a mild level of… I’m about to perform for once-scary people. What is that going to be like? To do a kid’s play for prisoners?
They entered, and my Dad and I shook their hands. They were just what you’d expect, and nothing like what you’d expect. There was a curly headed young man who looked like an actor friend I know. There was a white guy with long hair and tattoos, but light in his eyes and a genuine smile. There was black guy with a square jaw and a scruffy face, who blessed us in the soft voice of a minister.
I’ve done this play in front of kids. The last time we did it for kids, they blinked at us and never laughed once. Booorriiiiing. But within the first two lines, the inmates were laughing and laughing… they were with us in a way I’ve never experienced from an audience before. They took every moment of that story for all it was worth. Of course, they did laugh at our White Witch and Aslan mask, but I laugh at those, too.
As they shuffled towards the door, some of them missing teeth and blinking like innocent boys, they thanked us. Who are these people? I wondered. What did they do to end up here?
They don’t jail people for being workaholic fathers. But they do jail people for robbing liquor stores. In the end, I really do think we’re all the same. People, trying to get back into Narnia. Of course, with the help of Aslan…