From a Greene Correctional Press Release...
On Monday, April 24th, nearly 200 inmates at Greene Correctional Facility got the opportunity to see a production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. The production, directed by Hudson-Link professor David Girard, was originally produced by Siena College. Girard, a professional actor and director, as well as a professor with Siena College, is a proponent of arts-in-education programming to reduce recidivism. “I’ve always had an affinity for how the works of Samuel Beckett connect with inmates.” Considered possibly the greatest dramatist of the Twentieth Century, Girard says “there are many echoes in Beckett’s dialogue and stage directions that are inherent to an inmates experience on the inside.” The production, set in an indeterminate time in an indeterminate place, features four characters: Hamm the master, Clov his servant, and Hamm's father and mother, Nagg and Nell (who live in garbage cans). Each character is in some varying states of decline; Hamm is in a wheelchair and makes Clov move him around the room, fetch objects, and look out the window for signs of life. Outside all seems lifeless and barren. Inside, the characters pass the time mortifying each other and toying with fears and illusions of a possible change, all along sensing the inevitability of their end. “The play can be rather difficult, repetitive, and quite existential,” as Girard notes, “but it has a visceral effect on the incarcerated, where they’re more inclined to see hope where there seemingly isn’t any.”
This year, Hudson-Link offered an acting class for the first time, and Girard assigned viewing and responding to Endgame as part of the curriculum. “They were challenged by it, but particularly appreciated the commitment of the actors in the production, and they’re responses were rather insightful.” As Girard notes, Beckett has a legacy when it comes to the incarcerated. Beckett had a profound impact on Rich Cluchey, a former inmate and founder of the San Quentin Drama Workshop. Beckett would later work with Clutchy, and a tradition of performing works by Beckett for the incarcerated began. “Really, the tradition of using drama as a tool to reduce recidivism and to build empathy in the most hardened inmates starts with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot being performed at San Quentin, and subsequently the San Quentin Drama Workshop. Without Clutchy’s experience and the San Quentin Workshop, we may not have organizations like RTA (Rehabilitation through Arts) or Shakespeare Behind Bars.”
Girard and Hudson-Link hope to make this a regular occurrence at Greene. “Certainly, I’m in discussions with my department on how we can make this happen more often.” Girard also credits the production for giving his student performers the opportunity to practice their own kind of empathy and give back. “They really felt like they had done something important. It was more than a performance to them.”