Female inmates performing Shakespeare production at Cleveland's Northeast Rehabilitation Center

Posted at 9:47 AM, Jun 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-09 09:47:49-04

Female inmates at the Northeast Rehabilitation Center make up the full cast of a Shakespeare production opening at the end of June. 

Lara Mielcarek, Director of the Artist’s Rehabilitation Coalition, brought the 8-week intensive Shakespeare program to the women’s prison this spring and invited in for a sneak peak at rehearsals. 

“It was amazing how quickly they just picked it up,” Mielcarek said of her cast, many of whom had never read a word of Shakespeare before the program.

Mielcarek began by volunteering at the Oberlin Drama at Grafton prison theatre program.

When the male inmates brought their Othello production to N.E.R.C., the female inmates were so interested in a program of their own and that she took it upon herself to start one. 

Now Mielcarek is directing a group of 14 female felony offenders in a short program of selected Shakespeare scenes, sonnets and monologues. 

“In a lot of cases they might be able to tap into a character or a situation even more deeply having the past that they have,” Mielcarek told 

Inmates like Daneal Cain told that the program has been a godsend.  

“Coming to this every week, it allows us to escape a little bit,” Cain said. “It takes us out of the environment that were in.”

Inmate Charmaine Peterson said she’s proud of her ability to recite a classic Shakesperean sonnet — and her family is proud of her progress. 

“It’s something that your family can look at and say ‘I’m working at the positive now,’” Peterson said. 

The final performance is scheduled for Monday, June 20 at 6:30p.m. The inmates friends and family are also invited to attend.