Solano Prison Inmates Learn Lessons by Performing Shakespeare

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"God. How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world."

When Shakespeare wrote "All the World's a Stage," he couldn't have imagined this one -- the California State Prison, Solano. Could he?

"I think he would really dig this," inmate Joey Pagaduan said.

For nearly nine months now, the men of this prison have been rehearsing Shakespeare's Hamlet. Saturday it was show time.

"My name is Joey. I'm playing Hamlet, and I'm in prison for murder," Pagaduan said.

If there is anyone who needs the catharsis, anyone who could use the redemptive humanity of Shakespeare, it may be these men. Here, where his meaning may be so hard to understand.

"It is difficult. And that is the challenge, and in that challenge comes the beauty of Shakespeare," said inmate Julian Padgett.

The program is a sort of therapy -- it is an exercise in listening, and measured self expression and self understanding. The idea is to make these men better inmates, and possibly better citizens if they ever get out.

"None of us are our worst mistake," Padgett said.

When Hamlet contemplates the murder of his father, contemplates murder himself, these men understand in a way many of us, thankfully, never will.

"I can relate with a lot of the confusion that's going on in his mind," Pagaduan said.

"I took a man's life. And I'm very sorry for that every day. Every day. I don't think that creator made anything to go to waste," Padgett said.

So they perform as a way of declaring their value, a way of elevating their fellow inmate, and a way of expressing hope that they will one day see the outside again.