York State Senator Tom Duane (D-Manhattan) is regarded as
a strong advocate for humane prison conditions and adequate
healthcare for inmates. And this week—in an unconventional
move to raise awarness for the cause—Duane has invited the
cast of the off-Broadway play The Castle to give a
special performance for New York State legislators at the
capitol this week.
When The Castle opened at New World Stages earlier
this year, The New York Times described the play as,
“a simple, fascinating production about four ex-convicts,
which presents the other side of the coin, describing the
obstacles that criminal offenders face upon their release.”
The stories of the play’s unique cast and creators, and its
distinctive origins instill the production with striking honesty.
Forty years ago, after David Rothenberg produced another off-Broadway
prison drama, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, the then-theater-publicist
was inspired to set aside his long-time carreer and establish
the Fortune Society, a nonprofit prisoner re-entry program
with services that span from housing and career planning to
counseling and health care. Today, the New York City-based
center serves approximately 4,000 men and women each year,
and after four decades of work with prisoners, Rothenberg’s
career has come full circle—back to the theater—with the new
work he co-wrote with four former inmates.
Titled after the Fortune Society’s central residential housing
facility (nicknamed “The Castle” by residents for it’s towering
gothic architecture), The Castle is an autobiographical
drama, which recounts the stories of its authors: their childhoods
and downfalls, their arrests and incarcarations, their prison
time and eventual release. The play is performed, not by trained
actors, but by the authors themselves—Vilma Ortiz Donovan,
Kenneth Harrington, Angel Ramos and Casimiro Torres—who, between
them, have served a total of 70 years in New York state prisons
The play was originally performed in-house at the Fortune
Society—intended more as a theraputic proccess than a theatrical
production—but a couple of Rothernburger’s old producer friends
saw the show, and eagerly mounted an off- broadway production.
Sen. Duane saw the play at New World Stages and, according
to Rothenberg, Duane believed his fellow legislators should
hear the ex-convicts’ stories.
putting a face on people in prison,” says Rothenberg. “We’ve
found that most legislators have never sat and met with people
in prison, or who have been in prison. Hopefully it will help
them understand that there is cause and effect in crime.”
It’s not the first time Rothenberg has come to Albany with
a mission. He and other representatives from the Fortune Society
are frequent lobbyists at the capitol, advocating for Rockefeller
Drug Law reform and increased support for re-entry programs.
Rothenberg has spent the past few days calling legislators
and encouraging them to attend the play. He hopes that the
production will help them realize that the state system needs
to incorporate the kind of re-entry support that the Fortune
only hear about the people who are rearrested,” criticizes
Rothenberg. “No one tells the story of the guy working the
nine-to-five job, doing his best to support his family. No
one hears what works, what made the difference.”
old toy: A glass rat “whimsy” from Sheridan Avenue.
Castle will be performed on Monday (June 16) at 6 PM in Legislative
Meeting Room 6 of the Empire State Plaza (Concourse, Madison
Ave., Albany). The one-night performance is open to the public.
To reserve seats, call Sen. Duane’s office at 455-2452.
IN TONIGHT Want to see local short films from the comfort
of your home? Well then, watch WMHT-TV tonight (June
12) at 10 PM, when they will broadcast their new program TvFILM.
Hosted by Brandon Bethmann, TvFILM will showcase movies
selected by a “distinguished panel of local judges,” and feature
interviews with the filmmakers about “the inspiration, ideas
and concepts behind their work.” For more info, visit wmht.org.
IF YOU DIG, YOU’LL TURN UP RELICS That’s the way it goes in
an old, old, old town like Albany. Before they (i.e., New
York State) built the Sheridan Avenue Parking Facility, they
called in Hartgen Archeological Associates to investigate
the site first. What they found is now the exhibit Sheridan
Hollow: A Very Working-Class Neighborhood, which opens
Sunday (June 15) at the New York State Museum (Empire
State Plaza, Albany). If you’ve read William Kennedy’s O
Albany!, you know that Sheridan Avenue and its environs
was, from the 19th century right through the Depression, a
very rough-and-tumble, working-class place. In fact, in the
notes for the exhibit, the NYSM points out that many houses
in Sheridan Hollow didn’t have running water or indoor plumbing
right into the 1920s. Anyhoo, this exhibit includes a variety
of nifty artifacts, from the glass rat “whimsy” pictured to
medicine bottles, household items and (surprise) pipes decorated
with shamrocks. The exhibit runs through Oct. 14. For more
info, call 474-5877.
CALL FOR ENTRIES The Greene County Council on the Arts
has announced a call for entries for two (2) juried exhibits.
Snow: Beauty or Beast (which will run Sept. 27-Nov.
1) will explore, duh, the subject of snow. “All media considered,
including painting, drawing, mixed media, photography and
sculpture.” The deadline is Aug. 1. Beautiful Greene
(which will run Aug. 2-Sept. 20) will focus on six specific
spots in Greene County. The deadline is July 7. Both exhibits
will be displayed at the GCCA Mountain Top Gallery
in Windham. For complete info, call 943-3400 or visit greenearts.org.
KNOCK IT OFF Someone keeps stealing Walking the Dog Theater’s
banners, which hung on the corner of Warren and Fifth streets
in Hudson. This has happened three times. “The banners are
4 feet long by 3 feet high,” and feature a cute black &
white terrier. They advertise a dog parade and dog show at
Basilica Industria (110 Front St., Hudson) on July
12. Please cut it out. Every time a banner is stolen we get
another press release. For more info, call 755-1716.