A Life with Substance

…the truth the whole truth…

Executive Summary

Award winning, AsOne Theatre Company is pleased to have offered the following proposal and been commissioned to provide –  a motivational, and life changing experience; a journey through drama and performance aiding rehabilitation and recidivism prevention of offenders for HMP Guys Marsh. The project will be shaped to meet the exact requirements of the management staff, prison officers, and offenders whilst drawing on the experience and talents of the AsOne team to extract the best outcome for each of the stakeholders.

To quote the German Playwright and poet Bertold Brecht:

‘Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good’.

  1. Context

As an established community, based theatre company AsOne has enjoyed success in the field of real life story-telling workshops with resulting forum debate – leading to playmaking and performance within the community. This has been highly praised in in post project evaluation. We have worked with:

  • Very young teenage mothers commissioned by Surestart with support funding by both Weymouth and Portland Borough Council (Culture and Wellbeing) and Dorset District County Council;
  • Soldiers, and their families in partnership with The Dorset History Centre, the Keep Military Museum, with Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Funding.

The result has been cathartic journeys of telling, retelling, questioning, illumination, realisation, and some resolution; even closure. A ‘letter’ written to the adolescent self – ‘if I had known then what I know now’ can be a powerful way to make peace with a troubled mind. It begins a conversation of recognition with others, and begs questions such as ‘would you change or not change situations and/or decisions’. The healing power of telling one’s story, to flex your voice, to be witnessed with attention by others who are there to tell their story, and care – can be a powerful medicine.

A life is a constantly unfolding narrative (it does not stop in prison). Each person is a protagonist in a story no one else can write, and if their many facetted story remains untold they can wind up feeling lonely, listless; out of touch with life’s purpose; plagued with a sense misalignment; feeling unworthy, unloved, or ill.

Every time a story is told, and someone else truly listens, the body’s stress responses turn off toxic (stress) hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and turn on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. Not only does this turn on the body’s innate self-repair mechanisms and function as preventative medicine – or treatment if you’re sick – it also relaxes your nervous system and helps heal your mind of depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and feelings of disconnection. By telling their story this changes; people synchronize; they recognize, and empathize. They are not alone.

In ‘The Power of Personal Storytelling’, professional storyteller Jack Maguire explains how to mine your memories to communicate more effectively, enhance personal and professional relationships, and understand yourself better so that you can better understand others. He says how shaping and expressing true stories about our lives and those of the people we’ve known can: “connect us more vitally with others; develop our creativity; strengthen our humor, courage, and confidence; and render our lives more memorable.

Whoever you are storytelling can help improve the key relationships in your life while investing your memories with more meaning. Our real stories are the best way to move forward; to understand ourselves, our circumstances; what has been good, bad and indifferent, and how to move forward.

The Power of Vulnerability

Telling your stories together leads to discussion. The truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To benefit fully from telling the story the inmates must resist holding anything back; strip off the mask, forget about what anyone in the group is going to think. By sharing the story orally, and writing it down, storytellers don’t have to live it anymore.

‘No one will improve your lot if you do not yourself’. Bertold Brecht