SERVING LIFE is a community call and response between public audiences and the most hidden members of our society.
Since 2013, Lynden and the team have been collaborating with men on death rows across the country to envision a multi-arts project able to generate the civic will to revision justice. By challenging our assumptions about guilt and innocence and by providing a vehicle for the public to connect with the actual lives hidden within an often impenetrable system, we reinvigorate some fundamental questions. Who is innocent? Who is harmed? How do we heal centuries of oppression? What needs to change for our criminal justice system to reflect a community dedicated to equity and inclusion? The following components of SERVING LIFE are in various stages of development.
• A full-length play (COUNT) written by Lynden, directed by Kathryn Williams, and performed by an ensemble of former prisoners and actors. Supported by a MAP Fund award. Premieres at PlayMakers Repertory in August 2017.
• A traveling, interactive installation that includes the men’s Life Maps, large scale artist renderings of elements from those maps, and Virtual Reality pieces. Supported by the Sundance Institute’s Storytelling Lab, NCSU Design Lab. Call for artists Spring/Summer 2017.
• A cycle of 30 monologues, written by Lynden, to be shared as community readings at installation openings, conferences, and events. Supported by the Paul Green Foundation and the Fund for Southern Communities.
• A music theater work/opera that includes the voices of these men’s families. In partnership with the North Carolina Opera. Fieldwork, transcription, scripting Jan-July 2017, commissioning composer Fall 2017. Premiere 2018-19. Supported by the Triangle Community Foundation.
• A national prison arts and culture week.
After every monologue reading, we invite audience members to write a response on a page provided. We mail or carry these letters into the prisons and listen as the men read aloud.
“Gentlemen, THANK YOU. For your story, your vulnerability, your willingness to remind ignorant and selfish people like me how beautiful each and every life is. You have taught me so much with your words, and your legacy will stay with me for the rest of my life. I don’t know how to say how much your stories transformed my understanding of prison, death row, and life. The power and witness of your stories have resonated within this auditorium. May we hear you, may you know how deeply your humanity is felt here. You are not invisible.”
This is the proximity that can begin to shift the narrative.