actors be allowed to wear Marine and Navy uniforms as costumes. "The head of security at that time basically said, 'No 'f'ing inmate is going to wear a U.S. military outfit in this prison,' " she remembers. But a couple of hours later, they had permission for all the uniforms they'd requested. Vockins insisted the story couldn't be realized properly if the men performed wearing sweats: "I mean, I'm trained as a negotiator, so it's something I could do. But the attitude really is 'Why would you want to give these guys that?' You really have to kind of take that in stride and break it down."
That attitude may be shifting. Vockins says the current prison superintendent, Brian Fischer, is highly supportive of educational programs such as RTA. Meanwhile, "Confronting Confinement," a report released last month by the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, calls for a renewed emphasis on rehabilitative training.
According to Vockins, the recidivism rate for RTA members who have been released and tracked is about 17%, compared to 66% for released U.S. prisoners overall. The success of RTA participants is partly due to their membership in a tightly knit group that keeps tabs on one another and socializes regularly, reinforcing all things straight and narrow. Dutton admits he's a bit envious of this camaraderie, something he never had with his fellow actor-prisoners after he was released. Many, he says, were killed or went back to life on the street.
"There were some good souls in that room," Dutton says after the Lear rehearsal. "They're all gonna be all right. I looked every one of them in the eye, and I didn't see a false iota in any of 'em. And I was looking, too. I was really looking to see who was bullshitting. And they were probably looking at me.... That's prison stuff—you're always checking each other out."
In King Lear, the Fool sings a line that Shakespeare used once before, in Twelfth Night: "The rain it raineth every day." For former prisoners living in the shadow of past crimes, each day may indeed seem like a journey through an unmerciful torrent. In the RTA program, though, a few men have found a compass for navigating through the storm.