Home Art What Would Lee Strasberg Say?

What Would Lee Strasberg Say?

Marquel, TPVs NYTimes Method Section correspondent, was doing his daily pushups when he read Inmate Improv. Can a prison theater workshop prepare men for a life of freedom? It was an interesting concept.

Instead of training inmates as cobblers or blacksmiths, or accountants and short order cooks, prisons are teaching drama. Marquel thought this might be good for any Alec Baldwin types, especially if they were riding their bikes the wrong way. But the point didn’t seem to be to create criminal actors but to somehow turn criminals into non criminals by teaching them drama. Huh? Thought Marquel. How would that work.

An ex burglar serving two years learns how to act, using method techniques so that he can even imitate bacon cooking in a pan. He gets out. Where would bacon cooking in a pan be helpful to rehabilitate this house invader. Marquel couldn’t guess. Maybe, in extremis, it might help him scootch through some ventilation ducts and make off with a big haul.

 Or maybe makeup techniques could be really helpful with disguises. Plenty of bank robbers might escape if they avoided identification in that way. Or even phoney stock trading could be helped by drama classes. A crook, just out of prison and its drama classes, might make cold calls to sell phoney stocks, stopping before dialing each time to ask himself, “what’s my motivation, what’s my motivation?”
But no. It’s clear the prisons think that drama classes would have a therapeutic effect. That doesn’t seem to be why the prisoners are signing up in droves.
Marquel gathered a few prisoners after their class and asked them.
“Why? I don’t know, really. It’s something you really can’t do wrong, so at least you really can’t fail at it.” Said one.
” But how will this help you become a model citizen?” I asked.
“Dunno. It could really be good for someone in a confidence game. Or even three card Monte. You might clean up if you could really act honest and sincere.” He said.
“Do you think that’s why they’re teaching you this?” I asked.
Another said, “we don’t know why they’re doing it. But it teaches us how to get along better. So if me and my buddy get out and decide to rob someone, I think we could plan together and work together much better.  It’s useful!”
Two others came up to speak.
“I’ll tell you the Shakespeare shit is just a waste. When are we going to mug someone, saying, ‘Tempt not a desperate man?’ The guy’s likely to walk away” one said.
 The other seemed to disagree, but he was apparently joking,
“it could be useful getting shot. You might get an EMT faster if you said, ‘  If you prick us, do we not bleed?  if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?’ “
The other interrupted to say,
“You might get an EMT, but first stop’s Bellevue. The nut house.”
 I didn’t know what else to ask. These guys weren’t aware of any non criminal use of these drama classes. I was disappointed because I’d love to think that someone had devised a way to rehabilitate the marginalized.
One last prisoner had waited to go last. He was tall, thin, angular in his features and seemed to know his way around.
“This ain’t gonna make us go straight, unless we want to be waiters and say we’re actors. But it’s really good for prison. Next time we get sent up, we’ll have things to do in our cells. We could do readings with each other, scenes, exercises. Some you can do alone. So I’d say it’s a great thing to do in prison, almost as good as drugs but much cheaper.”
 So that was it. Cheaper than drugs. It might not be rehabilitation. Maybe it’s just pacification. There’s a place for that too, I guess, especially if you’re a pessimist.
BY MARQUEL: What Would Lee Strasberg Say?



  1. who gives a darn about Lee S or Maisner. This is about Marquel and his piece is hillarious

  2. finally something cheaper than the drugs, Lee Strasberg’s method and with the same effect – none


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