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THEATREdART's Short Eyes makes a statement about incarceration 

click to enlarge Roquemore says that she is fortunate to have such a wonderful local cast for this important show. - COURTESY THEATREDART
  • Courtesy THEATREdART
  • Roquemore says that she is fortunate to have such a wonderful local cast for this important show.


'It's about as real as it gets," says Kala Roquemore, director of THEATREdART's production of Short Eyes, and of all people, she would know.

With a brother currently in the prison system, and another who spent 10 years incarcerated at Buena Vista, Roquemore understands the "ins and outs" of what they have gone through, and she says that this Tony Award-winning play, written by Miguel Piñero in 1972, presents a "realistic day in the life of a prison."

Short Eyes, (the slang term for a pedophile), follows a group of inmates who have established a surprisingly healthy community, but things change when a young white man joins the fold, incarcerated for pedophilia. "You assume he's going to be the protagonist," Roquemore says, "but he's actually the foil for just ruining everyone's life." The narrative explores the lives and identities of a diverse array of inmates, as well as their reactions to this character whose crime is generally regarded among inmates as the most heinous.

Written while Piñero served time in Sing Sing, Short Eyes was birthed from a culture of incarceration — everything from the slang to the complexities of the prisoners' lives reads fully authentic. But the reality that it was written in the '70s and maintains its authenticity says a great deal about the state of our country's prisons. "Nothing has changed. The vernacular is the same, the setting is the same, the rules are the same ... It's a subculture, and it's a stagnant one," Roquemore says.

She says that our society needs to begin discussing prisoners' rights and changing laws, and she hopes plays like this will encourage the general public to try to understand what prisoners endure.

"[I wanted] to give my brothers a voice," Roquemore says, "and to give people a voice who otherwise wouldn't have one in the arts community. We usually don't touch on subjects like this, or when we do it's not as accurate."

That accuracy sometimes reads offensive, even horrifying. Peppered with racial slurs, instances of violence, nudity and discussion of such sensitive topics as pedophilia, Short Eyes is not for the faint of heart. But Roquemore encourages the audience to put aside their first reactions. "Keep an open mind," she advises, "[these are] actual people's lives, to this day. Forty years old, and it's still relevant."

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 4 p.m.; through June 4, Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 E. Colorado Ave., pay what you can, $5 suggested donation, facebook.com/THEATREdART.


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