Waiting For Godot at San Quentin 1988

This is parts of a documentary made at the set up of a theater production at San Quentin State Prison in California. The play was open to the public and premiered 1988.
Director John Reilly
Produced by John Reilly and Global Village for the Beckett Project
Theater director Jan Jonson

"Godot in San Quentin" (1987) documents the production of "Waiting for Godot" by a cast of inmates from San Quentin Prison. Producer and director John Reilly and a crew spent four weeks at the maximum-security facility; rehearsal and performance sequences are intercut with footage of daily prison life and discussions with the principal characters.
Reilly has said that the inmates "do not `act' because they are not trained actors, but they feel the parts because they have lived the lives of Beckett's characters."
The Chicago Tribune http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-06-19/entertainment/9406190331_1_godot-samuel-beckett-marx-brothers

Read the story about the theater production from the point of view of one of the actors Spoon Jackson in: "By Heart, Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives"  by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson
Get it here: http://www.newvillagepress.net/book/?GCOI=97660100959910


When I came to prison in 1978, ten days into 20 years old, a naive kid from the heart of the high desert, I wanted to pay for the wrong I had done. I was given Life Without the Possibility of Parole. I thought that could not mean forever and there must be a route to a second chance.
I started to grow up and know myself and evolve into a full human being with an understanding that all life mattered.  I was on my self-rehabilitation journey.  In 1990 the Deputy Commissioner of the Board of Prison Terms complimented me my writing accomplishments. He said I should write my way out of prison.

The present situation:  Spoon and his attorney have appealed the Habeas Corpus petition to the Federal court, the fact that the State Courts refused to uphold the mandatory State law. At the time they did the State petitions they had no way of knowing the State courts were not going to uphold the mandatory law - because Spoon’s federal Due process rights hadn't been violated until that moment.
Spoon’s attorney says “this would be a horrific abuse of justice if Stanley (Spoon) isn't allowed his legal right to have his LWOP (Life Without Parole sentence) reassessed simply because of a ridiculous catch-22 situation in the state court system”.

Open Letter                             

 Part 1

Dear James
I received your letter and Traverse petition in response to the Attorney General’s petition a few days ago.
I already had a sinking feeling that something had happened; that the Attorney General had come up with some trick to stall and forbid justice. A way to bar justice based on some technicality or rule. When I did not hear back from you in your timely manner I knew something had gone amiss.

The deadline of April 22 passed and my heart sunk. The Attorney General’s response and their ability to change colors and deny justice because a law favored the appellant was like looking at the sun and deny it is shining. The courts and the Attorney General get away with such injustice. This seems wrong and illegal.
Yet, I know they abolished slavery but continue to enslave for hundreds of years.

I am heartbroken. I hate that I must have forces like courts and Attorney Generals decide my physical fate.

I put hope on hold for a while and go deep and dive and be in the moment. Read, ponder and heal my injured spirit. I will rise again. If not in this life, then in another.

How was I supposed to know the State Courts, on all three levels, would deny me a hearing and due process before it happened? As a poet perhaps I should have known. Nevertheless, the injustice is happening again, now on a Federal level.

I know it must be common practice for the Attorney General’s office and the courts to lie, cheat and hide rules and tricks to get out of applying the law. The courts sadly, turn a blind eye because they are a part of the tricks and hidden agreements. They say ignorance of the law is no excuse. But, when the court system and justice system have secret rules and laws that only they have access to, they say, well you were ignorant.

Part 2

Heartbroken, but blessed. Bless the courts, Attorney Generals, prosecutors, lawyers and politicians.
May you never know the pain of having hope stolen over and over again.
May you never know the pain of having your life defined by one bad act.
May all of your lives be blessed and fat on holidays and other special occasions.
May you never know the pain of having an ocean, lake or trees only one hundred yards away for nearly forty years and not be able to climb, smell, taste and dip.

Why not now, choose one good thing in life I have done and define me by that.

Then you might see love.
Stay blessed.


The case is still not closed.