Scars: Gut-Wrenching Inspiration

trotter, contributor

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Rape, incest, meth addiction, cocaine addiction, crack addiction, alcohol addiction, murder and more rape—these are some of the horrific acts that the characters in “Scars: From the Shadows Into the Light” both suffer and perpetrate. What makes “Scars,” an original play being performed at sister school Red Rocks Community College, so unforgettable is that these are true stories.

The stories told are those of convicted felons who have served their time and are re-entering society through a program called Gateway, in which (loosely defined) they become students at Red Rocks. In a talkback after the performance, Gateway’s success story was touted with statistical support: the recidivism rate nationally is about 65%, whereas Gateway’s recidivism rate is about 5 percent.

Program success aside, this is one powerful play. Four true stories, about why the felon was locked up, and about the person’s life before the act that got them jailed, are told through acting so convincing that one of the esteemed audience members last night asked the actors whether they themselves are in the program. They are not. (However, a couple of cast members have connections to Gateway, including one whose mother had gone through the program.)

The true stories told are a gut-punch.

If you’ve never been punched in the stomach before: you gasp for breath, you double-over, you want to believe that it isn’t happening. Pain is all you know. Maybe you puke. And that’s exactly how the first 30 or so minutes of this 50-minute play feel. I heard a lot of stifled, choked-back anguish from fellow audience members.

Mercifully, we come to a beautiful, almost mystical dance routine, after which the stories shift focus from heartbreak to heart-healing. The end results are inspirational and, ultimately, uplifting.

The audience leaves wondering why there aren’t more rehabilitation opportunities such as this one available to America’s prisoners, America having the highest incarceration rates of any developed country in the world. SCARS doesn’t attempt to answer that question directly, but the show provides clear anecdotal evidence that people can change.

Director Connie Sanders has put together a talented cast, a sparse but effective set with multi-tiered platforms from which the athletic and energetic actors add energy to the show, and, most-importantly, a collection of stories that are true and unbearable but also unignorable and finally transformative.

The show runs this weekend—go if you can. You will never think of the couple of million people in American jails the same.