Audience reactions

Following are selected written comments from members of the public who have attended performances by the men of ODAG.

"ODAG has transformed not only the lives of the performers, but also those of us fortunate enough to have attended the performances. You've enriched the artistic and emotional lives of many Ohioans, and created a model for change that will be used by many others in the future."


And Yet We'll Speak

"Congratulations on such a terrific show. I think that the piece that Lillian created with the men is really outstanding. She did a wonderful job. I hope it will have a long life, and be shown in various venues. And I'm so impressed by all the actors. Not only do they continue to grow as performers - in both skills and confidence - but the piece gave them a theatrical vehicle to express a message with their own communal voice, which made it that more special and meaningful. I was very moved by some of the responses from the general population.

"And what a stage!! That made a big difference - I can't wait to see some Shakespeare on it."

"What a FANTASTIC job you all did on the ODAG performance. I thought the show was beautifully and powerfully constructed, and I experienced great joy in watching it. What Lillian and the men created, with your guidance, was nothing short of incredible."

"I think the ODAG program is audacious and powerful and deeply, deeply moving."

"How amazing last night was! The staging was so imaginative and the men were so focused, so committed to making it all work.  The pride they showed in their performance just shone through.  What a difference you have made for all of them!  I am giving you a huge pat on the back for all of that!  And that the fellow who began this all 20 years ago [Curt Tofteland, Shakespeare Behind Bars] was there!  Wow! His words!  Wow!  His whole demeanor and calm conviction in his voice just punctuated his message.  I am so glad he was able to be there."

"What a wondrous production you Lillian created! It was an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing your work with us. It is blessed work that you are doing."



"The Othello performance that ODAG gave was remarkable in so many ways ... a more passionate and heartfelt rendering of Shakespeare I've never witnessed. And the conversation with the actors afterwards was equally inspiring and rewarding. Thanks so much for including me in this."

"Of all the organizations I've given to that purport to do good in the world by fostering trust and communication among different communities, ODAG really delivers on the promise in a visceral way I've never seen before. I've enclosed a gift to help keep this program going, with all my best wishes and congratulations."

"I wanted to make sure to let you know what an extraordinary experience yesterday's performance of Othello was for me. Can't stop thinking about it. Clearly, the play's themes resonated with the actors in surprising ways that transformed the acting. I found the question and answer session especially illuminating. The men spoke so articulately about poor judgements they had made in the past and the hope they could remake their lives in more positive ways. What a difference you and the ODAG have made for these men."

"...the most engaging production of Othello I've ever watched - the actors 'got' the language and knew how to convey its meaning. They've come so far forward in their ease of expression, in their projection of meaning and feeling, in their movement - in everything about being on a stage."

"What an amazing experience it was to see Othello. We were deeply impressed with the quality. But this is about much more than a theater production. As the Q&A and our conversations with individual actors demonstrated, Shakespeare and your work touch these men in profound ways. The room was suffused with love. You are doing the work of a lifetime."

"I was unprepared for what I saw, heard and felt during the Othello performance. I'll never forget the actors or the incredible way they spoke - whether Shakespeare's words, or their own. And you ... have accomplished amazing gifts for everyone: the Grafton guys, the Oberlin students who worked so enthusiastically, but also for your audience."

"Your production of Othello at Grafton was remarkable! The cast was transformed beyond prison walls to a state of pride, accomplishment, and camaraderie. Hearing their comments and stories - how ODAG was changing their lives in a positive way - was awesome. With great appreciation that we could be involved as audience - Thank You."

"I was very moved by what I saw, and really inspired by the men's desire to learn, and find positive energy/focus in their lives. This is important work, and a true blessing to these men."

"I was so glad to witness today's production and can only marvel at the work of ODAG. So I just wanted to say thanks. I laughed, I cried (during the Q & A), I lost myself in the performance. I was excited to hear of your next project and know that it too, will be a success."


The Tempest

"I cannot tell you HOW IMPRESSED I was with the performance of The Tempest this past weekend…. I came into the performance feeling unsure how it would go. In every case, however, I walked away wholly convinced that not only were you each PERFECTLY cast, but you inhabited the role beyond belief. Your command of the language, your ease and freedom of movement, your ability to tell the story and communicate with each other blew me away."

"The ODAG Ensemble's production of The Tempest was an amazing experience for us, and it's kept us talking about it during the week since. We were impressed with every aspect, from the acting to the sound effects, live music, costumes (the dogs especially!), minimalist but highly functional set, and staging. It is clear that the men who participate in the program value it highly and derive a ton of personal benefit from it."

"I want to thank you for your moving and enthusiastic performance of The Tempest, and tell you how impressed I was with not only your commitment to the text, but also your ability to bring this old story to life in fresh and relevant ways. Here are moments that will stick with me for a long time: Miranda might have been raised on an island, but she was the daughter of a Duke and your Miranda carried her regally. More importantly, Miranda was earnest and full of wonder. What really struck me was the unique choice of Caliban. There was a humanity in Caliban, and Caliban's outright refusal to be enslaved made that clear in a fresh and moving way. I also have to mention how much fun it was to see your commitment and support to each other. I was sitting on the side, so I could see you peep out the door and enjoy watching your "band of brothers" perform. Lastly, I enjoyed how you eloquently articulated what the themes of the play, the power of the art, even just sticking with the goal did for you personally. I have taught Shakespeare for seemingly forever and have even wept at his grave, but I didn't understand the power of his influence until your performance. You have given me a gift."