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Michael D. McCarty, who teaches the art of storytelling to inmates at California’s high-security prisons and has seen it impact their lives, will talk about the corrections program at a Community Forum in Newbury Park on Friday, April 20.
McCarty is a professional multicultural storyteller whose motto and the name of his website is “Have mouth, will run it!” (havemouthwillrunit.com). McCarty will discuss how the arts can heal hardened hearts in “Storytelling Goes to Prison, the Art of Storytelling Changing Lives,” at 7:30 p.m. at the Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 3327 Old Conejo Road.
McCarty jumped at the chance to participate in the revival of Arts in Corrections (AIC), a program that ran successfully in the 1990s in California prisons. “I couldn’t wait to go to prison,” he says. “It’s been an amazing experience and I’ll tell you all about it.” He signed up to lead AIC workshops supported by the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA). Storytelling is one of the arts experiences available to inmates along with theater, dance, music and visual arts.
In his workshops, McCarty helps inmates discover their stories, vent their frustrations and find satisfaction in being heard. “What I found wonderfully amazing was the peace and contentment that shone in the men’s faces as they shared their stories,” McCarty wrote in a newsletter published by ACTA.
“Most of the inmates didn’t really get storytelling at first,” McCarty wrote. “In their minds, storytelling only meant kiddy tales, lies, or telling jokes. But at some point they’d finally get it and it was akin to discovering that they had a super power. Through the ancient art of storytelling, they could communicate their thoughts, their hopes, their feelings.”
The Community Forum is open to the public with a suggested donation of $10 to $15 to cover expenses. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. For information, visit forum.cvuuf.org or contact Pamela Lopez through the church office at (805) 498-9548.