On Jan. 22, Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center's theater group R.A.W. (Restorative Art Works) presented a performance of original work titled “Changing Places” at the Crosby Center. The theater group, run by Larraine Brown, comprises three re-entry residents and community members. The performance was followed by a community discussion with 40 to 50 people in attendance.

Robyn Goff, assistant program manager at Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, was in the audience and said the performance had her in tears at one point.

“Here were these three hardened, tough individuals, wearing the hearts on their sleeves — completely raw, vulnerable and 100 percent authentic in their performance," she said.

After the performance, the three men answered the community's questions honestly in an eye opening session that also provoked tears in the audience.

Brown said she began R.A.W. with the idea that whenever people have the opportunity to tell their real stories, they will move others to feeling, action, greater compassion.

“And theater is a powerful tool and art form to illuminate true stories. Audience members often learn things that surprise them about the prison experience,” she said.

The actors sometimes surprise themselves with the power of their own insights and self-knowledge, she added. R.A.W. theater is restorative in that the group is comprised of men rejoining their communities and people who are already living in those communities.

“We all work together to discover and tell our stories. Along the way, we weave in statistics about incarceration, recidivism, addiction. We illustrate redemption, despair and hope. We believe that when we tell the truth about our lives, the world shifts and changes in unexpected ways,” Brown said.

R.A.W. uses techniques and approaches from director and activist Augusto Boal's TOP — Theater of the Oppressed. Brown trained with Boal in New York City to be a TOP facilitator/joker several decades ago.