Oak Creek Prison Blues (Eben guest post)

Posted on Jul 14, 2017

Guest blogger Eben describes our visit to Oak Creek Correctional Facility for young women.

[Note from Stephen: today's blog post comes from Eben Sprinsock, my co-bandleader and longtime Chautauquan. Before I hand it over to Eben, I wanted to lift up how great of an experience I personally had at Oak Creek Correctioanl Facility for young women - both residents and staff were very welcoming and a joy to work with. I helped Leta run a singing workshop and several girls who initially told us they couldn't sing were able to not only match pitch, but to harmonize and learn a few rounds. One of the girls told me she wants to join a choir when she's back out in school. Another girl took a mime workshop with Poki and was having so much fun she kept asking to learn morel leading to a very dramatic game of imaginary tug-of-war between her and Poki. She triumphed, to the cheers of a crowd of Chautauquans and residents alike. It's moments like that that remind me why we do Chautauqua. Oh, and we also were visited by Bud and Jana Chase, which is always a pleasure. Thanks to Bud for driving the bus! Okay, here's Eben:]


Up and out of the tent at 6:15. I was the first person up in camp, the first time this has happened in my Chautauqua experience. So I started some water heating for tea. Soon I was joined by Stacy, who is the coffee buckstop, in heating lots of water.

After I had my tea I worked on printing out corrected show orders for today's show; we realized late last night that we had left an act out of the show.

The camp gradually came awake. I was on breakfast prep this morning. Breakfast was a cold cereal bar, so most of my prep involved scouring the camp for leftover mugs and silverware that had been left out overnight. Later I helped cut up apples for the lunches that people would pack for today's trip.

Here's a pic taken from the small hill behind camp during breakfast.

[Editor's note: I'm having trouble uploading photos, check back later when we have more solid internet. Sorry!]

After breakfast we had a 45 minute band rehearsal.

(Portrait of the band leaders as a young and old man.) [It's a nice photo, just use your imagination]

During and after rehearsal people were packing up and loading the bus for today's show, which was at the Oak Creek Correctional Facility for young women. People were also packing lunches for the trip, which mostly would be tuna salad sandwiches. Only people over 21 could go to the prison, so our teens were staying behind, along with some people who were going to prepare dinner while the rest of us were gone.

The bus was scheduled to leave at 11:00 am. I left in my car at 10:30 with Walter Bender; I left early so I could stop on the way to buy lunch, since I was feeling meat-deprived.

The prison is about 50 miles north of our camp, just south of Albany. We stopped in Junction City at a Subway sandwich place for satisfying meat sandwiches. (Little did I know that more meat was in my immediate future.)

The bus passed by while we were eating. We got back on the road and caught up to the bus just as we reached the prison.

We unloaded all our stuff pretty quickly and started the process of entering the prison. All our equipment had to be hand-searched by the guards (and they also searched the stuff we brought for the show). Needless to say, this took a while. Then we were lead into an internal courtyard. It was a large square space, mostly grass with some trees and cement walkways, and a cement basketball court in the southwest corner. We set up to do our show on the basketball court. They had brought out a bunch of molded plastic chairs, and we used these to set up the audience and the band. They also had a PA system for us with a couple of mikes and a couple of speakers on stands. (They did not allow phones or cameras, so I don't have any pictures of this.) [Ed. note: and I couldn't upload 'em here anyway]

Once we were ready the band congregated at the far side of the courtyard and they brought the audience in, all teenage girls. When they were seated the band marched to the stage and started the show. We did an hour- long show, no intermission, and it was a good show. We didn't do Chaquamilton or Proud Mary, as they weren't ready yet. The 3 of Clubs juggled, Poki did his umbrella and balancing acts, Stephen, Stefan, and Rod did the backdrum act, the Pipia Sisters sang the sandwich song, Kym sang her Freedom song, Ty did Cyr wheel, Ty and Maureen did their hoop act, Fiona sang her song with the foot bells, and we ended with the Big Juggle.  It was all quite well received.

After the show Fiona introduced the workshops. We had juggling, Poki teaching mime, Ty and Maureen doing Hula hoops, Leta, Stephen, and me doing singing in rounds, Matthew teaching Qi Gong. The workshops were set up on the grass areas and went on for about an hour, and the girls seemed quite interested for the most part. As usual there were a lot of girls doing juggling and hoops, and a fair number doing mime. Chi Gong and singing had smaller attendance. The girls were free to move from one workshop to another.

After the workshops were over the prison served all of us a lunch of grilled burgers, macaroni salad, and potato chips. We had not known about this ahead of time; it was a nice surprise.

During lunch one girl continued to work on mime with Poki. They eventually mimed a couple of tug-of-war matches that everybody else watched, cheering for their favorite to win.

We were done at about 4:00 when the girls were lead back inside, and we packed all of our stuff and ourselves back out to the bus.

We travelled back to camp. Soon after we got back around 6:15 we all got together to take group pictures which included our Porta-Potties for a contest that the Honey Bucket company is running.

[Photo would go here]

After the picture taking dinner was ready: chili with ground turkey and beans, salad, and corn bread. Three meat meals in one day, the trifecta!

While we were gone the teens had been taken to a nearby park where there was good swimming, and they had had a great time.

After dinner we unpacked the bus. Then the band had another short rehearsal. After that the Chauquamilton and Proud Mary acts were preformed so the show committee could evaluate their readiness for being in the Saturday show in Bend.

Then the show committee met and came up with the show order for the show on Saturday. The show committee is currently Phina, Anne, Poki, Michelle, and me, with Caraway as an observer because he is the stage manager. We had a good, productive meeting, and it took a while.

Now it is way too late. Goodnight.