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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

League Assignment: Star of the Show!

Do you have what it takes to be a Shakespearean prison actor?
Television executives have determined that you lead an amazing life and have pegged you as the next big reality TV star. What’s the name and the premise of your show? 

Prison Masters takes you into the thrilling and illicit world of the Ants of Words Shakespeare Troupe.  Ants of Words travels from penitentiary to penitentiary performing various Shakespearean works.  These actors put on shows to 'Bring Theater Arts to the Caged Masses'. They work with little to no money, no sets other than a stage, and no other expectations than to put on a good show.  Or so they say.  The real purpose of Ants of Words is far more sinister than anyone could guess.

Prison Masters debuts with reading tutor Peggy Mather's* first day as a volunteer drama coach.  She's instructed through security procedures and walked to the drama room by the overseeing warden himself.  Though Peggy is advised to 'never let yourself get caught alone with these guys' it's advice she very quickly forgets.  

Peggy first meets Joseph**, an inmate in for life.  He's a reformed gangster turned Christian.  He sneaks into the drama room, practices a few lines from the St. Crispin's Day speech, and charms her.  When he asks Peggy to return a hand-sized pink covered bible to his mamma, how can she refuse?  Later in the episode Joseph's mamma gives her a beta fish (complete with tank) to take back to her son.  (Several episodes later we learn the beta fish was for fish fighting - a source of gambling in the prison.  Oh, and there was money hidden in the air filter.)  It's up to Peggy to figure out how to get the 'gift' in to Joseph.

Each episode is 22 minutes before commercial inclusion.  Although this is filmed on location the opportunity for sponsorship is endless.  The viewers, as well as Peggy, are let into the fact that the primary purpose behind the troupe is to move goods.  What kind of goods?  Anything they can't obtain in person.  This goes beyond the usual cigarettes, cell phones, ipads, and poker decks.  Anything goes - the weirder the better.  

Although trades of goods are not the primary or secondary focus of the show approximately five minutes of air time will be devoted to how the item is obtained and what it is used for.  One mid-season episode is entitled Goliath.  The troupe itself 'trades-in' a small jar of four black widow spiders 'for gambling'.  At the end of the episode, however, the prison is locked down as a brutal guard is found dead in his office.   Vincent, the quiet director of the troupe, warns Peggy to say she doesn't know anything.  And that 'Rumor isn't truth."  The next episode opens with Peggy being interviewed by the Lieutenant Warden regarding what she knows of how the guard dies.  

Other troupe members include Jordi-Gordi-Diana.  Peggy's uncertain around him at first as, per the other troupe members, one never knows which one of the personalities you're talking to.  They grow closer, though, when Peggy learns the austere Shakespearean actor cannot read.  She decides to take Jordi-Gordi-Diana under her wing.  (By the end of the first season he's mastered reading at a fifth grade level and html coding.)

Though Peggy herself is often caught flat-footed, and a little surprised at the troupe's open attitudes towards just about everything, she surprises them as well.  When it's revealed Peggy is having relationship issues, each of the troupe members attempt to help her through 'man speak'.  In one episode troupe members argue the philosophical approach Peggy should take in dealing with her husband.  The prisoners backing the Freud 'method' (just f**k him till he grins) go sharpened spoon to fists with the prisoners backing the Maslow 'method' (lock him in a dark closet and deprive him of all things until he begs for forgiveness).  

One breakout surprise is Monster.  He's a former military specialist who has the habit of giving timely advice and mixing up his Shakespearean lines with poetry from Keats.  Monster collects postcards and magazine cut-outs of rare art pieces.  Though their relationship starts out warmly, Peggy's not to sure of him as the season travels on.  Her security in being around Monster takes a serious nosedive during the season ending episode.

Speaking of the season ender, what would you expect to happen at a prison?  That's right: a riot.  And Peggy Mathers is caught behind bars in an unfamiliar prison with the Ants of Words Shakespeare Troupe.  Asphault, a wiry haired wannabe vegan, suggests she eats the beta fish to survive.  A small betting war is started between two lesser troupe members as to whether or not Peggy will.  Later in the episode inmates burst into the room only to be faced with Monster.   Monster protects Peggy from the rioting inmates by doing what he does best: breaking bones and ending lives.  Ending scenes from this season are of Peggy talking about how she doesn't know if she's going to return to the troupe.  As the credits roll out Joseph can be heard quoting lines from Taming of the Shrew.  
*   All names are changed to protect the innocent. 
** Convicts are presumed innocent except where prosecuted in a court of law.

I enjoyed reading these League Challenge posts:
Lair of the Dark Horde
The Ward
Thrift Justice
Geeks In Love
Special Note: 3 B's Toy Hive - Must watch the 911 operator videos to the very end.  Too Good!  This made me laugh so hard.  Thank you!

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