In June 2008, Lewis began interviewing Graterford lifers in the Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice Program, in which inmates paint murals that are installed by volunteers in neighborhoods throughout the city. His intent was to write a 20-minute play to be produced for the prison.
He found the inmates to be incredibly helpful and forthcoming, open and often charming. Too charming, he came to believe, realizing there was more to the story than the prisoners’ perspective alone.
When he completed his work at the prison and started writing, the work “felt wrong,” he said. He realized he couldn’t paint a complete picture of crime’s reach or complexity.
With the help of victim advocacy groups, he reached out to victims of violent crime and their families. For the political perspective, he studied politicians’ public statements about crime and law enforcement, many of which found their way into the play.
By expanding the scope of the play, it grew to the current 75-minute, documentary-style drama that is on stage at the Adrienne Theatre.
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