Music, Arts & Culture » Arts

Think E.T. in The Shawshank Redemption



A social tradition for thousands of years, theater is a surprisingly versatile medium. From Shakespeare to the Muppets, Broadway to Main Street, there are productions for all audience tastes. Unlike film, which allows for camera manipulation and computer-generated special effects, theater is live, raw, and unforgiving. Film has the privilege of cutting a scene and starting over from the top; theater, like life, does not.

Good theater draws the audience away from to-do lists, financial worries, and philosophical quandaries into another world; characters become old friends and places sentimental. Great theater changes lives and presents to the viewer a perspective that might otherwise never have been considered, and quite possibly changes the perception of the viewer on that issue. A powerful performance inspires an audience to lead life just a little bit differently, hopefully a little more progressively.

A new Poetic Justice Project production, Planet of Love, is great theater. It’s about an alien who crash-lands on Earth; more specifically in the middle of a prison yard. Our extra-terrestrial friend mistakes the yard for heaven—and the inmates for angels. The comedy written by Deborah Tobola presents prison in a way viewers might not anticipate.

The production company, the Poetic Justice Project (PJP), is a Santa Maria-based organization that provides people who were formerly incarcerated with an opportunity for arts-related involvement “on the outside.” PJP was founded by Tobola after 12 years of managing an arts program, which included six original plays, at California Men’s Colony.

PJP productions hinge on themes of redemption and transformation, which seems to feed the players in their roles. Players find they can relate to the characters and execute roles with enthusiasm and precision. Performances are provocative. Artist testimonials on PJP’s website talk about the project as something that gives them self esteem and an outlet for stress; acting becomes something that helps to keep them on the
right track.

PJP productions should remind the audience to cast aside social contingencies and embrace the intrinsic value of all people.

Planet of Love will be showing at The Spot in Arroyo Grande beginning June 8. Tickets cost $20 for general admission, $15 for students/seniors, and $10 for groups of 10 or more. An audience talk-back will follow the performance. Visit, or call the box office at 474–5711.

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