When Lyman Frank Baum wrote the Wizard of Oz, he probably never imagined that a 6-foot-4-inch gay Black man could ever play the role of Dorothy Gale. He probably also never imagined the cowardly lion, scarecrow or even the wicked witch of the west could be recreated into a “Prisoner of Oz” play starring hard-core prisoners.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio released their own version of Baum’s classic tale on Tuesday.
The play was created by Darwin Secrest, a veteran corrections officer with 20 years of experience in keeping prisoners in line at the Ohio facility. After hearing some singing in one of the cellblocks, Secrest knew he had enough talent to put together a play.
After receiving the warden’s approval, Secrest turned his idea into a reality. He knew it would take some work, which would involve creating costumes, rehearsals and recreating an OZ stage that would probably get a seal of approval from the late Judy Garland herself. Internal sales funded the play; therefore no taxpayer dollars were involved.
Jacob Bokeno, an inmate doing time for raping children plays the guitar in the production. He said it was opportunity for him to do something positive with his life. Inmates used cardboard, tape and cloths for the production.
Joseph Sims, 36, a gay Black man was cast as Dorothy Gale. He is serving a sentence for cashing fake payroll checks. Christian Robinson, doing 15 years for assaulting children, plays the cowardly lion. Robinson once weighed 500 pounds. Since his imprisonment, he has dropped more than 100 pounds.
A former drug dealer named Antoine Davis got the role of Glinda the Good Witch. The Wizard of Oz is a children’s book that involved a young woman named Dorothy and her dog Toto. After a twister touches down on their Kansas farm, the duo wake up in a place called Oz. Befriended by a brainless tin man, cowardly lion and a heartless scarecrow; the new friends form an alliance and journey to Oz to meet the great wizard. Like Dorothy, the prisoners involved in this prison production just want to make it home.