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Cox asked Hodges if he would read the part for an absent cast member. "I'm just here to do tech," Hodges replied.
Cox pressed. Had he ever acted before? Nah. Ever read Shakespeare? Nah.
"And then I couldn't help it. I just said, 'Well, you are remarkable,'" Cox says, "because he was. And the look on his face, it made my heart soar because he just smiled at me like a man that probably hadn't smiled in four years. He just lit up, like somebody told him something nice, and that he was good at something, and somebody seemed really pleasantly surprised to know him."
Hodges agreed to read a part. Cox gave him the role of Prince Malcolm, the third-largest part in the show. After a rehearsal, Hodges looked around to make sure there was nobody left in the auditorium, then said, "I told the guys I was coming because I wanted to do tech, but this is what I really wanted to do."
Hodges has lived most of his life in institutions, starting when he was labeled a juvenile delinquent as a teenager. He was 19 when he committed his first nonjuvenile offense, and he has been in and out of prison on parole violations ever since. He estimates that he has spent just seven or eight of the last 30 years in the free world.
His latest commitment came after a 46-month run on the outside, before reoffending. "A stint of success," he says.
"It was a stabbing," Hodges says. "It was someone I'd known for 25 years. I'd done time with him. I let him stay with me because he was down on his luck. And two weeks later, I ended up stabbing him seven times. It's ..." Hodges pauses.
"It's a sad story. It started out as an act of charity and ended up something very traumatic. I still cringe when I think about it."
Hodges says he misses his wife, Tina, whose name is tattooed across his neck. He works enough to send some of his meager wages home to her. He's also in the prison's dog-fostering program. His charge: a cranky Chihuahua named T-Bone.
"Everybody here says that no two personalities have ever been more appropriately matched," Hodges says. "He's more of a growler than a biter, but he's lit into me a couple of times. I've had to learn how to live with him, and he's had to learn how to live with me. Sometimes he sleeps with me. Sometimes, when he's being real temperamental, he goes into his kennel and stares disdainfully at me."
Hodges and his fellow inmates know that, on the outside, there are those who take issue with the idea of convicts being provided services like the Shakespeare in Prison program. Some of these men are unlikely to see what's beyond Lansing's walls, but many more, like Hodges, have an "out" date.
"Any change you hope to make in society, you first have to make here," Hodges says. "You can't live here and be one thing and profess that you want to be something different in society, because it doesn't work that way."
The two performances of Macbeth — a Friday and a Saturday night — were attended by medium-security inmates, Lansing Correctional staff and volunteers of Arts in Prison. Lansing's officials wouldn't allow the cast members' families to see the play, citing security risks, so Arts in Prison arranged for a videographer to record a show so the inmates could have copies.