Sandra Starr, 40, from Monroe, portrayed Mary Magdalene. In her 17th year of a life sentence for second-degree murder, she says she's found joy in Christ and is enrolled in seminary courses. "This is healing for me," Starr said. "I was used and abused by men just like she was. This for me is redemption."

Gerald Preston, 41, is "Thief 1" who mocks Jesus. Serving a life sentence for murder, he said he's a Christian also. "My sins—He's forgiven them—in real life," Preston said. "I wanted this role just so I could talk to Him personally."

Cherahkei Parker, 25, is "Thief 2." He is from Baton Rouge and just arrived at Angola last May where he'll serve two life sentences for two murders. He is not a Christian but wanted this part so he too could talk to Jesus. "We deserve what is being done to us and I ask Him to take me with Him to heaven," Parker said. "If I had the opportunity to talk to the real Jesus I would ask Him to please forgive me. What a blessing that would be."

The play was written by Peter Hutley of Surrey, England, but was modified by the Angola Drama Club and its director Gary Tyler. "Something like this never comes out of a prison and has never been done with this magnitude before," Tyler said. "This shows we all go through life and make mistakes but there is redemption in this story, and also in our lives. We can change."

The play came to Angola from Edinburgh, Scotland, where assistant warden Fontenot saw it performed at Dundas Castle. Suzanne Lofthus, artistic director of Cutting Edge Theatre Productions of Edinburgh, shuttled from Scotland to Angola for a year to see it completed.

"What amazes me is where Jesus proclaims freedom to the captive. These are the captives proclaiming freedom," Lofthus said. "If you can find freedom in Christ here you can find it anywhere." 

(C) World News Service. Used with permission.

Publication Date: June 15, 212