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prison stories

Paper Swords, and Other Rikers Island Rules for Touring Shakespeare Troupe

A sign of Rikers Island, where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn will be held, is pictured in Queens, New York on May 16, 2011. A New York judge denied IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn bail on Monday, despite an offer from his defense team to put up $1 million in cash and surrender all his travel documents. The judge ordered the IMF chief detained, two days after he was pulled off a plane and accused of trying to rape a Manhattan hotel chambermaid. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the Public Theater's Mobile Shakespeare Unit, which is staging a production of Richard III on Rikers Island, are performing under some difficult circumstances: Only after crossing the river from Queens, passing several ID and metal detector checks, and receiving an ultraviolet hand stamp, do the actors finally get to see the stage and props they'll be using (a 14-by-14-foot taped-off section of a gym floor and paper and rattan swords, respectively.) As for "the fans oscillating at top speed," "telephone ringing in the corner," and "guard walking by with jangling handcuffs and jingling keys," there's nothing the actors can really do except emote, emote, emote.

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Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/2011 AFP