By BONNIE BAILEY
Playwright Jules Corriere, the outreach director at the McKinney Center, will premiere her mostly true play, “Breaking the Rock,” this week at the Johnson City Community Theatre.
The play, which opens on Thursday, November 9, tells the story of the two infamous brothers, J.W. and Clarence Anglin, who escaped from Alcatraz in 1962, but met an uncertain fate.
While researching the play, Corriere spent a significant amount of time with the people closest to the brothers, getting first-hand accounts of their lives before Alcatraz.
While many contend that the brothers perished during their escape, which involved taking a handmade raft over the frigid waters surrounding the prison, Corriere was privy to evidence during her research that hints at their survival, including copies of photos, letters and notes.
“I couldn’t believe the information they were sharing with me,” Corriere said. “They were guarded at first, but as time went by, they began to show me some really exciting things, like postcards and letters from all over, signed from ‘Joe and Jerry’, an alias the brothers used while on the run.”
Something that makes this play unique, Corriere said, is the amount of information that’s included that hasn’t been shared with anyone else, some of which you’ll get to see in photographs during the show.
When Corriere questioned the family on why they were willing to share information with her that they may not have shared with the FBI, she got an interesting answer: “We answered their questions, not that they ever believed us. But you ask different questions than they did.”
Corriere said her time with the Anglin family was fun and always a bit mysterious.
“I think I met the family at the right time,” Corriere said. “Decades had passed, and as members of the Anglin family were getting older. I think they were ready to share more details than they had in the past.”
“Breaking the Rock” doesn’t just focus on the Anglins’ escape from Alcatraz, but also delves into lives of the destitute brothers before their time in the famed prison, including their struggle with poverty.
“J.W. and Clarence really struggled with idea of good versus evil. They weren’t violent criminals,” Corriere said. “They really just wanted to escape this life of poverty they were leading.”
Corriere, who is also directing the play, said she is thrilled with the cast, all of whom do a wonderful job bringing the story to life on stage.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “I couldn’t have chosen a better team.”
E.C. Huff and Sam Hayden play the affable brothers, J.W. and Clarence, who make a deal with the notorious Bumpy Johnson, played by Daniel Reid. The characters of Marie and Robert, sister and brother to the Anglin boys, are played by Sabra Hayden and Larry Bunton. The cast is completed with Jonathan Edens and Kalin Bailey, whose characters are never far from J.W. and Clarence. They follow the escapees nearly all their days, as the age-old story of good vs. evil plays out.
“Breaking the Rock” debuts at the Johnson City Community Theater, located at 600 E Maple St. in Johnson City, on November 9. The play will be on stage through November 18. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online at www.jccommunitytheatre.org or by calling the box office at (423) 926-2542. For more information, email [email protected]