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The Subtext: From Prison to Performing With Lee Edward Colston II

The former prison guard-turned-actor discusses how he found his writing voice, and how your biggest advocates can come from the most unexpected places.

The Subtext is a podcast where playwrights talk to playwrights about the things usually left unsaid. In a conversation that dives into life’s muck, we learn what irks, agitates, motivates, inspires, and ultimately what makes writers tick.

This month, host Brian James Polak sits down with actor and playwright Lee Edward Colston II in the offices of Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.

Lee Edward Colston II

Colston is a Philly native, former prison guard-turned-actor, playwright, director, acting teacher, writing coach, and author. His plays include Roost, Solitary, The First Deep Breath, and This Is My AmericaSolitary was winner of the 2008 Philadelphia Theater Workshop. Roost won the 2010 Life Media Award in the Philadelphia Urban Theater Festival and the 2013 Hidden River Arts Award for best new play. He is a 2017 Finalist for the Shonda Rhimes ‘Unsung Voices’ Playwriting Commission, and a 2017 recipient of the National Black Theatre ‘I Am Soul’ playwriting fellowship.

Colston talks extensively about his time working as a prison guard while repeatedly applying to get into Julliard. Once the inmates learned his dream to get into Julliard and become an actor, they became his biggest advocates, regularly pushing him to keep applying and going after it. It was also during this time where Lee began to find his voice as a writer, penning hundreds of poems inspired by the incarcerated around him.

Lee never gave up and eventually found his way into the Julliard MFA program, forever changing the trajectory of his life. He now works as a teaching artist and an actor. His onstage credits include Hadestown, The Color Purple national tour, and Intimate Apparel, and he has appeared on “The Black List” and “Mr. Robot.”

Download the episode here.

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