The show, which officially opened Aug. 27, follows a Broadway actress into a men's maximum-security prison. There, she teaches them how to tell their stories in monologue form. The results are incredibly moving, impactful and confronting, all at once.
Whorl Inside a Loop is written by Sherie Rene Scott, who also stars in the piece, and Dick Scanlan. The show is adapted from their real-life experience volunteering at Woodbourne and the inmates' true stories. The program helped all but one get paroled, and the four of them were in attendance at Whorl's opening night.
"It feels great. It feels liberating," says Rivera, who was preparing to see the show in its completion for the first time last night. "It's like a relief and an honor, knowing that someone is actually standing in my shoes."
Rivera says that writing down and performing his story allowed him to deal with a lot of the pain associated with his past, which was an important step forward for him.
"With my story, there's a lot of pain, there's a lot of anger, there's a lot of regret, there's a lot of hurt," he says. "They showed me how to tell the story in theatre form and in that matter, I was able to relieve myself from the burden. I was able to let it out in a positive way and able to understand where I was at and where I wanted to be at." "At the end of the day, we're all human beings," Rivera continues. "We all have feelings. People have made bad decisions, some people have done things that they regret, and at the end of the day, it's important because it allows oneself to look at yourself in the mirror and be able to say: 'Whatever has happened to me in life or whatever I have done in life doesn't determine who I am. Who I am is what I do right now, today, tomorrow and every step of the future.'"
"It also gave me a sense of: 'I'm not alone,'" he adds humbly.
Sherie Rene Scott Goes Behind the Prison Walls in Whorl Inside a Loop; Opening Night Pics!
Rivera says that Scott and Scanlan became just like another one of the inmates during their volunteer period: just like family.
"Sometimes we bond with individuals and we're together for many years, and one day we finally realize that we are family, and at the end, when our loved ones are not personally there with us, we have each other," he says.
"The volunteers, Sherie and Dick, when they came through, they became part of the family. They not only interacted with us, but they became one with us."
Rivera, who writes a lot of poetry, says that he will continue to write and express himself artistically. "It allows me to express myself. It allows me to liberate myself, and it also allows me to see myself."