Prison Is Where I Learned to Fly PHOTO: DJ Smith (“Prison Is Where I Learned to Fly”)

Different flight paths

Rochelle Duffy’s autobiographical play explores a troubled relationship with her incarcerated brother

By Jana J. Monji 11/17/2011

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In a family of 17 children, vast age differences create a wide spectrum of experiences. Case in point: Rochelle Duffy, whose older brother Patrick, the fifth child, ended up in jail. As the ninth child, Duffy was the only one who went to college, earned a teaching credential and eventually a Ph.D, delving into the psychology of myths. 
Under the wing of the emerging artist support organization, Serving Artists in Process (SAIPRO), Duffy will star as herself in “Prison Is Where I Learned to Fly,” a guest production at the Pasadena Playhouse’s Carrie Hamilton Theatre, opening Friday.
In a recent phone interview, Duffy said Patrick’s problem was addiction to drugs, and who better to play an addict than someone who deals with addiction every day, John Marzilli. Marzilli overcame his addiction problems and for the past five years has been working as a drug and alcohol counselor at the Gooden Center in Pasadena. 
 Says Duffy, “He teaches me about my brother.”
 Director Debra De Liso said Duffy is “beautifully humble and a shy person,” but is not a professional actor. Nonetheless, De Liso encouraged Duffy to play herself, because her performance is “very raw” and emotional.  
 The play, SAIPRO’s first production, is based on letters and personal visits exchanged between Rochelle and Patrick. 
“If my parents were still alive, this probably would not have been written, because it’s part of a myth that you feel you’re protecting each other by being silent,” Duffy revealed. Yet she felt that silence allows the suffering to continue. 
“It was very painful for my parents to see the conditions of Patrick and the way his life unfolded,” she said.
Almost all the children in her family went to Immaculate Conception School in Monrovia but attended different high schools in Monrovia, Duarte and Pasadena (St. Andrews). This Catholic family was part of a much wider tragedy, however. Patrick was molested by a parish priest and ended up in juvenile hall, where he began his descent into addiction. 

“Prison Is Where I Learned to Fly” continues until Dec. 18 at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre, upstairs from the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. Molino Ave., Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 356-7529 or visit 


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