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Pulitzer Center Update August 28, 2020

Save the Date: 'The BOX' Virtual Performance

United States Penitentiary sign Alcatraz. Image by Elisa Day / Shutterstock. United States, 2019.

A historic performance of The Box, a piece of transformational theater based on a journalist’s...

Actors in a multi-level prison cell set on stage during a performance of The BOX.
The BOX, a play about solitary confinement, performed at San Francisco’s Z Space in 2016. Image by Todd Sanchioni. United States, 2019.

This October, the Pulitzer Center will host Zoom performances of The BOX, a play written by a survivor of solitary confinement, Sarah Shourd, in collaboration with other survivors. 

Thursday, October 1st

4pm PST/7pm EST/12am United Kingdom/2am Amman, Jordan

Saturday, October 3rd

11am PST/2pm EST/7pm United Kingdom/9pm Amman, Jordan 

4pm PST/7pm EST/12am United Kingdom/2am Amman, Jordan

Registration information coming soon.

Though Shourd, herself a survivor of solitary confinement, didn't intend for her play to be produced during a global pandemic, millions of Americans now have reason to resonate with the message of isolation. The parallels between the chapter of human history we're living through and the realities of the long-term isolation suffered by ten of thousands of people inside our prisons are both disturbing and illuminating. 

"You know they say people on the outside, they don't really meet up anymore," says an incarcerated character in Shourd's play. "Everything happens online." 

The experience—of being separated from loved ones, of being quarantined, of living through a crisis of epic proportions with no clear end in sight—can be a window into the ongoing suffering, deprivation, and resilience of our incarcerated population. These stories offer insights into the resilience that has kept these men and women alive. 

Theatre has adapted to the retraction brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic with incredible creative ingenuity. Though Zoom and other platforms can never be a substitute for performing in physical proximity to audiences, they harness their own kind of rawness and intimacy by being live-streamed directly to an audience across the globe.

"The medium is the house in which our stories live," says Shourd.

In 2019, that "house" was on Alcatraz Island, inside the walls of its infamous penitentiary. That historic performance came after Shourd spent three years researching solitary confinement across the country and debuted The Box in San Francisco for three weekends of sold-out shows in 2016. Between stagings, new cast members joined the team—including formerly incarcerated Dameion Brown, who spent over two decades in prison, including a year in solitary confinement.

"I appreciate how close to truth it was … the boldness with which she approached it," said Brown. "We had this belief, if people on the outside knew what they were doing, they wouldn't be allowed to do it. You don't completely believe that. But it was something that you hold to, hold on to so that you can believe in humanity."

This performance of The BOX will be acted by Carlos Aguirre, Dameion Brown, Jordan Don, Dorian LockettTerrance Smith, and Lawrence Radecker. Produced by the Pulitzer Center. Tech manager Nikki Hyde. Written and Directed by Sarah Shourd

Partners include: PEN AmericaCornerstone Theatre CompanyImaginActionZ SpaceSuccess Center, The International Society of Criminology (ISC), Department of Criminology of the University of Brescia, Italy, the Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh FoundationRestore Oakland, Manny's San Francisco, Marin Shakespeare CompanyDesigning Justice + Designing Spaces, Dream CorpsMother Jones, and MOZAIK Philanthropy

You can see clips of pre-COVID performances hereherehere and here

The Pulitzer Center's reporting and educational outreach on mass incarceration and related justice issues is supported by the Art for Justice Fund and other donors. The Art for Justice Fund was created by Agnes Gund in partnership with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

End of Isolation Tour logo with map of tour stops. Graphic by Kate Deciccio.

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