Theater in a Pandemic of Loneliness 

Many of you have known about my play, The BOX, written by myself, a survivor of solitary confinement, in collaboration with other survivors, for years. You may not have seen it, though, because theater is difficult to scale.

Enter Zoom, or virtual theater. Your heart might not jump at the thought of it. Zoom is a crude platform that wasn’t designed for entertainment, but storytelling will always adapt to and take advantage of new mediums. 

Please join the Pulitzer Center for a Zoom performance of The BOX on OCTOBER 1st and 3rd, 2020.

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The BOX is about the ways carceral institutions aim to reduce human beings to a fraction of themselves: a mouth shouting through a food slot in a cell door, a disembodied voice echoing down a cell block. The technology of Zoom reduces each of us to the size of a bust in a box, diminishing our social selves, yet it’s the best platform we currently have to organize and connect with a larger society. Likewise, the food slot in a prisoner’s cell door was not put there for her to talk through, but deprived of every other means to make human contact, she will use that slot to broadcast her own personal symphony. 

"You know, they say people on the outside, they don’t really meet up anymore," says an incarcerated character in The BOX. "Everything happens online."

Over the years, I’ve been able to collaborate in telling this story, inspired by the 2013 California Prisoner Hunger strike, in a variety of ways, from a performance inside the penitentiary on Alcatraz Island to a graphic novel adaptation to a large-scale production at Z Space, but there is something about this moment and this platform, when millions of Americans now have reason to resonate with the message of isolation, that is perhaps the most powerful, and most necessary, yet. 

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As our worlds shrink, each day a shorter perambulation around the same, simple tasks, our hearts must expand, and for that we need the right stories to connect us to the most urgent realities. In this new, experimental medium, whatever visceral power might be lost on a screen is regained by the power of these actors being broadcast live into your home, performing from their homes, where they are struggling in the same situation. 

Our goal is to connect you to a global audience engaged in the same struggle.

People will be beaming in from Jordan, Columbia, England, Botswana and all across the U.S. to listen to the stories of prisoners who have been on the frontlines of isolation for years or decades, long before the pandemic brought this storm to the rest of our doorsteps. 

“It’s just one story, but it is the story of all of us.”

--Michael Marcum, former SF Assistant Sheriff and Prisoner

Thursday, October 1| 4 pm PST / 7 pm EST

Register Here

Saturday, October 3| 11 am PST / 2 pm EST

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Saturday, October 3| 4 pm PST / 7 pm EST

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This performance of The BOX will be acted by Carlos AguirreDameion BrownJordan DonDorian LockettLawrence Radecker and Terrance Smith. Produced by the Pulitzer Center. Tech manager Nikki Hyde. Written and directed by Sarah Shourd

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.

Partners include: Cornerstone Theater Company; the Department of Criminology at Brescia University, Italy; Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS); ImaginAction; the International Society of Criminology (ISC); Manny’s, San Francisco; Marin Shakespeare Company; the Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation;  MOZAIK Philanthropies; PEN AmericaRestore Oakland and  Z Space

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