The Story of The BOX

A message from the director:

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The story of The BOX begins in a solitary confinement cell in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.

The story of The BOX begins in a solitary confinement cell in Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

An antiwar activist and International Human Rights Observer in my 20s, in 2008 I moved to Damascus, Syria to study Arabic, teach Iraqi refugees and begin my career as a journalist. The next year, my life took a dramatic turn when I was captured by Iranian border guards while hiking near a tourist site in Iraqi Kurdistan. I was then imprisoned as a political hostage, tortured, and kept incommunicado in solitary confinement for 410 days.

Since my release in 2011, I have collaborated with other survivors and activists to end the torture in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons in alignment with abolitionist strategies of decarceration.

Shortly after I returned home, the largest prison hunger strike in US history sprung out of Pelican Bay Prison in my home state of California. I was fortunate to be a part of that fight, which forged significant change— and to be given the opportunity to funnel the pain of my own experience into a collective struggle for liberation.

The play’s narrative is inspired by this event and other stories of survival and resistance in US prisons that I collected through years of in-depth correspondence and visits with incarcerated people across the country. 

The BOX premiered in San Francisco in 2016 to sold-out audiences and has since been performed at conferences, well-known theaters, and in the former penitentiary on Alcatraz Island. After the outbreak of the pandemic, with support from the Pulitzer Center, I produced a virtual version for viewing online.

Nine premier performances of the current version were attended by sold-out audiences at Marin Shakespeare in San Rafael, California, in the Fall of 2021.

The BOX is now ready to travel the country in a converted school bus. Each performance will be presented in collaboration with a community partner engaged in legislative or other efforts to end solitary and reverse mass incarceration. Our goal is to elevate, support, and maximize the impact of these campaigns. 

Each performance of The End of Isolation Tour will be followed by an engagement circle focusing on restorative values, collective grief and collective healing. Participants in the circles following performances on Alcatraz and in Marin found them to provide powerful and essential healing. 

The message is clear: We need each other as much as we need fresh air, food, and water. We need each other if we are to prevent the greed, ignorance, and incompetence of a few from undermining the human spirit. We need each other to survive. I collected the stories depicted in The BOX from people trapped a decade ago in the hellish deep end of our country’s prisons.

Now, in a cruel twist of history, there could not be a more powerful moment to bring their stories back.

Please join us in ending isolation.

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