Featured photo: Scenes from a performance by Box in Detroit (photo by Matthew Van Meter)
Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual harassment.
“Every day is fucking the same.”
Rocky, who has just arrived at the solitary confinement unit at Cedar Cross Correctional Center, reads a letter passed to him by the other prisoners, quickly, as communication between inmates is strictly prohibited.
In it, he learns that while they should be getting ten hours of exercise a week, they are herded into what they call “the box,” a concrete patio outside, for just one hour a day.
That is just one example of the torture that the main characters of Box expensive.
Through written correspondence and visits to incarcerated people, and the personal experience of being held in solitary confinement for more than 400 days as a political prisoner in Iran, Pulitzer Center fellow and journalist Sarah Shourd was inspired to write Box, a play about “collective resistance and personal transformation”. The Ramkat, in association with Disability Rights NC, MUSE Winston-Salem and the NC Justice Center will present three performances of the play from August 25-27. According to the organization’s website, the show isn’t just meant to be an art form. Their mission “is about starting the transformation.” At its various performance venues, the show also “amplifies local programs for collective healing and restorative justice” and after each performance this weekend, a 30-minute post-show engagement circle will be held to viewers “collectively process the experience.”
On stage, Shourd aims to bring to light the issues facing incarcerated people and promote political change.
Six gray platforms arranged in a cross serve as prison cells. Three prisoners appear, heading to their cells. Jake and Ray wear white shirts, khaki pants, and orange crocs. Victor is barefoot, wearing a white A-frame tank top and white shorts. He walks as if he is in pain. He begs Correctional Officer Jones to give him medical attention, who responds by walking away.
Inmates continue to explain the harrowing and isolating experience of solitary confinement. Ray says that because the inmates aren’t brought into the box as often as they should, they look forward to the spring months, when the sun is at just the right angle to allow some light to shine through the small openings. of their cells. When they get to the box, Victor takes advantage of the pull-up bar and the space for a light jog, but the provocation of “freedom” doesn’t last long.
“Before I know it, the CO is back to escort me to my cell, where I sit on my butt for the next 23 hours,” he says.
Box explores the prison from the perspective of the inmates, but also from the struggles of the guards, showing that not only the incarcerated are subjected to humiliation and mistreatment.
Officer Miller, a woman, is constantly subjected to sexual harassment by prisoners, while her colleague, Officer Jones, faces an internal conflict between doing his job and participating in the oppression of those who resemble him as a man. black.
The suffering never stops. The fluorescent lights in the inmate cells are always on. The cells are decorated with nothing more than a toilet/sink combo and a small desk they call a “tombstone.” Ray says the cops consider them wild animals, and staying sane is hard when lunch consists of two slices of bread, an apple, a packet of mustard, and bologna that must be held under hot water for two minutes to rinse off the slime. Visits are non-existent. Phone calls are allowed in the rare case of a family death. Ten books or magazines in his cell at one time is all the communication with the outside world they have.
“I haven’t touched another human being since I got here,” says Ray.
“Except being handcuffed,” Victor adds.
Through his unflinching and heartbreaking look at the realities of solitary confinement, Box it forces viewers to sit in the deep discomfort of knowing that hundreds of thousands of people experience this unique hell on a daily basis. And that change, if we want it, we have to fight for it.
As the play progresses, the inmates explain the repetitiveness of each day and how nothing seems to change soon. Victor has been in solitary confinement for three years, Jake for seven years, and Ray for 19.
“My universe is eight feet by twelve feet,” says Jake.
Friday is Community Impact Night, which means all tickets will be 50 percent off with discount code Impact50, and free tickets are available to people impacted by systems using the courtesy code CommunityComp..
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