Jul 20, 2022 - Things to Do

Immersive play about solitary confinement coming to Philly

Four actors stand in lit-up squares during a performance of the play "The Box" in San Rafael, California, in 2021.
"The Box" production in San Rafael, California, in 2021. Photo courtesy of End of Isolation Tour

"The Box," an immersive play about solitary confinement in prisons, is coming to Eastern State Penitentiary next month.

Driving the news: The play's cast members — several of whom were formerly incarcerated — are touring across the country this summer, inviting audiences in 10 cities to imagine an end to the use of isolation as punishment.

  • The performances at the historic site in Philadelphia will be held over two nights, Aug. 13 and 14, starting at 7pm.

Why it matters: "The large-scale use of solitary confinement was pioneered" in Philly, Eastern State Penitentiary spokesperson Nicole Frankhouser told Axios.

  • "Although the early prison reformers who founded Eastern State Penitentiary initially saw solitary confinement as an opportunity for reflection and penitence ... they quickly discovered that the practice often leads to emotional and psychological breakdown," Frankhouser said.
  • Yet its use has grown substantially in the U.S., she noted.

The big picture: Playwright Sarah Shourd — who herself was held for 410 days in an Iranian prison — told Truthout the play is visiting states "on the front lines" of the fight to ban or limit the practice.

  • Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced bills in the state House and Senate last year to put a cap on solitary confinement at 15 days. There's currently no formal cap in Pennsylvania.

Details: After Philly, the tour will visit Baltimore; D.C.; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Atlanta.

A photo of six actors on a stage inside prison cells with a red background behind them.
The premiere of "The Box" in San Francisco in 2016. Photo courtesy of End of Isolation Tour
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