At any given time, there are between sixty and eighty thousand people facing solitary confinement in the United States prison system. Since the 19th century, penal isolation has been medically demonstrated to effect permanent psychological consequences. Nearly 80% of these prisoners will eventually be released back into society. As the US begins to recognize the problem of mass incarceration, we are still faced with the problem of mass re-integration, and ultimately the question of the prison’s purpose: rehabilitation or punishment?
Solitary recounts the mental and physical degradation of the experience, following one man’s descent into memory and madness using ensemble, Lecoq based techniques and classically trained Juilliard musicians. It humanizes the psychosocial reality of what the system calls “special housing” and inmates call “the box”, including the scars former prisoners carry back into the world. Drawing on extensive research, testimonials, medical documents and interviews, the piece pulls the audience into this isolated world, only to ask: what happens when the door opens?