Daniel Callahan’s film “Come On In” is an award-winning psychological thriller about a young artist who has hit a dead end. Tortured by anxiety, self-doubt and depression, he’s contacted by a mysterious stranger who claims to be able to help.

The story — except for the mysterious stranger — is pretty much Callahan’s story of his own life, and he’s now adapted this trip inside his head into an ambitious, multi-media one-man show that’s premiering March 28 in Boston. 

Daniel Callahan joined GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath to discuss “Come On In - Live.” What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: “Come On In” covers a lot of stuff. Could you give us a thumbnail of what people get to experience, and how it differs from the film?

Daniel Callahan: Sure. It starts with the title; it’s called “Come On In - Live.” We wanted it to not only be a live stage production but also for it to be based on the actual reality of my life.

The film was a psychological thriller that was a very fictionalized account [of my life] that kind of mirrored my experience, but it was very much a divergence from my actual experience.

This play is really about me opening up and telling my story about how I got to the art form that I now use, my journey to manhood as a Black male and my spiritual journey in life. That’s the main difference between these two productions.

Rath: So you’ve gone from a quasi-autobiographical film to a more mainly autobiographical theatrical performance?

Callahan: Yes, absolutely. It’s like a multimedia, theatrical memoir, in a way.

Rath: That’s the most exciting part I want to get into because the multimedia takes a one-man show to a new level. Tell us about what the experience is like and what you’re trying to convey.

Callahan: Absolutely. The show is really based on this premise of what it would be like if I was able to bring people into my mind. I’m a very cerebral guy, and [the show] spends a lot of time in my head. For a while, it was a really amazing place to be; I was able to imagine whatever I wanted. It was very much like a playground.

At a certain point in time, as I started to mature and as the grim realities of life started to creep in, my brain started to feel more like a trap — or even a prison, at times — where it felt like I couldn’t get out of my thoughts. I couldn’t get out of my worries and concerns. It felt like it was closing me in.

Then, through the process of learning more about myself through expressing myself in different ways through art and through actively pursuing my own mental health. My brain has now become a much better place for me to live in. That progression is really what the play is about.

We utilized multimedia mainly because of the way my mind works — I think in not only images but also sounds. I’m thinking about this as a three-dimensional space that one can walk through, so it really made sense to try and do a multimedia sensory experience to really bring the audience into that space.

Rath: I think to understand this, we have to know a bit more about your personal journey. This goes back to your childhood, right? Tell us a bit about your growing up in Boston. You’re the child of a preacher, and you went to predominantly white schools, right?

Callahan: I did, yes. I also grew up in the golden age of hip-hop, so I call those three “institutions” — the Black church, predominantly white schools and the golden age of hip-hop really raised me.

I think what was really interesting about all three of those spaces is that they had drastically different value systems, drastically different cultures, and they were made up of many very different kinds of people. Being in those three spaces made me not only bifurcate — I don’t even know the word for a three-part separation of mind — but that was very difficult to navigate.

I grew up in the church. My father is an ordained Baptist minister. We went [to] many different churches where he would preach, and so I got a chance to see all these different denominations of Christianity.

I went to school at Shady Hill — shout out to Shady Hill in Cambridge. Then, I went to high school at Milton Academy and then to the University of Pennsylvania in Philly. All of those schools are very prestigious, they’re very good schools. But they’re also — at least at the time when I was there — very much mainly white. Throughout grade school, I was pretty much the only Black kid in my grade, from first through eighth.

When I went to high school, it was really the first time I had other Black classmates. That was an interesting transition, but we were still very much the minority. It was the same case at the University of Pennsylvania.

All of these different institutions gave me very different experiences. Part of the show is about me navigating and braiding those, seeing how they compare and contrast and how each one has its own worldview and belief system. And for me to try to figure out what I actually, truly believe by jumping through all these different spaces.

Rath: Tell us about the journey with the audience. I want to imagine that there’s some great, golden-era hip-hop in the show.

Callahan: Yes. We definitely try to give you a flavor of what I was growing up with, but also, I [became] an emcee, so not only was I listening — I started to create this music. The audience will be getting some of my own work as well, and the idea of spoken word as a medium and written word as a medium.

They will be getting all of that. The audience really gets a chance to be a kind of confidant as I’m going through this journey, trying to find myself, what I truly believe and why I’m here.

Rath: You know, I feel like if you’re the one person of color in a room full of white people, it’s like you have a lot of burden, in terms of representation. It’s interesting to hear you talk about that, and then talk about putting this into an actual performance in a very self-conscious way.

Callahan: Yeah, for sure. I mean, in a way, it’s all the same, right? There is a performative aspect of being a representative of your race in spaces. Even though it’s imposed upon you, it’s still a very performative act — feeling like you’re performing all the time is wrapped into that, you know?

I don’t think it’s any wonder why I ended up becoming a performer. It seems natural to me. It seems [to be] how I move through the space and is also the root of the issue, right? If you feel like you’re performing the whole time, then who are you when you’re not performing? Who are you, really? That’s part of the struggle that I had growing up.

Rath: That relates to another artistic practice of yours: MassQing. Can you explain that to people who haven’t seen it?

Callahan. Absolutely. With “masking,” we usually think of things that cover our face and hide our identity. What I do is use paint — I apply pain to the face to reveal things about people, trying to flip the notion of a mask that reveals what’s inside, through color, shape and line. It’s based on indigenous practices and all over the world, especially on the continent of Africa.

I came about this really through music. I was working with a group in California, and we would hold these masquerade balls where, again, we didn’t want to do the Victorian thing, where people came with masks on. So, we painted them instead.

What was really dope was [that] there’s a whole bunch of different cultures there. We were working with youth at the time, so we had access to a lot of different communities. We were able to bring these people together.

What was really interesting was that we found that each one had its own tradition of body decorating somewhere in their cultural lineage. It really became a way of bringing people together, and folks could celebrate each other’s cultures.

I just started to do this for myself, and I would have it be reflective of where I am. The whole point of a mask is it’s supposed to reveal where you are at that moment. I was in a very low place, and MassQing was a way for me to calm my mind and just focus on expressing myself.