By Brandt Roberts
There was a moment last fall when I was having dinner with Elizabeth Dunn and she asked who I thought could direct the apprentice capstone project? I cautiously raised my hand. It had been seven years since I directed a full-length play, and I realized I was craving the process. I have tried to support our apprentices’ capstone in past seasons in any way I could, and this seemed like the perfect chance to throw my hat into the ring to direct again.
When I read the play and I was hooked. This year’s apprentice class (Caroline Hawthorne, Matthew Donahue, Alicia Ehleringer, and Jodi Rushing) has chosen The Fox by Allan Miller, based on the novella by D.H. Lawrence. The play is set in 1918 on a farm near Berkshire, England. The farm is run by two young women named Jillian and Nellie. The two decided to leave the town because of the gossip and the influenza epidemic. Their main source of income is their hens, but the hens have ceased to lay eggs and a fox continually raids the chicken coop. On a windy November night, a young solider named Henry unexpectedly arrives at their doorstep, having just returned home from the war. He seeks refuge – but what does he really want?
That is all I will venture to say about the plot. The Fox is simultaneously beautifully poetic and strikingly realistic. The characters are colorful and complex. So much of what is said is unsaid. The play bounces from dry sardonic wit towards terrifying thriller. It is a shocking reminder that while the story is fiction, these characters represent reality. Humanity is brought to light in the shadows of this dilapidated farmhouse.
Although the play is set on during the twilight of World War I, the issues it presents are timeless: pandemics, war, sexuality, gender roles, toxic masculinity, gas lighting, social norms, etc. I could go on and on about the script and the novella, but I’ll just say you’ll have to see it for yourselves!
I am proud of our apprentice class for their selection, and who they are as artists. I am honored to be on this journey with them, we are having a blast! Their hard work in rehearsals and behind the scenes will bring this incredibly human story to life. Come visit the past to gain clarity on the present at the Commonweal this March.