Newbie theater director discovers a new spark
It’s Dec. 1, the beginning of a new season. Twinkle lights abound, Christmas carols are humming overhead in grocery stores, and Alan Fox is sitting in a downtown Santa Cruz coffee shop, remembering his partner who died three years ago today. For him, it’s not necessarily a “holly jolly Christmas,” but for the first time it’s not a humbug holiday either. In the last year, Fox’s creative life has taken off, and he’s experiencing the peace and excitement that comes with that.
After enduring quite a bit of grief over the last few years, Fox, an executive recruiter for nonprofits, decided to get back in touch with his creative self by taking a documentary film class in San Francisco. He read a ton of books, was mulling over an idea for a film, when wham, the stock market took a dive and he realized that it might be a bit indulgent to spend a bunch of money on a first-time documentary. So, instead of pursuing that route, he took a few classes at Cabrillo College, including a scriptwriting course and a directing class. The directing end of things really resonated with him. The teacher of the class encouraged Fox to direct a 10-minute play—the experience was challenging, enlightening and inspiring. “I saw that there was something that I could do to get that spark back,” Fox says. “There is a future.”
With a renewed outlook and the ability to begin moving forward after having lost someone, Fox took that energy and dialogued with a woman who runs a small theater space in Corralitos. She suggested he direct a one-act play at her venue and he began looking at plays that would fall into those parameters. With her encouragement and motivation, Fox’s life continued to move forward in healing and creativity.
During his research for a short play, he stumbled across “The Sweepers,” a script by John C. Picardi, about a small group of women whose husbands and sons go off to fight in World War II; the women are left behind to deal with their own issues. “It spoke to me,” Fox says. “There’s a lot of loss and joy. It seemed to be a play with a wide audience. I was not going to try to do Harold Pinter or Beckett. This was a play that I could get the gist of. It was manageable and funny and sad, which is like life.”
The fox Alan Fox and members of Fox Whole Productions are ready for drama.
After realizing that the play was actually longer than a traditional one-act length, Fox realized the production he was about to embark on was becoming bigger than he could have imagined. That also required a larger and more accessible space. So the first-time director with one class and one short play under his proverbial belt decided to go for it—he booked the Broadway Playhouse, searched for actors, and began the arduous process of putting on a fully produced piece of theater.
“After I did the play, people started asking me what was the name of my production company,” Fox says. He came up with Fox Whole Productions as an ode to his name, and his concept of creating ‘whole’ theater that gets people away from their computers, out of their houses, and into a live experience.
From there, he held rehearsals, cooked his cast meals every week, and discovered that directing and producing your first play is tough work, but thoroughly rewarding. The show went up in November and, according to Fox, nearly all of the performances were sold out, which has a lot to do with his marketing style—guerrilla advertising to the max. He wooed Catholics—“The Sweepers” has a Catholic backdrop—enticed the elderly from local rest homes—the story also had a focus on seniors—offered affordable tickets and provided free food during intermission and more. His approach is new and fresh, something different than one might typically find in a community theater experience, and it seems that the word has spread, guaranteeing full houses of theatergoers.
Next up for the successful newbie director and his Fox Whole Productions includes two shows on the horizon. Look for the following in the springtime: a cabaret dance production that he’ll produce, and a series of ongoing monologues that he’ll spearhead, where actors can get their work onstage. With a successful play behind him as a first-time director/producer, a production company finding its legs, and a bright future, Fox looks back on what he’s already achieved in a year: “I realized that I have to put myself out there in the world, and what’s the worst that will happen?” he says. “Even if no one shows up and I lose money, I’d still be here today. Unlike last Dec. 1, there’s a smile on my face and I feel like life looks like the cup is more full than half empty. … Everybody goes through something and sometimes if you put yourself out there, you know things will eventually get better.”