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New scenic designer Donald Fox works with senior Austin Benson at the scene shop. / Chandler Lasch

“You don’t have to be del­icate with that!” Donald Fox shouted at the stu­dents dis­man­tling the mis­cel­la­neous wooden platform in the scene shop.

The new scenic designer for Hillsdale’s theater department, Fox has been reor­ga­nizing the workshop behind Markel Audi­torium where scenery is con­structed. The scene shop is filled with tools, piles of wood, and relics of shows gone by. Fox and his crew have been throwing out old and unneeded items, such as the large wooden platform that student employees dis­mantled and threw into a dumpster.

Fox is cleaning out the shop in prepa­ration for the Tower Players’ upcoming pro­duction of “All’s Well that Ends Well,” which opens Oct. 11. It will be Fox’s first show at Hillsdale, but he’s no stranger to many aspects of theater pro­duction.

“I’ve done well over 200 shows,” he said. “Probably 300. That’s a con­ser­v­ative estimate.”

For more than 30 years, Fox has designed sets and lighting and worked as stage manager and tech­nical director in both com­mercial and aca­demic theater. He has also been a guest artist at col­leges all over the country. He is orig­i­nally from Texas, and in 2007, he received the Alamo Theatre Arts Council Globe Award for Excel­lence in Scenic Design. The fol­lowing year, his designs on “Journey’s End” were named Best of Scenic Design by the San Antonio Express News.

Pro­fessor of Theater James Brandon said Fox’s expe­rience set him apart as a can­didate for the scenic-designer job.

“He has a lot of expe­rience in the pro­fes­sional and aca­demic world,” Brandon said. “We wanted someone who could not only con­ceive but also execute designs. That’s what we liked about Donald. It was nice to see someone who has that balance.”

Brandon said a new face in the small department is an exciting event.

“It has a great impact on what we do,” he said. “We look forward to that with Donald. It can be com­fortable to have people you’re used to, but it’s exciting to have new blood.”

Fox said he heard about the job oppor­tunity in a phone call from lighting designer Michael Beyer, with whom he’d worked at the Michigan Shake­speare Fes­tival. (Fox’s port­folio fea­tures photos of sets he designed with Beyer’s lighting.)

Beyer said he and Fox worked closely together on three shows simul­ta­ne­ously 10 years ago. Since then, the two have kept in touch.

“I knew that this was a job he could do, so we as a department had him in mind as an easy and quick tran­sition on short notice,” Beyer said in an email. “He has good expe­rience that he can give to our stu­dents and our department. I know he is a very tal­ented designer and expe­ri­enced builder, so I am excited for the things we’ll be able to accom­plish on stage.”

Fox said he appre­ciates the college’s com­mitment to the Con­sti­tution, lack of federal funding, and will­ingness to talk about faith. He joked that he’s excited about the upcoming changes in weather.

“I’m looking forward to a mild winter,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll get it, but I’m looking forward to it.”

His office is truly that of a thespian. It is filled with books on theater and sets, a copy of Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” a model set kit for a Shake­spearean-style stage, and three pro­duction posters on the wall: “Cheapside,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Silence.”

Opening his port­folio Pow­er­point on his com­puter, he com­mented on some of his favorite shows that he’s designed.

“‘The Trav­elling Lady,’ with the Scottish play, is in my top two,” he said, referring to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” as any theater veteran would. “I worked with Horton Foote, the author. A very close friend of mine met her husband on that set. They’re still married. They have a kid.”

In fact, his port­folio ends with a quote from Foote.

“I believe very deeply in the human spirit, and I have a sense of awe about it,” the quote reads. “I look around and ask, what makes the dif­ference? What is it? I’ve known people the world has thrown every­thing at — to dis­courage them, to kill them, to break their spirit. And yet some­thing about them retains a dignity. They face life and they don’t ask ques­tions.”

Fox began working on “All’s Well That Ends Well” over the summer. He said Shake­spearean comedies offer special chal­lenges for designers.

“Things have to move on and off quickly,” he said. “Scene changes can’t be long. That’s important with Shake­speare. You can’t mess up the rhythm and tempo.”

He said the set will consist of three levels, including the lower part of the pit, which will be used as a garden area. The play is set during the Algerian War in the 1950s, which Fox said the scenery will reflect.

While Fox praised the hard­working nature of his stu­dents, scene shop super­visor Austin Benson had similar com­ments on the designer.

“He has a very dis­tinct gameplan,” Benson said. “We always know exactly what he’s doing. Donald strives really strongly for a clear line of com­mu­ni­cation and for a lot of openness and kindness in the shop. It’s a more open envi­ronment than it was in the past.”

Soon, Fox returned to dis­man­tling the large wooden platform with his stu­dents, after making sure they wore earplugs and safety goggles.

“That goes in the dumpster,” Fox called to his employees as the destruction began. “You can break it down however you want!”