“The Foxes of St. Catherine Island” is a new musical for 11-16 year olds and their families.
The story follows Fox, who lives with his Gran and Pop on the highest peak on St. Catherine Island. When a mysterious illness threatens Gran’s life, Fox leaves home with his blanket Big Blue to get help, discovering on the way the secrets of the island and the hidden history of its fox population.
Elements of “Foxes” touch on horror as a way to create intrigue and investment in the main conflict. For instance in the second scene, Gran comes back from a walk in a strange mania, jerking uncontrollably and murmuring. She grabs Fox and warns him about “the eyes.” (On his journey Fox will come to believe that this refers to the lab goggles worn by the scientists in the environmental research center, and will eventually learn that Gran was bitten by a raccoon.) Near the end of the story, Fox, Gran and Pop are kidnapped by an erratic eagle and brought to its lair, set as a creepy cavern-like nest (eagle nests can be as large as 10x10 feet). Two mythic interludes within the show explore the history of Fox’s family and the origin of the pandemic.
The show is based on a true history of Catalina Island, which is home to the Catalina Island Fox, a small grey fox species that grows to around the size of a small house cat. It is theorized that the foxes were originally brought over by the Gabrielino-Tongva people, the indigenous tribes from the unceded land of Los Angeles, as pets.
In the last 20 years, their population has been ravaged by canine distemper virus, and it was eventually discovered that the disease was brought to the island by two stowaway raccoons. Canine distemper is a respiratory virus which spreads through airborne exposure, and causes symptoms like vomiting and convulsions. Scientists have since captured the raccoons and are attempting to bring back the fox population.
“The Foxes of St. Catherine Island” is a story about cultivating belonging in a time of isolation. It is a story about myths kept by the land. It is a story about the hidden histories of our elders which shape the values that guide them, and the fears which control them.