The Whipping Man comes to Millikin

“The Whipping Man” is coming to Millikin University at Albert Taylor Theater this October. “The Whipping Man” is a play is set in 1865, right after the Civil War ends. Caleb Deleon, played by sophomore Jake Wagner, is a confederate soldier who comes home to find his family gone, and his home destroyed. He is badly injured, so he must rely on his two remaining slaves, Simon, played by sophomore David Rhodes, and John played by senior Terrence Hodge, to get through the night as painful truths come out.

When asked about what the play was about, director Thomas Robson said, “In short, ‘The Whipping Man’ is a play about race. I was tired of talking around the subject of race, and thought it was important–perhaps imperative–to finally directly address racial bias and oppression on our stage. More than that, though, it’s a play about race, history, religion, and power. How do people treat each other? How do we rely on others? Are we able to forgive those who have injured us? What does a person do when faith and reality collide?”

When asked why he chose this particular play, Robson said, “I saw ‘The Whipping Man’ at Manhattan Theatre Club in New York three years ago and it captured me. I went into the play knowing almost nothing about it, and moment-by-moment it surprised and engaged me. I’m usually reluctant to direct a play that I’ve previously seen, but in this case I thought the script was so good–and so well suited for Millikin–that I wanted to bring it to campus.”

To tell how he prepared for directing this play, Robson said, “Research, research, research, and I’ve been fortunate to have an outstanding student assistant director and dramaturge to help me with that in Daniel Jensen. We’ve had to immerse ourselves in the history of the Civil War, in the history of slavery, in the history of Southern Judaism, in Jewish practice–including learning some Hebrew. But then the important thing is to move beyond the research. Research can be incredibly helpful and instructive when you’re preparing a production, but at the end of the day you always have to remember that plays are about people and relationships, not about research. The research helps to flesh out all of those relationships, but cannot be a production unto itself.”

The Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement (ISE) is hosting two events in relation to the play; the first event will be a ‘food for thought’ on Thursday, Oct. 2 at noon in LRTUC to discuss the play’s themes and their relevance in today’s society. The next event will be following the Oct. 9 performance where the audience and the company will have a post-show discussion, hosted by Molly Berry. The play will be at 7:30pm in Albert Taylor Theater from Oct. 8 to 10, then at 2pm on Oct. 11 and 12. Millikin students are reminded that they can receive their one free ticket to this show up to one hour before the show begins.