As children, Kate and Maggie Fox convinced their family, community, and ultimately the world that they could talk to spirits, essentially kicking off the Spiritualist Movement and creating the profession of Medium. In later life they announced that it was all a hoax. But their confession found them ousted by the Spiritualist community rather than toppling it, and they would die soon after, penniless and defamed. Inside this history is a tale of two sisters, their relationship to each other and to the dead. We tell their story in the form of a seance and give them time to speak.
In our telling of the Fox Sisters' story, we set the stage for spirits and seances. Is it horror? No. While those of us in the present day may look back at shrouded ladies and hand-holding circles in the dark as mysterious and spine-tingling, the Spritualists of the 1800 saw these things as a beacon of hope. Death was more common in those days--diseases, accidents, the Civil War--what people were really searching for was proof of life after this one and the assurance that death enilightens rather than silences us.
The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox is a love letter to Margaret Fox Kane and Catherine Fox Jencken. As the accidental founders of the Spritualist Movement, their lives were fascinating and tragic, filled with spirits and loss. And while they were separated from time to time, their lives wound around each other, supported each other, beginning and ending in the same shared fates. The play is a blurring of past and present, of living and dead, and the kind of theater that transports you and one that reminds you exactly where you are sitting. There is sweetness, but mostly sorrow.
If you're interested in learning more about the Fox Sisters, here are some enjoyable references.
Podcast: The Memory Palace "The Sisters Fox." This was the first time we heard about them, and was the inspiration to make this show.
Podcast: Lore "Passing Notes." Another take on the story. While TMP episode is bittersweet, this one is a bit darker.
Book: Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism by Barbara Weisberg. A meticulous book on the Fox Sisters, and the main point of reference for our production.
Book: The Reluctant Spiritualist: The Life of Maggie Fox by Nany Rubin Stuart. While Weisberg's book comes from the perspective of a believer, this text is a bit more pragmatic.
For those of you familiar with the history of these ladies, you'll notice a stark omission to our tale--the third sister, Leah Fox Underhill. Leah was more than two decades older than Maggie and Kate, and a sly entrepreneur. Once she heard about her younger sisters' abilities, she rushed to claim them and control them. Leah became their manager and manipulator, their constant companion and puppetmaster. She ushered them into the houses of the wealthy and encouraged them to drink the wine that was offered, which they became terribly addicted to. Their substance abuse eventually lead them to early graves in their 50s. Leah used the fame of her younger sisters to build her own fame, and she has her own amazing story to tell, albeit mostly embellished by herself. Because of all of this, Leah has been banished from our production. If we must call Maggie and Kate back to re-live their humanity, we can spare them that much.
WELCOME. WE ARE THE WINDING SHEET OUTFIT.
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