A History of Tom Jones, a Foundling is Henry Fielding’s classic novel from 1748 chronicling the misadventures of the title character as he doggedly pursues the affections of his true love, Sophia, despite differing social classes, the machinations of her father to keep them apart, and the interference of other women who take a liking to Tom’s good looks and gallant charm.
The novel itself is long and has a multitude of colorful characters who are all a part of Tom’s story. Additionally, there are quite a few situations, character motivations, and actions that make the story rather ribald and a touch indecent for both the readers of Fielding’s day and ours. Why would a classical Christian school like Petra perform such an off-color story, and how in the world could it be “family-friendly”?
As a director, I am always trying to think of new ways to challenge my students’ abilities and give them new experiences onstage that they will remember for a lifetime. As a student of theatre myself, I am always looking to learn new skills and become more versatile as an actor and as a director. Thus, I had my sights set on this particular adaptation of this classic novel. It was only after I began researching the original story, that I learned of some of its content.
Indeed, Tom Jones is a bawdy book, but our adaptation is not a bawdy script. Rather, it remains true to the charm of the source material by retaining many of the memorable characters, but omits the bawdier content that would make it unsuitable for a younger audience. At its base is a story about a young man who is more often the victim of his circumstances than the master. Everything seems to go wrong for him at the most inopportune times and in the most incomprehensible ways, but he tries valiantly to press forward and see the light at the end of the tunnel when the opportunity arises. Redemptively, he is rewarded for it.
I always seek stories that offer some sort of redemption for the characters. Our adaptation features a large cast of developed characters, providing an excellent story to tell by both our veteran performers as well as our younger students newly introduced to the stage. The story is fast-paced and cohesive, focusing on the love that Tom and Sophia share and the various obstacles that are placed in their path, and there is even a climactic sword fight toward the end, which is always fun.
Here at Petra, we desire for our students to be immersed in literature that has withstood the test of time, and we challenge them to look beyond the words on the page to see the philosophy, worldview, and author’s intent behind what they read. Stories that last beyond the particular time period in which they were written are often well-told stories about the foibles and frailties of being human, something to which we can all relate. As a director, my goal is to help my students take the same lessons that they learn in Humanities and apply them to and through a script to find the essential human-ness in the characters they portray and to teach them to see characters as real people rather than just names with lines attached.
We recognize that parents entrust their children (young and older) to us “in loco parentis” – that is, “in the place of parents” (but not “in place of parents”). With this in mind (and in all we do), we tremble at and strive to be faithful to this responsibility. Our desire is not to put a story on our stage that would cause anyone to stumble, nor give them reason to question the morals and integrity of our staff and students; rather, our hope is that our students learn to look beyond the words on the page and see a story about a human being who is flawed, broken, and in need of redemption from his sinful attitudes and actions. We want students to look within themselves and see their need for the Savior, as well as look past themselves to see a world of broken, hurting people who need the person and work of Christ.
As a drama director, the tools that I have at my disposal to accomplish this goal are stories about flawed human beings and a stage on which to portray those stories in an engaging and educational way. I chose Tom Jones as a way to help our students grow, change, and mature as young people, and I hope that as you (and your family) come and enjoy one of our performances, you will find your own heart and mind touched because of it.
Buy your tickets to see Tom Jones! Performances are:
Thursday, February 25, 7 p.m.
Friday, February 26, 7 p.m.
Saturday, February 27, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for general admission and $20 for reserved seating and are available online or at the front desk. Building doors open an hour before each show, with Performance Hall doors opening a half-hour before.
Come early and bid on items in our silent auction!