“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch; Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote,” said Benjamin Franklin – inspiring the title of Preston Lane‘s eighth play in “The Hawboro Project” series, 2 Wolves and a Lamb, currently in production at Triad Stage.

“The Hawboro Project” is set in the fictional North Carolina town of Hawboro. All the works are created to spark ongoing dialogue on issues facing the Piedmont Triad, thus making the audience honorary citizens of Hawboro. The project commenced in 2010 with Providence Gap, an Appalachian saga. The fictitious town of Hawboro soon became the center of several of Lane’s plays including Common Enemy (2015), Don Juan (2016), Radiunt Abundant (2016), Actions and Objectives (2017), and The Passion of Teresa Rae King (2019). Lane’s most recent project, 2 Wolves and a Lamb, touches on issues including race, class, immigration, and voter suppression.

The audience arrives in Hawboro during the beginning of the mayoral election season and follows the campaigns of the town’s current mayor, Felton Links, played by Carroll Michael Johnson, and his challenger, Mary Rose Crenshaw, played by Jessica Hudson. A Silicon Valley tech startup wants to build a new facility in Hawboro, bringing jobs and investment to the town, still struggling to replace lost textile industry. Links supports the project, but Crenshaw is skeptical of the true impact the startup will have on the small community. In order to fund her campaign, she forms an unlikely alliance with prominent community member and power broker, Eleanor Blessing, who views the project’s out-of-town owners as a threat. The play doesn’t take sides as much as it asks audiences to examine how they make important decisions like electing new leaders.

The cast features several Triad Stage veterans including Elizabeth Flax (Triad Stage’s A Christmas Carol and Common Enemy), Cinny Strickland (Triad Stage’s A Christmas Carol, Steel Magnolias, Common Enemy, Actions and Objectives), and Triad Stage newcomer Alfredo de Quesada, whose character, Nestor Borajas, is one of the newest residents of Hawboro.

In this production, Triad Stage also continues its partnership with UNCG’s School of Theatre and provides MFA thesis production credits in this play for Tameka Bennett (whose prior credits include UNCG’s All My Sons and Shakespeare in Love), Aaron Botts (Unto These Hills and UNCG’s The Normal Heart), Mac McGill (Uprising Theatre’s As You Like It and UNC Pembroke’s Waiting for Godot), and Kezia Moore (UNCG’s We Are Proud to Present… and Pippin). In addition, the cast includes UNCG undergraduate acting students Kelvin Jones Fernandez (UNCG’s Okay) and Elsa Wansink (McGregor Hall’s Hairspray and UNCG’s The Witches). The involvement of these students alongside seasoned professionals is a benefit to all concerned!

In this interactive story, the Town of Hawboro examines the checks and balances of democracy, and audience members are invited to a variety of interactive experiences, including becoming honorary citizens of Hawboro and voting for the candidate of their choice. Along with having interactive experiences for the audience, each performance’s ending is adjusted based on the particular audience’s majority vote.

The show takes a deep dive into politics and the current state of democracy in the United States. Although this is a theatrical performance, it is a fact that, in this show, art truly reflects life.

Most of the action in 2 Wolves takes place on the town square, grafted upon Triad Stage’s thrust performance space. The play makes use of large video screens to advance the story ‒ a practice that has been utilized throughout the Hawboro Cycle.

Lane’s use of a small town is really what hit home for me, as someone from a small town in North Carolina. Many of the characters and tropes within the show reminded me of where I’m from and helped me to relate the show to my life and political and civic choices.

In the South, many of us have a strong sense of place and use our connections to history to make decisions. Often people think democracy is only a thing we do on election day, but democracy is an ongoing process that we participate in all the time. In times like these it is important to realize that local elections are just as important as the presidential contests.

2 Wolves and a Lamb continues through Feb. 23. For more details on this production please view the sidebar.

Note: We are pleased to welcome NC A&T student Lauren Mitchell to the family of CVNC critics!