Is solitary confinement a fair punishment? How about the death penalty? What if it was for a white supremacist? What if it was for someone who was wrongly convicted? The Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents “Coyote on a Fence” by Bruce Graham, a prison drama that aims to leave audiences with tools to answer these questions themselves.
Cameron Gosselin plays young Bobby Reyburn, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and inmate on death row for a crime revealed later in the show. Gosselin says that it’s better not to know too much about his character but essentially, he’s a white supremacist, which is unlike any character he has ever played. The show revolves around his relationship and cell conversations with John Brennan, writer of the Death Row Advocate, a series of obituaries about men sentenced to death.
“The prospect of playing a white supremacist — I was really reticent to even audition for the piece,” says Gosselin.
He notes that the character is written in a way that characters like Bobby are not typically written. “They illustrate, and he elucidates through a monologue the moment when he was radicalized — when he was at a moment of weakness in his life, when no one cared about him — and the only caring that came toward him, came from white supremacy, came from hate.
“It doesn’t try to explain him away, and it doesn’t forgive him. But instead, it illustrates something that is a systemic problem, rather than an individual problem,” he adds.
In preparation for this role, Gosselin researched solitary-confinement and the prison system. He watched documentaries and such, but his main source of inspiration came from someone close to him. He spoke in-depth with a friend of his who was “imprisoned for over two decades for a crime he did not commit,” and plans to meet with him again before the opening of the show.
As much as Gosselin wishes it did not, the show has as much relevance today as it did when it was written in the ’90s. “We have been ever-increasing the percentage of the population that we put behind bars. And in that time, we have not changed the fact that solitary confinement is something that is ruled not by a judge or jury, but by prison administrators.”
He adds, “This is an insane amount of power to be putting into the hands of people without the kind of checks and balances that we reserve for the conviction in the first place.”
If you go
March 31-April 15
First Church Boston
66 Marlborough St.
Tickets are pay-what-you-can, hubtheatreboston.org