As a commercial actor, one quickly learns which “types” they may be considered for. On one end of the spectrum is that startling moment when you walk into a casting call and everyone one in the waiting room is some variation of you/your look, and on the other end, recognizing that technically you may be black woman in her 40’s, when the casting agent puts out that call, they have a very specific look in mind, and that is not you.
You don’t fit the type. Our Country’s Good is, by one lens, a play about people who we find don’t fit their types.
The two main roles I inhabit for Bag&Baggage’s production are both brown. Both are referred to as “savages”. Yet, one lives in their own time out of time: a pre-colonization time, and the other is a colonized convict.
When asked by our director what I was curious about with “Black Caesar” (the only colored convict we are introduced to in Our Country’s Good) I knew right away I did not want to burden the character with being exceptional because of his race. Caesar has the same failings and gifts as his fellow convicts. His exceptionality is having to constantly play the triple lens of colonized (he is from Madagascar and speaks at least three languages), convict and now colonizer.
How to approach the second “savage” The Aboriginal Australian? How to approach the only other character of color in our story? How to inhabit this dream reader, this out-of-time commenter? How to honor this seemingly minor character, who’s voice is not heard by a single one of the people in power? How to give them dignity beyond a stereotype of “the indigenous person”?
We pondered these questions as a cast, as a community of theater makers, sharing what dreams and dream-time meant to us and in this story. We reflected on which physical images from the story made a dynamic impact on us.Combining these images and the soundscape of the world of the play, we began to inhabit the dream world of the play as underscore. The voiceless given voice by the entire ensemble. The convict becomes free.
You’ll have to come see if we fit the type.
Our Country’s Good