‘Our Country’s Good’ at Bag&Baggage explores the importance of theater, at an opportune time
But gradually, as the convicts struggle to learn their lines and work together, they discover themselves – and each other – and find their lives have meaning.
“Our Country’s Good” is a play about a play. It attempts to show the redemptive power of theater. And the timing of Bag&Baggage’s production of the play is no coincidence, said Scott Palmer, the Hillsboro nonprofit’s artistic director.
As city officials decide whether to help Bag&Baggage finance its own new theater in downtown Hillsboro, the acting troupe hopes “Our Country’s Good” might help convince the community that the public support is warranted.
“This play asks [the audience] to think about something specific: What is the value of theater in your community?” Palmer said.
Bag&Baggage’s production of the 1988 play, written by the British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker, opens Thursday, May 7, and runs through May 31 at the Venetian Theatre. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Tickets run from $20 to $30.
The cast hopes the play’s theme resonates with theatergoers as much as it does with the actors and actresses themselves. Cassie Greer, who plays Capt. Watkin Tench and Duckling Smith (virtually the entire cast plays at least two roles and learned multiple British dialects), said she sometimes finds herself wondering, “Why do I spend my life doing this thing that barely pays me?”
“Our Country’s Good” helped her remember.
“There’s something really incredible that happens when you go into a theater,” Greer said. “You get a vision of a whole other perspective on life. … What you see happening on stage [in ‘Our Country’s Good’] is an expression of that empathy developing among the convicts.”
The convicts in the play, through a play of their own, also foster among themselves a sense of community, which Palmer said is the “mission of Bag&Baggage – for us to engage with our community … so that we can decide as a community: ‘Where do we want to live?’ ”
“When I talk to elected officials, I ask them: ‘How are we, as a community, going to decide how we use our resources?’ ” Palmer said.
Bag&Baggage itself has been looking for a place to live. With the future of the Venetian uncertain (it’s up for sale), the nonprofit is thinking of buying the former Wells Fargo Bank building at the 4th Main site and converting it into a 150-seat black-box theater. The city recently hired a consultant to help determine the level of public support needed for Bag&Baggage to succeed there.
“Our Country’s Good” just might convince Hillsboro taxpayers that their support is warranted. Or, maybe they’ll just enjoy the show.