Bag&Baggage’s ‘The Best of Everything’ addresses gender equity; story inspired ‘Mad Men,’ others
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on August 17, 2015 at 7:00 AM
Hillsboro’s Bag&Baggage Productions will be the first theater company on the West Coast to perform a stage adaptation of “The Best of Everything,” a 1958 novel by Rona Jaffe that has been called a precursor to “Sex and the City” and “Mad Men.”
The play, which opens Sept. 10 at the Venetian Theatre, tells the story of five young women who work for a New York publishing company and whose experiences are “painfully familiar” despite the tale’s taking place in the 1950s, said Bag&Baggage artistic director Scott Palmer in a press release.
“The play is a remarkably timeless story about the sacrifices, sorrows and joys experienced by ambitious young women working in 1950s New York,” Palmer said.
Bag&Baggage resident actress Cassie Greer plays Caroline, an Ivy League-educated typist who dreams of one day reaching an editor’s office.
“What struck me first when reading the play was both how much and how little things have changed for women,” Greer said in the release. “In many ways, this story of women in a 1950s office feels charming, quaint and very far distant. Yet very quickly you realize that women in the workplace today are still experiencing the loneliness, insecurity, pressure and discrimination the characters in Jaffe’s story experience.”
Other characters include April, a naïve girl who becomes an object of desire for both married and unmarried men at the firm, and Gregg, a free spirit who, deep down, wishes for the quiet, domestic life. They are played respectively by Kaia Hillier and Bag&Baggage resident actress Arianne Jacques.
The stage adaptation is by Julie Kramer and debuted off Broadway in New York in 2012 to acclaim from The New York Times.
“It’s a respectful, hysteria-free, streamlined…and appealingly modest effort that lets Jaffe’s working girls speak for themselves,” the Times wrote.
Gender equity is one of the play’s main motifs, and to draw attention to the cause, Bag&Baggage is putting on a special “Wage Gap Sunday” matinee performance on Sept. 13.
Tickets will be priced at 78 percent of their normal cost, a nod to the oft-cited statistic that shows women, on average, earn only 78 cents for every dollar that a man makes for the same work. (The Washington Post debunked that figure earlier this year but acknowledged that few experts dispute the existence of a wage gap.)
After the Sept. 13 show, the cast and crew will hold a discussion about their experiences working on the play and share thoughts about what has and hasn’t changed for working women since the 1950s.
The Bag&Baggage production is being guest directed by Michelle Milne, who is mostly based in Chicago and Indiana but has worked in Oregon with Portland Playhouse and Sojourn Theatre.
Jaffe’s 1958 novel inspired a film of the same name and many later works about young, working women in New York.
“So influential was the novel on the creators of ‘Mad Men’ that, in one scene, anti-hero Don Draper is shown reading a copy of Jaffe’s work while the ‘girls in the typing pool’ work outside his office,” Bag&Baggage said in the press release.
“The Best of Everything” runs from Sept. 10 to 27 at downtown Hillsboro’s Venetian Theatre. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost between $18 and $30, except on “Wage Gap Sunday,” Sept. 13, when they’ll be cheaper.
— Luke Hammill