When I was a Sophomore at Hillsboro High School, my drama club got to go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for a long weekend of performances. A group of 18 or so of us got the opportunity, without charge, to attend a number of shows, but the only one I really remember was King Lear.
My grandfather (my mother’s dad) was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and my mom and her sisters were struggling with how to manage his care and, to be frank, his declining mental state. Something about Lear resonated with me very, very powerfully. I was engaged in the performance in a way that I had never experienced before. Every word, every syllable, every nuance hit me in a deeply personal way.
At the first intermission (the show was nearly 4 hours and included 2 intermissions), my classmates made it clear to our teacher that they were bored. BORED. To tears. They didn’t like the show, wanted to go get pizza or hang out in Lithia Park…anything but have to sit through another minute of the show.
My teacher said, “Ok, ok…here’s the deal, if you all agree you want to leave, we can leave. But if even one of you wants to stay, we all stay.”
I raised my hand and said, “I want to stay.”
Daggers were thrown at me from a dozen pairs of adolescent eyes.
And almost everyone in my class ultimately admitted that they were glad we did. The show was, in a word, transformative for me and had a powerful impact on almost all of us in the class.
I knew, right then, what I wanted to be when I grew up – I wanted to be a theatre artist. And that experience, that moment of clarity, has been a defining moment of my life for more than 30 years.
We all know that these experiences are becoming less and less frequent for high school students across the nation. Arts budgets are often the first to be cut, and certainly the funds to go on “cultural field trips” are more often than not the very last priority for cash-strapped school systems.
And that is why, when I started Bag&Baggage more than 10 years ago, my Board and I decided to make a promise; that NO high school student would EVER be turned away from a Bag&Baggage show because they couldn’t afford a ticket. Since our founding, B&B has honored that promise and thousands of students have been able to attend our work, for free and on demand, ever since.
I call it the “Get Into Heaven” program, but PASSPORT is the official name.
The program is simplicity itself: if you are a high school student at any high school, tribal school, online academy, or registered home school student in Washington, Tillamook, Yamhill or Columbia county, you can attend any B&B performance for free. No questions asked. Just show up at the box office, provide us with a valid student ID, and if there is a ticket, you can have it. The end.
We also develop curriculum guides for teachers, arrange in-class workshops, post-show discussions, and offer paid internships for High School students with an interest in a career in the performing arts.
I am incredibly proud of PASSPORT, and I know my Board and all of the Resident Actors value the program as highly as I do.
How do we fund PASSPORT? Through our annual gala.
Each year, we throw a great big party; food, wine, entertainment and thousands of dollars in auction items up for grabs…and every single penny we raise at the event goes directly to support the costs of PASSPORT.
Which is why our annual Gala is such a big deal to me, and why I want everyone who values theatre and who understands the life-changing impact that theatre can have on our students to join me on July 11th for A FEAST FOR OBERON.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed party with wine, a four course meal, entertainment from our Resident Actors, and over $40,000 worth of silent and live auction items – it is an epic night of fun and fundraising, for an incredibly worthy cause.
I know our patrons and audiences love what we do, but I also hope everyone remembers WHY we do it. It is to change lives, open dialogue, grapple with important issues, develop a sense of community, question our values, and make the world a better place. Our July 11th Gala is a huge piece of that puzzle for us, and your support will not only make a world of difference to me, but it may just inspire a student to live a life filled with passion, art and drama (in a good way!).
I hope you will join us July 11th for A FEAST FOR OBERON. Help us change the world, one student at a time.
And thank you,