New year, new vision: Bag&Baggage announces its upcoming season
Hillsboro's Bag&Baggage Productions announced its 2019-20 season, with performances planned that hold true to the theater company's affinity for Shakespeare adaptations and others that haven't graced The Vault Theater stage just yet.
We sat down with Cassie Greer, who was recently announced as the new artistic director of Bag&Baggage.
Stepping into her new leadership role is exciting, she said.
"Bag & Baggage has been my artistic home since 2011," Greer said. "At this point, it is in (my) lifeblood. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to get to lead this organization, and I am excited about the trajectory and the future that we are going."
Greer is directing the last show of the 2018-19 season, "Peter/Wendy," opening on May 2. After the show wraps up, the company will take a break in June to prepare for the new season with Greer's vision.
"Much Ado About Nothing" opens July 11 to July 28, and is an adaptation of the William Shakespeare play by Gordon Barr. First produced by Glasgow, Scotland's Bard in the Botanics, the play takes on the classic couple Benedick and Beatrice and turns it into a story about the couple Benedick and Bertram. Greer is directing the summer production to kick off the season.
"This is centralizing a same-sex relationship, which I think is great, and so many of the stories we tell culturally, the gay character is the sidekick. To centralize and normalize that love story is something we are super-excited about," Greer said.
The production will focus on incorporating non-binary, queer and genderfluid concepts, and auditioning genderqueer and non-binary artists for the show, she said.
"A Clockwork Orange" begins Oct. 10 and runs until Oct. 27, just in time for Halloween. The script is based on the dystopian novel written by Anthony Burgess, who wrote the script about 40 years after his novel came out in 1962. Before it was a play, it was also a movie, but the production is based on the book and not the movie, Greer said.
The story follows Alex, a juvenile delinquent, in a futuristic, violent world. Burgess's play is written for an all-male cast and will feature all male actors, which is not normal for Bag&Baggage, but the choice is deliberate, Greer said.
In turn, the directorial team is all-female, with Greer directing and associate actor Mandy Khoshnevisan choreographing.
"This is a visceral movement type of production. We're really inspired by that. There is so many discussions about toxic masculinity and cycles of violence and how we navigate that. We want to dig and explore that, in a way that is less typical for us and will involve a lot of multimedia," Greer said.
The show questions perceptions on masculinity and male relationships, and what role violence has, she said.
"At the end of the day, the main character Alex just wants to belong but doesn't know how, and I think that is what we all want," said Greer. "This is a messed-up way of embracing reality, and there is so much that is difficult to address. It is a poignant piece for us to be looking at."
For Christmastime, "The Game's Afoot," or "Holmes for the Holidays," runs Dec. 5 through Dec. 23.
In 1936, William Gillette, a Broadway star, invites his friends to his Connecticut castle, but the soiree is interrupted by a mysterious death. Inspired by playing Sherlock Holmes in a production, Gillette quickly assumes the role of detective.
Bag&Baggage's resident actor Kymberli Colbourne will be directing the whodunit, which is packed with physical comedy.
"We wanted a palette cleanser after 'A Clockwork Orange,' and it is a big farce with fun characters and it has historical ties," Greer said. "William Gillette is a real person. He was the first person to read Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and decided they would be great stage plays. He played Sherlock Holmes for decades."
For frequent Bag&Baggage supporters, many Easter eggs from past Bag&Baggage shows can be found within this play, including the weapon wall in "Deathtrap" from last fall.
"The Measure of Innocence," the second annual Problem Play Project, runs March 5 to March 20, 2020.
The Problem Play Project commissions an emerging Oregon playwright of color to adapt one of Shakespeare's "problem plays" to speak to modern-day diversity and social themes. For the project's first year, Bag&Baggage produced "An Island in Winter" by Hillsboro High School graduate Carlos-Zenen Trujillo, based on "The Winter's Tale."
"The Measure of Innocence," written by Portland artist Anya Pearson, takes on Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure." Pearson applied for the project at the same time as Zenen-Trujillo, and the board decided she would be the second year's featured artist, Greer said.
The story looks through "the lens of the systemically unjust criminal justice system and the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement," and will be directed by Portland director Bobby Bermea, Greer said.
"It was incredible having the first season of it, and I love the idea of using the classics to build bridges into the future and all aspects of our community," Greer said. "Classics are not museum pieces. They are living, breathing works and the reason they are classics is because they have something to say to all human beings."
Pearson is an African American playwright living in Portland. She wrote "Made to Dance in Burning Buildings," which depicted dance and physical theater to talk about sexual abuse. "The Measure of Innocence" speaks on the prison-industrial complex with an African American lens.
"As a black person living in the country, she is interested in taking on the stories and questions about the unjust incarceration of black men in this society, and particularly in Oregon," Greer explained. "She'll use 'Measure for Measure' as the vehicle for us to think about our criminal justice system, how it serves and doesn't serve us, and how it can be manipulated by people in power, and what happens to the people and families that are not in power."
To wrap up the season on a comedic note, "Fallen Angels" opens April 30, 2020, and runs through May 17, 2020. Resident actor Andrew Beck directs a show written by British playwright Noël Coward, exploring the story of two friends in 1925 learning their ex-lover is coming to town and anticipating his arrival. The witty and charming play challenges societal conceptions of female sexuality.
"This was scandalous back then because 'how dare someone talk about someone as a sexual interest who isn't their husband,'" Greer said. "There is a layer of women being able to have sexual thoughts and relationships, it isn't just men. The play has a pedigree of empowering women and we want to see how we can do this in 2020 with giving the women more autonomy than the script has on the surface."
The company hosts "Pay What You Will Nights" for every production. It also has a passport program, which allows any high school or registered homeschool student in Washington, Yamhill, Columbia or Tillamook counties to receive a free ticket by showing their student ID.
In addition, anyone with an Oregon Trail card can contact the box office for $5 tickets and bring the card along to the performance.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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