Luke Armstrong, Andrew Beck and Cassie Greer in Bag&Baggage's 2014 Halloween offering, "Dial 'M' for Murder." (Photo by Casey Campbell)

Bag&Baggage Announces Season of Adaptations and a Staff Change

As they change out managing directors, the theatre plans stage versions of books by Jane Austen and Rona Jaffe, as well as Orson Welles’s take on ‘Moby-Dick.’

HILLSBORO, ORE.: Bag&Baggage Productions has announced the lineup of shows for its eighth season, as well as the departure of managing director Anne Mueller after two years in the position.

“Anne Mueller leaves Bag&Baggage a stronger, more resilient, and more financially sound company,” said B&B’s artistic director, Scott Palmer, in a statement. “Anne’s passion and professionalism have helped to grow this company into a regional powerhouse, and her time with us has enabled us to make our eighth season our most ambitious ever.”

Mueller, a nationally recognized principal dancer and arts administrator, has accepted a new leadership position with the Portland Ballet. Mueller will leave Bag&Baggage at the end of June, 2015 and will be succeeded by Portland’s Curious Comedy Theater’s former managing director, Beth Lewis. Lewis’s background includes fundraising and development work for the Pasadena Playhouse and New York’s Looking Glass Theatre.

Meanwhile, the troupe’s 2015–16 Season will feature six full-scale productions, including a number of plays based on acclaimed novels, along with a few other surprises.

“We have dubbed this ‘a season of novel stagings,’” said Palmer. “Of the six shows, four are adaptations based on some of the best and most admired works of literature in Western culture. We think this speaks to our strengths as a company: the love of powerful language and a commitment to challenging texts.”

The season begins outdoors in late July at the Tom Hughes Civic Center with the North American premiere of Palmer’s adaptation of Richard III. First performed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2004, Palmer’s production was described as “a pointing up of the comic possibilities without losing the horror of amoral destruction” by the Edinburgh Review.

In September, Bag&Baggage will present the West Coast premiere of The Best of Everything, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2012. Based on the controversial 1958 novel by Rona Jaffe and adapted by playwright Julie Kramer, The Best of Everything tells the stories of ambitious secretaries living in New York City in the 1950s.  “Think Mad Men meets Peyton Place,” said Palmer. The Best of Everything will be performed at the Venetian Theatre in September 2015.

In honor of Halloween, October’s production is a thriller based on Patrick Hamilton’s taut novel Rope, which was also the basis of a Hitchcock film classic. It follows two amoral graduate students who decide to murder a fellow student “just for the fun of the thing,” then invite the victim’s friends and family to a dinner party where the corpse is hidden inside a wooden chest. Rope will be performed at The Venetian Theatre over four weeks in October and early November 2015.

In November and December comes the third of Palmer’s 1940s-style radio show farces, A KBNB Kristmas Karol. This installment finds the stars of the fictional KBNB Radio Classics program facing the end of radio’s Golden Age, performing their final broadcast of Dickens’s classic only to have it thrown into chaos. A KBNB Kristmas Karol will be performed over four weeks at the Venetian Theatre.

In March, Bag&Baggage will depart from its usual practice of mounting a major Shakespearean adaptation in favor of another adaptations: Orson Welles’s Moby Dick, Rehearsed. In Welles’s take on the Melville classic, a Shakespearean troupe is in rehearsals for a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear when the director enters and hands out scripts for a new play based on Moby Dick; by play’s end the actors have transformed the rehearsal space into the sails, masts and deck of the ship hunting the great white whale. “This script is truly magical,” said Palmer in a statement. “Not only does it do justice to Melville’s enduring tale, but it is also a celebration of the creativity and genius of Orson Welles. It is unlike anything we have ever done, and unlike anything our audiences have ever seen.” Moby Dick, Rehearsed will also run at the Venetian Theatre.

Closing the season in May is Michael Fry’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved Emma. Fry’s script employs a small group of actors who take on multiple roles. This is Oregon premiere is offered in celebration of the bicentenary of the novel’s publication.

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