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Shakespeare play mirrors current political reality

B&B's 'Coriolanus' brings all-female cast to outdoor venue in Hillsboro


COURTESY PHOTO - Cassie Greer will swing into action as Coriolanus in Bag&Baggages upcoming outdoor production of Shakespeare's 'Coriolanus,' premiering at the Hillsboro Civic Center on July 7.A powerful political family ruthlessly expanding its power. A calculating woman with vaulting ambitions. An egotistical politician who cares little for the needs of the people. An outraged electorate violently protesting on the streets. Conniving spin doctors working to rig the election.

And, an atmosphere of fear and war hovering over it all.

Bag&Baggage’s production of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” could not have come at a more opportune time than the 2016 presidential election cycle America is currently in. Widely regarded as one of the playwright’s most political plays, the tale is a careful and clever examination of arrogance and greed.

“When we decided to produce ‘Coriolanus,’ we knew that the presidential election would be in full swing,” said B&B artistic director Scott Palmer. “But we had no idea just how relevant and frighteningly accurate Shakespeare’s story would be to our own political climate.”

The plot follows the life or Coriolanus (played by Cassie Greer), a powerful and arrogant Roman general who holds nothing but contempt for the people of Rome. After months of violent protest from citizens, the people banish Coriolanus for his callousness, all while Volumnia (played by Maryanne Glazebrook), Coriolanus’ powerful mother, works desperately to hold on to her own political influence.

Other actors include Arianne Jacques as Valeria, Autumn Buck as Cominius, Signe Larsen as Lartius, Bethany Mason as Aufidius and Lindsay Partain as Virgilia.

The show is the first for the company’s 2016-17 season, and is the eighth annual outdoor Shakespeare production taking place at the Hillsboro Civic Center Plaza, 150 E. Main St. It also features an all-female cast — but that wasn’t the way the show was originally written.

“None of Shakespeare’s plays would have been performed by women at all. That’s a huge part of why we do all-female Shakespeare productions; to give women the opportunity to play roles that have historically been denied them,” said Palmer. “There is something insightful and illuminating about having a woman play a role like Coriolanus. Cassie brings her whole life and experiences to the role in a way that sort of opens the character up to new interpretations.”

Coriolanus has been played by men for 400 years, and having a woman play the character offers up the chance for an all new perspective on the story, the character’s motivations, and relationships. Palmer didn’t really have to shift things around; he simply asked the women of the company to play the roles.

“It’s all part of the magic of theater, right? Asking our audiences to use their imaginations,” he said.

“Coriolanus” is adapted and directed by Palmer.

Rehearsals have been going great for the production so far, with the cast having a lot of fun with the sword fight choreography during the Hillsboro Tuesday Market. Last week, 12 women with broadswords tried to best each other in the fight choreography while a bunch of families were walking to the market. Palmer was surprised no one called the police.

“The play is tense — and violent, angry, aggressive — and has a very powerful, very contemporary message,” said Palmer. “My hope is that audiences will listen to the questions being posed by Shakespeare’s characters, see the outcome of their struggles and maybe apply these historical lessons to our own political challenges.

“We’ve been here before, hundreds of times in fact, and there are some very powerful warnings about the future in this play.”