Culture » Performing Arts

Our Country’s Good celebrates the power of theater at Ent Center for the Arts

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COURTESY UCCS
  • Courtesy UCCS
Last month, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs opened the Ent Center for the Arts to students and the public. The complex is a $70 million-dollar project that includes an art gallery, a recital hall and multiple theaters. This month, one of its new theaters, the Osborne Studio Theatre, will host its first performance, Our Country’s Good, directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Max Shulman.

“I chose Our Country’s Good to inaugurate the new Osborne Theatre because the play is a celebration of the theater’s power to restore our humanity when all is lost,” says Shulman. “Our Country’s Good is, above all, a tale of redemption.”

Set in an Australian penal colony in 1780, the play explores the power of theater to heal and reflects on punishment and rehabilitation in the incarceration system. The play follows a group of convicts as they rehearse a play and engage with the individuals who have power over them — some abusive, some kind. As they rehearse, the audience learns the stories behind the characters’ actions and the potential for change within each of them.
Our Country’s Good was written by Timberlake Wertenbaker in 1988 as an adaptation of the Thomas Keneally novel The Playmaker. Its first run was in London’s Royal Court Theatre and it was later staged on Broadway, receiving multiple nominations and awards on both sides of the Atlantic.

“It’s bawdy, gritty and touching,” says Schulman. “Our production is packed with live music, song, quick changes, humor and inspiration. It is a love song to the theater.”

The play is unique in that it leverages “doubling,” where several or all of the actors play two characters throughout the performance, often those with diametrically different ideas and behaviors.

“Almost every single character in the play is doubling,” Shulman explains. “The fun element is in the oppositions we create through that doubling. The violent criminal also plays the reverend; the governor also appears as the con artist.”

The play will be performed by students in the UCCS Theatre and Dance program on the main stage at the Osborne Studio Theatre.

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