"Our Country's Good" Opens At Willamette University

Based on a true story, "Our Country's Good" takes place during the founding of Sydney, but its depiction of nation-building resonates with many of the issues we face today in trying to rebuild Iraq or Afghanistan.

As the first ship of convicts (petty criminals--pickpockets, not murderers) tried to establish a new colony in Australia, the officers had great trouble maintaining order. The supply ships that were to bring additional food were delayed, supplies were running out, the land was not arable, and the convicts and officers were pushed to the limits. As they grew hungrier, the convicts began to steal food and to try to escape. In an attempt to maintain control, the officers kept increasing punishment for crimes. Those who stole a loaf of bread were first given 50 lashes, then 100 lashes, then death by hanging. But since punishment did not relieve the convicts' hunger, this strategy did not work. The colony became a chaotic and violent place, divided by extreme prejudice.

"Our Country's Good," written by Timberlake Wertenbaker and directed by Tori Haring-Smith, previews at the Willamette University Theatre Thursday, Nov. 13, at 8 p.m. Regular 8 p.m. performances are also scheduled for Nov. 14-15 and Nov. 20-22. Matinees are scheduled for Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. The Nov. 23 performance will be signed for the hearing impaired.

Preview tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for students and seniors. Evening performance tickets are $10 for the general public and $6 for students and seniors. Matinee tickets are $8 for the general public and $6 for students and seniors. Tickets are available beginning Nov. 10. Reservations may be made any time during regular working hours by calling 503-370-6221.

"The play is a plea against violence. It shows that punishment is not always the means by which a society controls and heals itself," said director Haring-Smith. "Because the play demonstrates how theatre builds community, it will be staged in the round. In this way, the actors will be enveloped by the audience, and the audience will be aware of itself as a community, albeit a temporary one."