What Makes a Good Person? Pacific University’s Fall Theatre Production Explores Goodness and Greed

This October on Pacific University’s Tom Miles stage, the world of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan will come to life through the direction of professor and Theatre & Dance department chair Ellen Margolis.

The Good Woman of Setzuan is the story of a sympathetic soul overmatched by the need and greed around her. In a time of corruption and competition run amok, the gods visit the city of Setzuan in search of at least one good person. Their encounter with Shen Te, a gentle and naive young woman, allows them to go on believing that there is hope for humankind. Left to her own devices among her desperate and demanding neighbors, however, Shen Te must learn to be cunning in order to survive.

At once influenced by Asian theatre, 1930s America, and storybook, the story feels both timeless and contemporary. First performed in 1943, The Good Woman of Setzuan reinvigorates theatrical devices that audiences have become accustomed to. As Margolis says, “We have to go back into our creativity and reawaken the play.”

The creative team bringing together this world include guest artist Brent Sullivan who will serve as Scenic and Lighting Designer, alongside veteran Costume Designer Melissa Heller. Sullivan’s design aesthetic aims to make reference to the Asian influence implied in the title, without grounding the play in a specific real world location, and will make use of backlit screen walls and a bold but earthy color palette.

Heller’s costuming continues the Asian influence, but draws on the silhouettes of the1930s American Dust Bowl. Actors will fill many roles, requiring a fluid costume design that allows each to quickly move between characters. Heller has also skillfully crafted several puppets to round out the large cast called for in the script.

Like many of Brecht’s plays, The Good Woman of Setzuan features a number of songs that comment on the action. Stephanie Landtiser, a recent graduate of Pacific’s Music program, serves as Music Director. The Good Woman of Setzuan features an outstanding cast of student actors including Gray Ashford, Marcus Bogan, Elise Dixon, Sadie Edwards, Trevor Harter, Josh Hauser, Sydney Irwin, Calvin Porterfield, Larissa Reynoso , Brennan Staffieri, Phoebe Whittington, Alexis Zmuda.

The show will have six performances in the Tom Miles Theatre, Warner Hall, at Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus, running Friday and Saturday, October 21 and 22, at 7:30 PM; Sunday, October 23, at 2 PM; and Thursday through Saturday, October 27 through 29, at 7:30 PM. Audiences will be invited to participate in a conversation with cast and crew after most performances. Tickets range from $5 to $8 and may be purchased in advance online at the box office.

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016