Victoria Alvarez-Chacon and Tim Gouran in World Builders. Photo by Casey Campbell Photography.
Bag&Baggage Productions, Hillsboro’s resident professional theater company, challenges what we think we know about neurodiversity with World Builders by Johnna Adams, directed by Scott Palmer. “World Builders asks us to reimagine what it means to be ‘mentally ill,’ and asks audiences to set aside what they think they know and be open to a different perspective” says Palmer, “this is a deeply intimate show, and I think putting two characters who struggle with mental illness and autism – and do so in such a relatable and accessible way – center stage is unique.”
World Builders is both a departure from, and return to Bag&Baggage’s roots. It is a contemporary play in both writing and production, rather than a classic or historical production that the company has been known for. At the same time, this production sees a number of past Bag&Baggage performers and designers returning to work on this show. This includes Palmer himself, who founded the company, as well as Jim Ricks-White (former technical director of the company) as the lighting designer, former in-house costume designer Mel Heller returns to lend her designs to this production, and actors Victoria Alvarez-Chacon and Tim Gouran were both seen on The Vault stage within the past two years (in Red Velvet, and The Last White Man respectively). Palmer remarks, “one of the things I am enjoying most about coming back and working with B&B is that I am able to direct more contemporary works. I still love the classics for sure, but WB will mark the third piece of contemporary drama I’ve directed for B&B and I am really loving the chance to work with these incredibly gifted artists on modern theatre!”
World Builders takes an unflinching look at the way in which our society treats – or doesn’t treat – those with neurodiversity and mental illness. The play centers on Max and Whitney, two individuals with a compulsive draw towards creating and living in the richly detailed worlds they’ve constructed in their minds. As they undergo a clinical drug trial meant to cure them of what their doctors have diagnosed as schizoid personality disorder, they grapple with what being cured means for their worlds, and examine what it might be like to create a world they can both inhabit together.
Bag&Baggage hopes to partner with a number of mental health and autism advocacy and awareness organizations for this production, and to bolster the show itself with talk-backs and discussions on the themes lead by members of the mental health and neurodiversity community.
World Builders opens February 16th and runs through March 3rd at Bag&Baggage’s The Vault theatre in Hillsboro. Tickets can be found online at bagnbaggage.org, by emailing email@example.com, or by calling 503-345-9590.