The Clarence Brown Theatre debuted this month's performance with its production, "Our Country's Good," by Timberlake Wertenbaker on Oct. 3.
The production is based on the novel "The Playmaker," by Thomas Keneally, and features the story of transporting convicts through the first British prison ships. The production is set in 1788-1789 in the prison colony of Botany Bay, or modern day Sydney.
Both the novel and the play are based on the true story of hardship and peril as 1,420 marines and criminals arrived in Botany Bay in 1788, facing starvation and tension among the members on the ship.
"'Our Country's Good' is an important play to showcase at because it teaches the audience," said Emma Wright, sound board operator for the production. "The play is based on fact, so audience members learn about the history of Australia. The idea of a convict colony is unique and provides an interesting story, one that most students have probably not heard."
The production entails a play within a play, as the convicts and captains act and perform their own production to pass time on the ship and to give incentives for the convicts to refrain from committing additional crimes while on the journey.
"This play preaches the importance of the theater," Wright, a junior in English, said. "The play within the play, 'The Recruiting Officer,' is put on as a type of therapy for the convicts. While studying, rehearsing and performing 'The Recruiting Officer,' the characters of 'Our Country's Good' take a break from the hard labors of their lives.
"This is exactly what our audience is doing while watching our production. Students can appreciate the art and relax during the show."
Calvin MacLean, director of "Our Country's Good," further emphasized the role of theater in the plot line of this production.
"'Our Country's Good' is not satisfied, however, with merely suggesting that the act of theater played a role in the transformation of Botany Bay," MacLean said. "It also argues that the transformation of individual lives, of the hearts and minds of audiences and even of the attitudes of entire societies, is at the center of the theater's power and purpose."
The production features multiple aspects of theater that aren't seen in everyday plays. Every cast member of the production plays at least two characters, sometimes three, making the audience pay that much more attention and really focus on the individual characters.
"This play is important in the realm of theater because of the meta-theater aspect," Wright said. "Plays-within-plays are hard to write and perform. By writing a large list of characters for a small cast, almost every actor has to play more than one role.
"This really showcases the individual's talent."
Although the show is mainly for amusement purposes, Wright said the information is important to the experience.
"Mainly, this play – like all productions – is put on for the audience's entertainment," she said. "'Our Country's Good' is very entertaining, but it is also informative about a different place and time."
The production runs from Wednesday to Sunday through Oct. 20 at the Carousel Theatre. Student tickets are $5.