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Theater group dedicates performance of "Our Country's Good" to Andrew Crabtree

Kenan Theatre Company presents Tmberlake Wertenbaker's "Our Country's Good," directed by Joesph Megel.
Kenan Theatre Company presents Tmberlake Wertenbaker's "Our Country's Good," directed by Joesph Megel.

In 2010, Coble’s daughter performed in a production of “Our Country’s Good” during her time at the Governor’s School of North Carolina. It was at this performance that Coble met a young Andrew Crabtree , who just a year later would come to UNC to study drama.

“Our Country’s Good” tells the story of Great Britain’s settling of Australia in the 1700s, when it was used as a place for penal colonies. The show, based on journals from an early penal colony, follows an officer who decides to do a play as a way to civilize the criminals.

Coble knew years later, when planning KTC’s rendition of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play, she wanted Crabtree in the production as John Wisehammer, the same role he played in 2010.

But what Coble could not anticipate was Crabtree’s death last summer after a battle with cancer. For that reason, KTC’s production of “Our Country’s Good,” which starts today and runs through Monday, is dedicated to him.

“I designed this year’s program hoping Andrew would repeat the role, thinking we’d put it on again,” Coble said. “We all knew he was sick, but no one knew how sick.”

Coble said Crabtree had an elemental personality.

“He was one of the most energetic, bonding members of the department,” she said.

Coble said Crabtree’s parents and friends — like producing director Madison Scott — have been close with each other in the production.

Scott, a senior majoring in dramatic art, said she likes to think the production is able to fulfill a relationship with Crabtree’s family after his death by dedicating the play to him.

“He was a writer and lover of art, and basically he embodied this idea in the play of redemption fully,” Scott said.

Megel said the play tells a lot about class, culture and sexism at the time. There are a lot of different stories told by many colorful characters, which is why Megel chose to cast his production gender-blind.

“What it’s really about is the redemptive power of art in the face of tyranny and justice,” he said.

Sophomore dramatic art and political science double-major Byron Frazelle, who plays main character Ralph Clark, said as second lieutenant his character starts out wanting to please his superiors and get a promotion, but he ends up falling in love with one of the convicts.

“I hope that people will see this show and take away that people can’t be grouped into prisoners versus jailers and black versus white,” Frazelle said. “Life is gray, very gray, and sometimes things will not get resolved, but you just have to continue on.”

Coble said the team has put in a real effort to gather around the idea of the play and around its dedication to Crabtree.

“It’s been a very close task,” she said. “Andrew is part of it in his own way, and I know he’s with us.”

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