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Curtain Call

Bag and Baggage mainstay Maggie Chapin takes new role as Hillsboro arts council supervisor
by: Chase Allgood Bag&Baggage Productions mainstay Maggie Chapin says she’s looking forward to watching the company’s performances instead of acting in them now that she’s taken on a role with the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council.

In the past six years, Maggie Chapin has been many things to many people. She's been a vulnerable student, an impassioned lover and a murderous matriarch. She's given readings, sat in the director's chair, hosted gala events and spearheaded fundraisers. She's even been a lusty male sailor.

Now, after six years as a grounding member of Hillsboro theater company Bag and Baggage Productions, Chapin, 34, is taking on her biggest role yet: the Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council's program supervisor. She had previously worked with the Walters Cultural Arts Center in a part-time capacity.

In the new position, which she started last month, Chapin heads a mayoral advisory council, managing action items from the Hillsboro 2020 Vision Plan, which aims to exponentially increase the role of the arts in the community. She also administers grants and puts on professional development workshops and leadership summits.

But her new position comes with one big casualty: Chapin must leave the stage of the Venetian Theatre due to an increased workload and a conflict of interest between her job as a government-appointed arts administrator and working with an organization that falls under her position's umbrella.

'It was a big decision, and a rough decision,' says Chapin, choking up slightly. 'Leaving Bag and Baggage was a little scary at first. This is a company I've helped build with my sweat, blood and tears.'

Chapin, who holds a degree in English and Theater from Western Oregon University and an MFA in performance from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has been involved with Bag and Baggage since its inception in 2005, when members toured the state, bringing theater to cities such as Astoria and Hood River that don't have their own professional companies.

The organization has since grown to become part of the cultural fabric of the Hillsboro arts community, with sell-out shows at the Venetian and the group's popular outdoor summer Shakespeare performances drawing massive crowds.

In her role with the HACC, Chapin says she is able to further her involvement in the community arts scene by helping to promote and foster the arts on a much larger scale.

'The opportunity to work with the HACC is huge,' says Chapin, an Oregon City native. 'It's this community that, on a grass roots level, decided arts and culture are important. This is just another way to do the work and stretch my wings to support all the organizations in town. I know the people here in town and their relationships with each other and their potential, so I can use this position to support the growth here in the community.'

Chapin does, however, have a final curtain call. Beginning Wednesday, she takes on the role of Lenny, the frumpy and frazzled elder sister in Bag and Baggage's production of Beth Henley's 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning black comedy 'Crimes of the Heart.' The play, which runs through Oct. 9, tells the story of three southern sisters whose world is thrown into a tizzy when the youngest sister shoots her husband.

'People are drawn to it because it's such a clear story. The themes throughout this are easily identifiable,' says Chapin. 'You know what's going on, the plot is clear and it's really, really funny. It's hilarious, but it's also kind of sad and disturbing.'

Scott Palmer, the founder and artistic director of Bag and Baggage, says he's sad to see such a good friend and essential company member go. But the Hillsboro native says he's excited to see what Chapin can bring to the arts community through her years of connecting with audience members.

'The good news is that Maggie is taking that experience and expanding her influence out from Bag and Baggage and into the higher cultural community in Hillsboro,' says Palmer. 'All of that cachet and experience and connection she's created with us and as a programmer for the arts center, she can now use those skills and connections to expand arts and culture broadly.

'That's a success not only for Maggie and her personal growth, but it's also a success for Bag and Baggage. We've really helped facilitate her growth as a leader in the community, someone people respect and admire, and that's going to be good for everybody.'

Chapin says that although she is saddened to leave Bag and Baggage as a performer, she's excited to watch the company grow from a different vantage point, all while striving to help it and other organizations continue to expand in the community.

She's also keen on the idea of finally getting to sit back and enjoy the performances from the seats of the Venetian without the pressures of participating in the shows.

'It's going to be fun to be on the other side of it,' says Chapin. 'I know I'm going to miss it, but I don't think I'm quitting acting.

'I'm taking a temporary retirement, is how I like to think about it.'