‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ opens Sept. 13 at Grizzly Peak Winery
By Jim Flint for Ashland.news
You may remember Mr. Karp’s acting class in “A Chorus Line.” You know, the one where students try to be a sports car, a table, an ice cream cone.
In “Circle Mirror Transformation,” opening Sept. 13 at Grizzly Peak Winery, Marty’s class goes through some of the same kinds of exercises, but worlds apart. Five very different people, brought together in a Vermont small-town community center for a theater workshop, learn more about themselves and one another than they do about acting.
This Rogue Theater Company production is another in a post-pandemic series of plays featuring actors with multiple seasons at Oregon Shakespeare Festival on their résumés. “Circle” will play Wednesdays through Sundays, Sept. 13 through Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. on Grizzly Peak’s indoor stage.
The Obie Award-winning play was written by Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur fellow Annie Baker, who has her collection of damaged characters trying to find common ground in part through exercises that involve looking at physical mirrors as well as metaphorical ones. And putting them in warmup acting circles is rife for both comic and dramatic potential.
Marty (played by Vilma Silva), is a free-spirited and supportive acting teacher.
Schultz (Greg Linington), is a recently divorced, emotionally vulnerable carpenter.
Lauren (Thilini Dissanayake), is a reserved and self-conscious high school junior.
Theresa (Kjerstine Anderson), is a flirty, earnest and vibrant former actress.
James (Jeffrey King), is an old hippie who is Marty’s quiet and genial husband.
Robynn Rodriguez, also an OSF alumnus, directs. She says the power of the play caught her off guard, bringing to mind her own similar experiences.
“I have spent a lot of time in my life taking community course offerings,” she said. “You meet once a week with people, sometimes with familiar faces, but mostly people you never see except in class. You learn a lot from each other.”
Rodriguez looks forward to rehearsals.
“The actors cast in the RTC production are as accomplished as they are brave,” she said. “It does take courage to open oneself up to a play as still and as quiet as “Circle Mirror Transformation.” I am excited to begin.”
Silva, who plays Marty the teacher, is no stranger to acting exercises.
“I can’t say that I love theater games,” she said, “but over the years I’ve learned how valuable they can be for breaking down the walls that we can put up around ourselves, especially when walking into a room full of people we don’t know.”
She once participated in an exercise at the beginning of a rehearsal process that provided a breakthrough moment.
“Recalling that experience will help me create Marty’s enthusiasm for the exercises,” she said. “Once you experience it, you want to share it with others.”
Silva believes her years of rehearsal experience will be useful for the role.
“We all strive to create a convincing internal and external life in the process. Sometimes — most times — it’s challenging. It’s hard to be vulnerable.”
King was drawn to the prospect of working with his castmates and director Rodriguez as much as to the play itself.
“I really like the play, but mostly I like the people. They are all friends. That makes such a difference in the quality of the experience,” he said.
Silva echoed his comments.
“Our shared history thrills me. There is nothing better than trust in this process,” she said.
Silva says she hopes audiences will love the characters for who they are, maybe see a little of themselves in them, “and maybe love actors a little more for the risks they take.”
King says the husband-wife relationship of Marty and James adds a dynamic different from what’s going on with the other characters.
“Part of what happens to me — and to her — in the story has to do with what’s going on between the two of us offstage,” he said. “That’s what I find especially interesting, playing the result of actions that mostly take place outside the room.”
Rodriguez has worked with King onstage several times.
“But I saw him act in the Bay Area long before working at OSF,” she said. “He and his family lived across the street from my husband and me for a time. When I read Annie Baker’s play, I could hear Jeff’s voice.”
Online tickets for “Circle Mirror Transformation” are $30 for the preview, Sept. 13; $45 for the opening, Sept. 14, a benefit for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Oregon; and $35 for all other performances. Tickets at the door are $40, and tickets at various support levels are also available.
There will be wine and a talkback following the Sept. 14 performance. Wine Wednesdays are Sept. 20 and 27 with the first glass complimentary and discounts on bottles. Talkback Thursdays are Sept. 21 and 28. And Friend Fridays offer discounts for multiple ticket orders.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to roguetheatercompany.com.
Reach writer Jim Flint at firstname.lastname@example.org.