Tuesday night, USC's Theatre Department rehearsed "Circle Mirror Transformation," a student-directed play set to open Thursday, Nov. 19. The play follows an adult acting class taken by four strangers (Teresa, James, Schultz and Lauren) over a six-week period. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker, the play is directed by Jamie Boller, a fourth-year theatre student at USC.
“Jamie is actually my roommate, which is really cool,” Cami Reid, a fourth-year education student who plays Teresa in the show, said. “I get to see everything that goes into being a director. [Jamie] was an actress before, and now she is a director. She has a lot of experience as an actress, and that helps her speak to us as actors and actresses and also as peers.”
Reid's perspective is fitting, as "Circle Mirror Transformation" is a 'meta' play that explores the lives of theatre students. The play includes real-life theatre exercises such as voice exercises, acting out sceneries from one another’s lives, reenactments and mirroring techniques. Between these exercises and the interactions that follow, the students’ characters are revealed over the six weeks.
One such character is Lauren, played by first-year theatre student Sofia Pavone. A 16-year-old high school student, Lauren is a stubborn and determined character who thinks she knows more than everyone. Throughout the acting class, Lauren confronts how wrong her assumptions about herself are and learns not be too hard on herself regardless. Pavone commented on the peculiariaties of adopting a character learning about the process of acting.
“I can definitely relate to the exercises that we do in the play and the reactions that Lauren has,” Pavone said. “Breathing and relaxation exercises are very important in acting.”
Beyond the self-referential aspect, there is real-life drama in "Circle Mirror Transformation," including romance, anger and heartbreak.
The relationship between Marty, the teacher, and James, her student, is one of the most grounded and compelling aspects of the show. The two characters are married, but James' previous marriage adds another dimension to the relationship. The characters initially seem to be happily in love, but over time the audience sees that the relationship is broken. Graduate MA student Ryan Stevens talked about James and his relationship with Marty.
“James is a really complex guy,” Stevens said. “He likes to goof off and he has a great sense of humor, but at the same time he is very hard on himself. And he wants to be the best version of himself that he can be, not for anybody else but for him. His past is catching up with him, and that is hurting both him and Marty.”
The complexity of "Circle Mirror Transformation" allows it to embody multiple genres. Midlands Tech student Megh Ahire shared his thoughts about the crossover genres of the show.
“I think that it is just a little bit of everything,” Ahire said. “I really like plays that don’t stick to one genre in the content. Because Circle Mirror is funny, it’s sad, it’s hopeful (and) it’s awful at times. It’s all of that at one time, and I really like that.”
Ahire plays Schultz, a quirky, hopeless romantic that has a difficult time handling his anger. This is apparent countless times throughout the six weeks. Ahire said that he liked playing Schultz because of the similarities between himself and the character.
“I think [audiences] should expect anything," Reid said. "It’s different from other plays. It’s not a big show, with big costumes and makeup. It’s all really about seeing a natural production. It’s really about feeling that you are in the class with us.”
"Circle Mirror Transformation" is showing from Nov. 19 to 22 at the Lab Theatre on Wheat Street. Tickets are $5 at the door.