Character revealed through acting exercise

Circle Mirror Transformation,

a play written by Annie Baker and a journey taken on by Whitman senior Anthony Reale. The curated synopsis, without spoiling anything, would be:

When four lost New Englanders who enroll in Marty’s six-week-long community-center drama class begin to experiment with harmless games, hearts are quietly torn apart, and tiny wars of epic proportions are waged and won. A beautifully crafted diorama, a petri dish in which we see, with hilarious detail and clarity, the antic sadness of a motley quintet.

“The PlayFinder™.” Dramatists Play Service, Inc.,

“The artificiality of the acting games just emphasizes the naturalness of the characters’ real lives and feelings. Group members pose as trees, beds and baseball gloves. They perform emotional scenes using only the words goulash and ak-mak. They pretend to be one another, telling their life stories. They write deep, dark secrets (anonymously) on scraps of paper and listen, sitting in a circle on the floor, as the confessions are read aloud.”

 Gates, Anita. “At Peter J. Sharp Theater: Actor, Make Like a Tree” The New York Times, October 15, 2009

I originally came to this project in an ancillary role, but health issues confronting the original designer turned things top over teakettle.

As an academic, my only thought in circumstances such as these are to throw my hat in the ring without thought of workload or compensation… because there was a student with a senior project that needed to be supported. Period. That’s how I be; that’s why I teach. Students and their education come first.

This particular play for me speaks to the efficacy of theater games and the stripping away of emotional layers to reach the core of who we truly are. The characters come in to the space with varying levels of reveal and conceal, and I wanted that to be represented in the costumes. The play is divided into four weeks, and the cadence of the writing did not give pause for full costume changes for each week, let alone each day.

I saw the costumes for this particular show and these particular characters being comprised of those physical layers. The acting exercises strip away, while the clothing layers represent what we place upon ourselves (physically or emotionally) to guard us as we move through the world at large.

The layers that these characters wear are like pieces of armor placed for physical protection…greave, breastplate, gauntlet…

But transformation happens as the characters, who often sit in a circle, begin to open up.

I thought it might be fun to share the characters and the collages I’ve created for each character, with hair and makeup choices noted for each:

James (Matt Schetina) is Marty’s husband.
Marty (Ruby Daniel), is the course instructor.
Theresa (Lucy Evans-Rippy) is a former actress who has just moved to this small Vermont town from New York
Schultz (Jai Ahuja) is a lonely divorced guy who lives in the local condo complex.
Lauren (Sienna Axe) is a teenager who wants to work in theater when she grows up. Or maybe go to veterinary school.

First dress tomorrow! More to follow!

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