Theater preview: Circle Mirror Transformation at Otterbein University

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From the June 21, 2012 edition

When Taibi Magar talks about guest-directing “Circle Mirror Transformation” at Otterbein University, she knows whereof she speaks. Magar returns to her alma mater — she graduated with a theater degree in 2004 — this month with Annie Baker’s OBIE-winning comedy.

The story is set in an “adult creative drama” class at a community center in a small Vermont town.

“In this drama class, there’s not a lot of drama, because that’s not real life,” Magar said. “Life moves in more subtle, surprising ways that you can really only understand years later. And Annie Baker captures this effortlessly.”

Five characters — the middle-aged teacher and her husband, an actress who has just left New York, a recently divorced guy and a sixteen-year-old hoping to snag the lead in her high school play — go through the drills that help actors act.

“We theater artists all know these acting exercises, how completely scary and/or ridiculous they are,” Magar said. “The task for the actors is discovering it through the lens of the character, and rediscovering what it feels like to approach this acting class brand new each and every performance.”

“What makes this play so beautiful is that the characters are clearly different people, but they are not overwrought,” Magar continued. “There is no huge event onstage, no apocalyptic climax. But at the end, as audience, we all understand that the class actually has meant something. There is not a denouement or some crispy realization. The play turns our heads a little and we see something differently, which is usually how life happens.”