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SUNY Oswego’s ‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ Probes Games, Emotions

SUNY Oswego cast members mimic the wheel-of-life relationships that "Circle Mirror Transformation" will form and tear apart on the Hewitt Union's lab theater stage late this month and early in March. Clockwise from lower left are Megan Hickey as Marty, instructor of an acting class in a Vermont studio; and Nicholas Cocks (James), Cadi Hannold (Lauren), Colleen McClure (Theresa) and Matt Smith (Schultz), the students who learn much as the games in the class arouse real emotions and relationships.

SUNY Oswego cast members mimic the wheel-of-life relationships that "Circle Mirror Transformation" will form and tear apart on the Hewitt Union's lab theater stage late this month and early in March. Clockwise from lower left are Megan Hickey as Marty, instructor of an acting class in a Vermont studio; and Nicholas Cocks (James), Cadi Hannold (Lauren), Colleen McClure (Theresa) and Matt Smith (Schultz), the students who learn much as the games in the class arouse real emotions and relationships.

OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego’s spring honors production, “Circle Mirror Transformation,” will key on emotions-exposing games within an acting class within the play, as it runs the last weekend in February and the first weekend in March in Hewitt Union’s lab theater.

SUNY Oswego cast members mimic the wheel-of-life relationships that "Circle Mirror Transformation" will form and tear apart on the Hewitt Union's lab theater stage late this month and early in March. Clockwise from lower left are Megan Hickey as Marty, instructor of an acting class in a Vermont studio; and Nicholas Cocks (James), Cadi Hannold (Lauren), Colleen McClure (Theresa) and Matt Smith (Schultz), the students who learn much as the games in the class arouse real emotions and relationships.
SUNY Oswego cast members mimic the wheel-of-life relationships that “Circle Mirror Transformation” will form and tear apart on the Hewitt Union’s lab theater stage late this month and early in March. Clockwise from lower left are Megan Hickey as Marty, instructor of an acting class in a Vermont studio; and Nicholas Cocks (James), Cadi Hannold (Lauren), Colleen McClure (Theresa) and Matt Smith (Schultz), the students who learn much as the games in the class arouse real emotions and relationships.

Written by Annie Baker and first performed off-Broadway in 2009, the Obie-winning play will preview at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 26, and run at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 and 28 and March 6 and 7, with a finale at 2 p.m. March 8.

All performances are in the “black box” theater across the union’s lobby from the ballroom.

Director Alyssa Otoski, a SUNY Oswego senior with a dual major in theater and English and a women’s studies minor, said “Circle Mirror Transformation,” set in a Vermont acting class, challenges her and the actors to make the play’s five characters “as well developed as possible. Real people are real complicated. My goal is to make them as rich as I can.”

On the relatively unadorned stage, the circle mirror takes on literal and figurative uses and meanings, Otoski said. As the class members play acting games, relationships are formed and broken, hearts are quickened and torn apart, and the students learn “to reflect on who they really are,” she said.

The lab theater’s size — it seats about 70 — promises to enhance the intimacy, Otoski said. “You never get closer to someone than when you are in a production together,” she said. “Theater really brings people together, and you open yourself up, you’re vulnerable.”

After the play’s off-Broadway opening, a New York Times reviewer called it “absorbing, unblinking and sharply funny … The artificiality of the acting games just emphasizes the characters’ real lives and feelings.”

‘Challenging questions’

Otoski, who needed to produce director’s notes and undergo interviews to win the nod as director, said “Circle Mirror Transformation” already has helped build her own actor’s toolkit.

“It’s really strengthening how I will relate to a director,” she said. “The cast is really wonderful because they ask me tons of challenging questions. It’s been nice to see it from the other side.”

The student cast includes Cadi Hannold as Lauren, Nicholas Cocks as James, Colleen McClure as Theresa, Matt Smith as Schultz and Megan Hickey as Marty.

Student crew members are stage manager Emma Johnson, assistant stage manager Taylor McCown, assistant director Remington, scene designer Nae Young Gwak (mentored by theater faculty member Aleksandra Kraszpulska, who also is lighting designer) and sound designer Ryan Carley (mentored by Greg Brewster).

Other faculty and staff members on the crew include costume designer Kitty Macey, costume shop supervisor Judy McCabe, technical director Sean Culligan, properties manager Jessica Culligan and dramaturg Jessica Hester.

Tickets for “Circle Mirror Transformation” are $15 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students) and are available at SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu and by calling 315-312-2141.

Tickets for the preview are $5.

Parking is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the employee and commuter lots in front of Culkin Hall and behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls.

Patrons needing assistance should call 312-2141 in advance of the performance.