MOSCOW — Idaho Repertory Theatre will open its summer season Thursday with the comedy “Circle Mirror Transformation.”The play, written by Annie Baker, won an Obie Award for best new play and has been called “absorbing, unblinking and sharply funny,” by the New York Times.
The play will be directed by UI theatre graduate and Moscow native Daniel Haley.
Set in an adult introductory theatre class, the play tells the story of instructor Marty and her eclectic mix of students as they muddle through acting games that push emotions and abilities to the limit.
“For me, it’s a microcosm into everything theatre should be,” Haley said. “A highly comic yet heartfelt glimpse of life.”
Haley is no stranger to IRT. He performed in six IRT productions before graduating from the UI with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2002. Haley, a recipient of the UI’s Rex Raybold Fellowship, spent two years in Ashland, Ore., working alongside Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors, directors and designers.
Haley directed Moscow Community Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” in 2008 and co-directed UI’s production of “Die Fledermaus” in 2009.
Haley already knows or has worked closely with most of the members of the “Circle Mirror Transformation” cast, and he said working alongside his mentors has been a productive and cooperative experience.
“The actors are insightful,” he said. “Willing to try anything I throw at them. I make a suggestion, and they take it further than I had anticipated. I pose a funny idea, and they own it to create a truly hilarious moment. We’re all mutually learning all the time.”
Guest artist Rich Brown will play the role of Schultz, a recently divorced carpenter whose life is full of emotional ups and downs and whose dark secrets are divulged through the many theatre exercises Marty pushes the class through.
Brown has 25 years acting experience and has taught the past three summers at the National Theatre of Romania in Bucharest.
Brown, who was an associate professor teaching physical acting for six years at Western Washington University, said his training with master teachers Stephen Wangh and Mary Overlie at New York University’s Tisch’s Experimental Theatre Wing has helped him apply his talents directly to creating the character of Schultz.
“The actor should always be seeing, and seeing is in the whole body. (Physical acting) is trying to connect images — whether imagined or physical — and those images land on the spine and emanate throughout the body,” he said.
So when Schultz first steps foot in the classroom full of strangers it’s easy to tell he feels out of place, Brown said.
“He’s collapsed … shoulders forward to protect his heart.”
Schultz goes through many changes throughout the class, and his mannerisms reflect his newfound openness to the world. His ability to navigate hardship and still return to the class week after week is one of his most respectable qualities, Brown said.
“There’s a payoff for having the courage to connect with other people,” he said. “Schultz is holding back from life, from himself, but he finds the courage … he gets hurt and moves forward … this is a huge payoff.”
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Aug. 23-25 and 2 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 26 in the UI Hartung Theater on the corner of Sixth Street and Stadium Drive in Moscow.
General admission is $10. Advance tickets can be purchased by calling (208) 885-6465 or by visiting the UI Department of Theatre Arts’ main office in Shoup 201 on the Corner of Sixth and Rayburn streets.
For more information, call (208) 885-6465.
This year’s IRT season was shortened to accommodate rigging improvements in the Hartung Theater. A crew of six certified UI theatre students worked since May 21 to update the theater’s 38-year-old rigging system, which consists of supports and counterweights that hold up the theater’s lighting and the equipment that is used to fly objects and people across stage.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Idaho Repertory Theatre presents “Circle Mirror Transformation”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Aug. 23-25; 2 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 26
WHERE: Hartung Theater, Sixth St. and Stadium Drive, UI campus
INFO: www.uitheatre.com, (208) 885-6465