I’ve been in school for acting for almost four years now. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing or what an acting class would entail. When I took my partner to see Montana Repertory Theatre’s production of “Circle Mirror Transformation” by Annie Baker this weekend at the Downtown Dance Collective, it had completely slipped my mind that neither did she. I could feel her initial confusion matched only by my excitement of recognition.
Acting exercises are funny. There’s not much else to it. They’re just plain weird. Jumping around and making noises, having nonsense conversations, stretching and meditation and active listening exercises seem like they’d be more at home in a support group or some sort of interactive-therapeutic-yoga regimen. It’s only when you work with one group of people and buy into the work that they become. . .not so strange. The transformation of strange to normal happens in tandem with "stranger-to-friend."
This is the audiences’ ride during the play, part of MRM’s new Visions and Voices initiative, an attempt to bring back theater to the downtown arts community in a more viable way than before. Theatre has changed dramatically in the past twenty years in art centers in metropolitan areas, and Missoula is struggling to catch up. Greg Johnson at the Montana Rep has said that he hopes that Visions and Voices will engage new audiences in story-telling experiences that they’re not used to.
Once the audience acclimates to the strange and intimate setting of an adult community acting class, the small insights into each of the characters’ lives feel so special and specific to the audience that it’s hard to remember that what you’re watching isn’t real; and to be honest, that’s the true mark of a good production.
Performances today and tomorrow at Downtown Dance Collective, 121 W. Main St, Feb. 22-23 at 7:30 PM, with Saturday matinee at 2 PM. $15/$10 for students.