It’s a rare occurrence for Thunder River Theatre Company (TRTC), or any theater, to have two openings in the same week. In this case, only one of the two is a theatrical opening. Still, for TRTC, it’s a first worth celebrating.
A theatrical performance, “Circle Mirror Transformation,” opens on Thursday, Feb. 10. The play, written by Annie Baker, is a meta-theatrical piece (that is, a play about theater) about three individuals who join an adult drama class. It takes place in a fictional town, Shirley, in the very real state of Vermont. The entire production takes place in a single-room dance studio.
The drama class consists of a “recently divorced, and emotionally vulnerable” carpenter named Schultz; a former actress, Teresa, described as earnest and vibrant; a “reserved and self-conscious” high school student called Lauren; their instructor, Marty; and her friendly husband, James. All but the husband and wife are strangers to one another.
Through acting exercises, and in between, the audience learns about the individuals and what makes them tick. For better or worse, the characters’ actions reflect relatable aspects of our human condition.
“It’s a space where people who are in desperate need of connection are seeking to find it,” explained the show’s director, Renee Prince. “What’s so beautiful about Annie Baker is, at the same time, she shows how much we desperately need each other.”
The piece is intended to be raw and real to incite true emotion. The relatability, however, also serves up some comedic tones throughout the play. Additionally, Prince mentioned that Baker uses silence to convey meaningful messages. She noted how pauses and breaks serve as their own means of communication.
This is the first show Prince will have directed on the TRTC stage. However, being the executive artistic director of the nonprofit VOICES, she has arranged “original theater shows to amplify local voices on Thunder River’s stage” before, as explained to The Sopris Sun.
“It’s a play that I adore. I love it so much. It’s been quite an honor and a true pleasure to work on it,” said Prince, a big fan of Baker’s written works.
On Wednesday, Feb. 9, the day before the play’s opening night, an art exhibit debuted with a reception in the lobby of TRTC. The installation, called “The Thunder River Group Show,” is made up of works from five Valley artists: Matty Davis, Chris Hassig, Natalia Snider, Clair Tweedy and Joslyn Doerge (Joz D.). Interestingly, there are five characters in the play — a subtle mirrored semblance.
Joz D. has on display pieces from her Marilyn Monroe series, which symbolize the integral similarities of human beings. She is also the curator for the exhibit and explained that the purpose of the selected art pieces is “to mirror the varying themes and moods of the play.”
“This group of Roaring Fork Valley artists have been selected for their unique aesthetic take on the visual world,” reads a press release. The curator added, “The show itself can be perceived as one large piece: a blending of works ranging from the bright and cheerful to the dark and moody.”
If you’re reading this and it’s news to you, then you’ve likely missed the art show’s opening reception. Not to worry, the exhibit will be waiting for you to peruse before any of the play’s showtimes.
Performances run for three weeks, from Feb. 10 through Feb. 27, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening showings at 7:30 p.m. and matinee options on Sundays. Tickets and more information can be found at www.thunderrivertheatre.com
Joslyn Doerge (Joz D.). Photo by James Steindler