Isadoora Theatre Presents “Circle Mirror Transformation”

The cast of “Circle Mirror Transformation,” featuring (left to right) Chris Milton, Anne St. Henry, John Wilson, Ed DiMaio, and Elizabeth Fahrenkrug, rehearses for the Isadoora Theatre production. Photo by Len Villano.

It’s not everyday that you see a play as touching and profound as it is funny. Circle Mirror Transformation unravels the lives of four people with seemingly nothing in common. Into one room come a flirty former actress, a pouty 16-year-old, a hippie husband and a divorced carpenter, who have all signed up for a community acting class.

“In Circle Mirror Transformation, all the exercises are taken from a book called Improvisations for the Theatre, written by Viola Spolin,” said John Wilson, who’s directing the production for Isadoora Theatre. “The characters come into this workshop with a set of values and they are opened up.”

The play, written by Annie Baker, won the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play, and was voted one of the top 10 plays of 2009 by The New York Times, Time Out New York, and The New Yorker.

“The danger of this play is that if you become too emotional about the thing, or take too much time with all the language, it can turn into a soap opera,” said Wilson. “The language is mostly improvisation, and full of angst…so you have to be kind of selective with that.”

The thoughts and ideas that come out of the characters during their transformation in the class, and throughout the play, are reformulated into the actor or actress portraying them.

“In a play like this you find actors that say, ‘Good God, I’m playing myself!’ It’s happened more than once,” said Wilson. “I hope it can be cathartic. But it’s not meant to be a psychodrama. It’s a very funny and emotional play. The audience should feel a little bit like voyeurs, because they’re looking into the personal lives of these people.”

Circle Mirror Transformation holds special meaning to Wilson, who played the role of James, the teacher’s hippie husband and director of the acting center, for a production staged by the Perseverance Theatre Company in Alaska.

“I came down and saw the Chicago Première in Victory Gardens – with a very good cast – but they missed it! They missed the souls of these people,” said Wilson. “I thought, I could direct this thing…it’s a very honest piece, and if it’s done honestly, it’s a wonderful play and lives in a modern sense.”

Circle Mirror Transformation plays May17 – 20 and 24 – 27 at the Ephraim Village Hall, located at 9996 Water Street, Ephraim. Thursday through Saturday performances begin at 7:30 pm with Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for students, and may be purchased at the door or reserved in advance by calling Isadoora at 920.493.DOOR (payments must be made by cash or check only). For more information visit or