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Mirror, mirror ... 

SET and PPCC team up for an artistic transformation

We all love those simple pairings in life: peanut butter and jelly; dinner and a movie; green eggs and ham. Now we've got an art exhibit paired with a performing arts show. This week Springs Ensemble Theatre and the Pikes Peak Community College Downtown Studio Art Gallery have paired a play and art show all about finding one's voice.

What brought the two organizations together was a need for mirrors. The play's setting requires them, and the downtown campus' dance studio was just the place.

"So when Sarah [Shaver, SET vice president and PPCC instructor] needed a space for Circle Mirror Transformation with mirrors on three walls we spent quite a bit of time talking about the various possibilities [of collaborating an art exhibit with the play,]" says Laura BenAmots, PPCC art gallery director.

Shaver and BenAmots will open the dividing wall between the performing space and gallery to give the audience a wholly unique experience. "The art exhibit is the audience sitting space for the play," BenAmots says. "Voicing the Voices is an exhibit [that concludes a series of shows] about the challenges of domestic violence."

Circle Mirror is a 2009 play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker. Based in the fictional town of Shirley, Vermont, (which Baker has used in some of her other well-known plays) the Obie Award-winning Circle Mirror follows four strangers who sign up for an acting workshop at the local community center. Led by Marty, the acting instructor, James, Schultz, Theresa and Lauren come together to engage in a six-week acting exercise program and end up discovering much more about themselves in the process.

"[When I wrote the play] I knew I wanted the audience to learn about the characters through formal theater exercises," Baker says in a 2009 email interview with Playwrights Horizons. "I knew I wanted there to be excruciating silences. I knew I wanted a doomed class romance that left one character embarrassed and the other heartbroken. I knew I wanted the characters to deliver monologues as each other. I knew I wanted information about these people to come out in the strangest places, and I wanted us to know them all intimately by the end of the play ... I also wanted to show how beautiful (and noble!) it is when people throw themselves earnestly and unselfconsciously into something, even if it's a therapeutic reenactment."

"As Max [Ferguson, director] says 'It's a love letter to the theater,'" says Shaver. "So anyone who's ever taken an acting class would recognize these crazy silly games we play. And it seems like a bunch of little nothings, but it's building into a bigger something."

BenAmots puts it this way: "Both the art performance and the exhibit invite visitors to reflect upon their own journey."

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