Special thanks to Vicki Schairer, our Professional Artistic Intern, who actually compiled all of the information and made this project happen.
The first entry in our Young Artist Blogs comes from Marie Polizzano:
Hi there. My name is Marie Polizzano, and I play Lauren in Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation. The play takes place in the fictional town of Shirley, VT at the community center where the characters have come to take a 6 week adult creative drama class. At age 16, Lauren is the youngest person in the class, and she has come there because she wants to prepare herself for the upcoming Fall musical auditions at her school, Shirley High.
In creating the character of Lauren, I have to constantly imagine and re-imagine the world of this play. Where is Shirley, VT? What kind of place is it? Who are the people that live there? What is the community like?
What we know from the play and the playwright is that Shirley, VT is very rural. “Small-town New England.” I can easily imagine such a place, due to my upbringing in a very similar small town in Connecticut. I imagine that Shirley is like my hometown in that there are lots of family-owned places, not many chain stores, not a lot of shopping, but lots of homes and gardens and farms and schools, some privately owned bookstores, coffee shops, boutiques. My hometown, like Shirley, had a community center that offered the same kinds of creative arts classes, many of which I took when I was a young student just like Lauren. In imagining the community of Shirley, I am drawing from my own upbringing and remembering lots of people from home, some of whom remind me in certain ways of the other characters in the play.
The fact that these people live in a community that is so rural and disconnected from the hustle and bustle of city life is absolutely specific and crucial to the play. These citizens of Shirley have never taken a creative drama class. They are not even sure what it might entail. The class is under-enrolled (only 4 people signed up). They are naive to the intimacy, trust, and openness that the theatre exercises will demand. They have never been asked to embody an animal or an object. It is awkward and uncomfortable for Lauren. It is all so much outside of anything she’s ever done before. All of the characters are not used to interacting with people outside of their respective “circles” at work, at home, or at school.
All of this has been important to remember throughout the rehearsal process. As an actor, I’ve had to “un-learn” a lot of these theatre exercises, had to try to see them through Lauren’s eyes and not my own. As Marie, I know all the rules to these activities; I know what works and what doesn’t because I’ve participated in a lot of these exercises throughout my theatre training. As Marie, I am comfortable standing up in front of a group of people and telling a story. I like collaborating with new people, building trust, remaining open and creative with others. As Lauren, though, I am the complete opposite. I don’t know these theatre games, I don’t feel comfortable standing in front of people and giving a speech, and I feel awkward opening up to strangers.
Imagining Shirley, VT and who these characters are has been important for our rehearsal process. I am eager to hear more from the actors in the 2 other Shirley, VT plays. Are they imagining Shirley in the same way? Who are their characters, and might Lauren know them from school or around town?
More to come! Thanks for reading!
Marie Polizzano* (Lauren) has previously worked with the Huntington on She Loves Me (swing and assistant to the choreographer), How Shakespeare Won the West (understudy), and Pirates! (Or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder'd) (assistant to the choreographer). Regionally she has appeared in As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, and Shakespeare On Love (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company); The Crucible, Othello, and Of Mice and Men (New Rep on Tour); A Christmas Carol (Stoneham Theatre); Hamlet (GAN-e-meed Theatre Project); and Limonade Tous Les Jours (Exquisite Corps). She can be seen in various commercials and the upcoming independent films Slip and Fall and Gem of the West. Ms. Polizzano earned her B.F.A. in acting from the Boston University School of Theatre and has also studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.