Transformation tales

Art meets architecture at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix (Photo by Lynn Trimble)

The Herberger Theater Center, already a jewel among Valley theater venues, underwent a beautiful transformation last year — with changes that included the installation of this shimmering sculpture of light that hangs through a circle in the center of the lobby.

But I’ll be enjoying a circle of a different sort at the Herberger Theater Center this weekend. It’s the Arizona premiere of Annie Baker’s play titled “Circle Mirror Transformation” — which follows the misadventures of students in a small acting class at a community center.

I’m especially eager to see the performance of one actor in particular — Maren Maclean in the role of acting student Theresa. In real life, Maren is a mom and acting teacher extraordinaire.

Maren Maclean, now performing in Circle Mirror Transformation, with my daughter Lizabeth

I know this because my daughter Lizabeth studied acting with Maclean for many years — at Arizona School for the Arts, Scottsdale Community College and in private coaching sessions.

Lizabeth is beginning a transformation of her own — from high school theater student to college student in an acting B.F.A. program back East. I’ll share word of her college decision in a future post if she gives me the green light.

For now, I am delighted to have the opportunity to watch Maclean and the other Valley actors featured in Actors Theatre’s “Circle Mirror Transformation.” I know the power they’ve had in transforming the lives of students and audiences for years.

Maren Maclean in a scene from Circle Mirror Transformation (Image from photo by John Groseclose)

We think too often that NYC has somehow cornered the market on all that is good and true in theater. But tonight, as I’m feeling a bit teary-eyed with thoughts of sending Lizabeth off to the big city, I know her real transformation started right here in the Valley.

She’s been nurtured, inspired and challenged for years — as a person and an artist — by many in the Arizona theater community. Childsplay. Greasepaint Youtheatre. Phoenix Theatre. And others whose work has touched her along the way.

“Circle Mirror Transformation,” though full of humorous moments, offers profound insights as well. Into human nature. Into our own personal foibles and follies. Into what people can accomplish together. Into what we must undertake alone.

The cast of Circle Mirror Transformation with Actors Theatre of Phoenix (Photo by John Groseclose)

This weekend, as I experience the Actors Theatre production of “Circle Mirror Transformation,” I’ll be thinking of the little girl whose time at the Herberger Theater Center has been such an important part of her transformation to young adult and blossoming artist.

I know the cast of “Circle Mirror Transformation” will deliver a powerful performance, and suspect those who experience their work will leave the theater feeling their own taste of transformation.

– Lynn

Note: Those who attend the Sun, May 1 performance of “Circle Mirror Transformation” are invited to stay after the show for a free talkback with cast and creative team members — who can share their own insights about transforming Baker’s script into their own performance of the piece.

Coming up: Remembering the Holocaust, May art picks, Town hall meets arts and culture, International Museum Day

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