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Circle Mirror Transformation

The cast of Circle Mirror Transformation.

Former Studio Arena reopens with Road Less Traveled production

The final fully produced production to be performed on the Studio Arena Theatre stage was the Road Less Traveled version of To Kill a Mockingbird in 2008. Now, the first fully produced play on the reopened theater at 710 Main will be the Road Less Traveled production of Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, directed by Scott Behrend, and starring Lisa Vitrano, Dave Hayes, Morgan Chard, Robert Rutland, and Kelsey George Mogensen. The play will open on February 1.

Given the recent history of 710 Main as home to Studio Arena, a theater that grew from a community theater, Circle Mirror Transformation seems an appropriate choice. Often described as a “crowd-pleaser,” the critically celebrated play follows a community education course called “Adult Creative Drama.” We enter the lives of five small-town strangers in rural Vermont who enroll in the class.

“Novice Acting Coach Marty offers this motley crew no end of exercises, games, and self-reflective assignments,” according to the production notes. “Eight weeks later, through laughter, romance, and conflict, discoveries have been made. The five strangers have come to know one another—and themselves—more profoundly and intimately than they ever would have suspected.” What could be more uplifting?

The play accumulated a large list of honors when it opened in New York in 2009, including Obie Awards for “Best New American Play” and “Best Performance, Ensemble” as well as a special Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Ensemble Performance.”

We can only wonder about the experiences of such young hopefuls as Amanda Blake, Nancy Marchand, and Michael Bennett—Buffalonians whose careers all passed through Studio Theatre School. Buffalo is still an incubator for young talent and a town in which locally produced theater reflects the lives and aspirations of our population.

“We’re very excited to have an opportunity to produce another high-quality crowd-pleaser at this location,” says Behrend, “and it’s a tremendous honor to be the first to stage a full production since the site reopened. This space has an incredible amount of significance for us, and for the Western New York theater community, and we are proud to be a part of its long-awaited resurrection. I believe I speak for a lot of people when I say I can’t wait to be back inside and to feel the spectacular delight of this stage again!”

Shea’s Performing Arts Center manages programming and marketing at the 710 Main Theatre. Anthony Conte, president of Shea’s, says, “We are very excited to collaborate with Road Less Traveled Productions to present the first full-scale production at the 710 Main Theatre. One of the goals for this theatre is to provide opportunities for local theatre companies to utilize this performance space and attract larger audiences.”

Of course, reopening a space that has been dark since 2008 is a remarkable challenge and requires courage. Studio Arena is gone, and so Circle Mirror Transformation gets no boost from the name recognition of that once-beloved organization. For all practical purposes, 710 Main is starting from scratch.

The 710 Main Theatre is operated as a presenting theater managed by Shea’s Performing Arts Center, which intends to partner “with local and regional theater companies, college theater departments and touring productions to bring an assortment of plays and productions to this 625 seat theatre. The theatre is also available for private and corporate events.”

Circle Mirror Transformation will continue through February 17. Call 629-3069 for information.