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Playwright Annie Baker enjoys filling in the blanks

January 15, 2011 |  8:00 am

AnnieA wistful glance. A stifled thought. A very long (and awkward) pause.

In Annie Baker's plays, so much goes unsaid. The precision and humor with which she depicts quiet but telling moments from everyday life have helped to make the 29-year-old writer one of the hottest young artists in American theater.

"So many plays now are all about the dialogue and not about the movement and noises made when people aren't talking," says Baker, whose "Circle Mirror Transformation" opens at South Coast Repertory on Friday. The Obie-winning comedy observes the fraught and funny interactions among a teacher and four students in a "creative drama" class at a small-town community center in Vermont.

"I'm very interested in silence," says Baker. She is especially interested in what happens during that silence — "in letting actors play and do things between the lines. And in slowing everything down. There's a moment in 'Circle Mirror' where the stage is empty for 30 seconds. It's one of my favorite parts."

When her characters do speak, they may not say what they mean or mean what they say. In fact, some of the most revealing scenes occur when the students engage in theater games designed to lower their inhibitions. Baker admits even she hadn't expected several of the revelations. "I know the writing's going well when the characters surprise me," she says.

To find out more about Annie Baker and "Circle Mirror," click here for this feature in Sunday's Arts & Books.

— Karen Wada

Photo: Annie Baker. Photo credit: South Coast Repertory.

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