Class is in session: City Theatre's 'Seminar' offers lessons
By Alice T. Carter
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
“Seminar” is a comedy for anybody who loves reading or writing, says City Theatre Company artistic director Tracy Brigden.
“It's a snappy, smart, funny contemporary play,” says Brigden, who also is directing Theresa Rebeck's comedy about four young writers and the literary superstar they hire to mentor them to greatness.
Izzy, Martin, Kate and Douglas — a quartet of talented, 20-something, aspiring writers — have paid a lot of money ($5,000 each) to Leonard, a pompous, posturing-but-respected 50-ish writer, who has condescended to read and critique their writings.
During the sessions that unfold in the living room of Kate's family's nine-room Upper West Side apartment, Leonard shreds their self-esteem, their illusions and their work with scathing observations and criticism.
As the meetings proceed, the young writers ask themselves and each other: Is Leonard a sadistic fraud who enjoys being paid to sneer and ridicule or is there a method to his madness?
“It's about these people at this crucial moment in their lives,” Brigden says. “They are people at the tipping point from emerging artist to actual professional.”
“Seminar” also offers an inside look into the writer's world of doubts and delusions, bravado and insecurity as reality and fiction struggle for supremacy.
“They are needy; they are artists but they are irascible-yet-lovable characters,” Brigden says.
There are lots of opportunities for laughter as the characters express themselves, from the self-impressed Douglas, recently returned from a prestigious, invitation-only writers retreat, to Kate, who has been obsessively working and reworking one story for an eternity.
Rebeck is an experienced practitioner at giving audiences a window on the inner workings of professions.
She has produced and written for television series that include “NYPD Blue” and “Law & Order,” as well as the first season of “Smash,” which chronicles the lives of artists and others striving to create a hit Broadway musical.
Brigden's relationship with Rebeck goes back for over two decades.
They met and became friends in 1992 when Brigden directed Rebeck's one-act comedy “Candy Heart” for the eighth annual Manhattan Punch Line Festival.
In 2001, when Hartford Stage Company commissioned Rebeck to write a contemporary adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's “A Doll's House,” Brigden, then associate artistic director at Hartford Stage, directed Rebeck's “DollHouse.”
More recently, Brigden produced Rebeck's one-woman comedy “Bad Dates” as part of City Theatre's 2004-05 season.
Brigden gave “Seminar” a slot in City Theatre's season because its setting intrigued her. “I grew up in a family with careers in the publishing industry and we had a lot of literary friends,” Brigden says. “The subject matter is something that intrigued me.”
She also liked that the script contained some surprises, including a change of location late in the play that places Leonard in his own surroundings.
“It's really fun to go from (Kate's) Upper West Side Riverside apartment to (Leonard's) apartment, a great West Village, book-filled townhouse,” Brigden says.
She also hints at other unexpected twists that come before the show concludes: “Everybody gets to move forward,” Brigden says. “Everyone advances.”
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Orpik out, Neal to have phone hearing
- Steelers notebook: Wallace return greeted with boos
- Steelers’ playoff hopes all but gone in loss to Dolphins
- Wrestling attendance record falls as Penn State tops Pitt
- Likely loss of Steelers draft pick looms because of Tomlin misstep
- Worst of winter storm expected to miss Pittsburgh
- Maine WCTU chapter takes low-key approach to abstinence
- Penguins’ Orpik taken off ice on stretcher in loss to Bruins
- Breaking down the Pirates’ needs entering winter meetings
- State police kill knife-wielding suspect in child abduction from Brentwood
- Donora woman found dead in burning home