What I Learned Watching “Seminar”…

0007656_seminar_300 Dear Gentle Reader,

Today I actually had an opportunity to go and watch a show at the Susan Hammer Theater.

Imagine my joy as I finally got to be in a theater but off stage!  So the show for today is “Seminar” by Theresa Rebeck.  What a phenomenal script! Witty, insightful, funny and powerful.

The synopsis: Four aspiring fiction writers (Kate, Martin, Douglas, Izzy) sign up for private classes with a renowned writer/editor (Leonard). They find that this hardened internationally known author isn’t just cruel in his criticisms of their work for pleasure.  Who makes it? Who gives up? Who breaks all the rules to get what they want? Inexperience is exposed to harsh reality.

The setting is a large New York apartment for almost 3/4 of the play.  A couch, two chairs, a cabinet, and a coffee table take up much of the stage while a very little used booze cart I was coveting was upstage right. There were two doorways.  One led to the kitchen and the other to bedrooms and the front door.  I don’t know why that bothered me so much, but logically to me, I don’t know of any homes where the front door would be closer to the bedrooms than the living room. But, Dear Reader, that did not diminish the feel of this set.  It did feel lavish in it’s color and size and textures of furniture. The kitchen was very well dressed even though you didn’t see inside it very much.  My friend, Kevin, would have been impressed.

Lights were pretty simple as it was mostly a single setting, so lights up and lights down. One thing I was curious about was that while it is a single setting there were a lot of blackouts that didn’t need to be as long as they were. But, Dear Reader, as with all reviews, that opinion is merely subjective.

The acting for the most part was good.  The cast called for is small; five people in total (3B, 2G). Because of this, you really get a chance to see what the people can do. This, however, can be a double edge sword.  If there is a nervous habit that one has, this become obvious to me.  There was one show, which I am not naming, that is an amazing show but the lead had a habit and I was ruined for the whole show. That being said, it is a strong cast with stand out performances offered by David Prete (Leonard) and Sarah Hass (Kate).  Prete, a guest artist, commands the stage from every point he lands on.  The moment we first meet Leonard, Prete draws you in. Excellent performance throughout and with two big moments toward the end of the show, it makes me want to add this role to my bucket list for plays! As Kate, Hass performs with the complexity of an old pro. Her delivery is well executed and strong. Kaythi Win (Izzy) and Matthew Kropschot (Douglas) are both likable and offer up great characterization.  One thing I noticed in Win’s  performance that gave me pause was her nearly juvenile portrayal of seduction.  I just didn’t believe this point of her performance.  Izzy is a character that strikes me as someone who has used sex to her advantage many times, so she should be more convincing.  In Kropschot’s performance, my only criticism was that there were some lines that he just seemed to throw away, as in they just faded out. So more projection all the way through the line.  I am sure Rebeck didn’t write some of these lines just to be mumbled. Now, Jacob Soss (Martin) arguably had the most difficult role.  He plays the defensive, insecure author that clearly loves the craft, but is too afraid to be judged by Leonard to offer any writings. Is it the fear of success he is afraid of? Maybe that insecurity is right and he truly is no good at writing? (Another role I am adding to my bucket list!) He is a good looking and likable enough actor, but his delivery of lines felt way too similar.  There wasn’t much variation in his lilt or volume.  He responds as though everything sounded incredulous to him. His hand gestures were almost too much. You know how if you are going to say “I don’t know” with just your hands, you would bring them up so that the elbows bend almost 90 degrees?  He did that for almost every single line.  It wasn’t always both hands.

The direction is probably the toughest thing for me.  I know there are times when it seems too static on stage so someone should move, but the crosses have to make sense.  The actors have to have a reason for the move, and several times they did not.  To me, that stuck out like a sore thumb. So there was that but also why not try and pull out that seduction level from the Izzy character? Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid show with great pacing and lasts just past the 2 hour mark but I just thought it could be tweaked a little bit.

Oh, Gentle Reader, who is your favorite fiction writer? Is it a man or a woman?  Have you never given this a thought? There is a moment in the script that does make you ponder on the difference in how women are respected in this genre of writing than men.

Let me know in the comments below, your thoughts. Maybe you saw the show and disagree with what I saw.  Let me know that too.

Until next time, Dear Reader…


Be Careful What You Wish For…

Well, I guess my  “vacation” is ovah!!

Almost a month ago, I put it out there that I would love to live a more creative life.

My first step was accepting the first opportunity with an open heart and to commit to learning from that opportunity.

So, I attended a small seminar that was mainly to learn about a new way of thinking and breaking through personal subconscious barriers.  The four columns that uphold this new line of thinking are quantum physics, Eastern philosophies, neuroscience and a trick or two from theatre.  I am a science nerd at heart and love this sort of stuff, so if it helps with what it says it does, then great! But even if it doesn’t, I would still love to find out what these people are teaching and how these four methods are combined.  There were some interesting stories that were told. My fave was about the natural mind versus the acquired mind.   The natural mind is the “empty” brain that we have when we are born.  The acquired mind is what we have stored in the brain through experience.  They say that the majority of everything you know is learned by the time you are 7 or so.  The hostess spoke of turning down more money when it was offered to her.  The theory is that she had learned that she was only worth so much and wouldn’t know how to handle this new responsibility.  Coincidentally, her sister was also offered a crazy good promotion and turned down the offer as well.  When they finally talked about it, it turned out that both offers were much more than what their mother had made as a nurse when they were growing up.    The seminar hostess made sure to tell us that both offers were made in different places and times and they hadn’t discussed it with one another at all, AND that they both talked themselves out of taking the opportunity.  So the question is: is this somehow a subconscious betrayal that they’ve learned as children and did it truly affect their decision?  I am so incredibly excited to be able to attend this 3day workshop at the end of the month!! What will I learn about myself that I’ve supressed?   Ugh, in some ways, I don’t really want to know.

So that has become opportunity one.

Opportunity dos came in a Facebook message from the gorgeous Jillian Toby-Cummings asking if I would be interested in working on Aladdin Jr. for Theatre in the Mountains.  At first, the thought terrified me.  Then I thought about the seminar, so with a big inhale, I replied back saying I would be happy to do it. For a while I didn’t hear anything so I thought maybe it wasn’t going to happen.  But then, I got more emails, and soon availability was talking and auditions.  So now I can’t wait.

Opportunity three came via email from Nancy Kwong asking if I would be interested in being a part of the performing group at the West Valley Light Opera ERMA Awards.  It’s just a song here and a dance there, so of course I’d be happy to do it.  The rehearsals have been few and far between and the banquet is at the end of the month.  It’s on the last day of the seminar, so I have to RUSH home and change and get to the dinner before the entertainment begins to get all situated.  Boy this one is gonna be tough.

Number four: Was one that was poorly planned on my behalf.  I wanted to audition for WVLO’s How To Succeed partially because I wanted to do another show, but mostly because I want to stop being so fearful at auditions.  There were about a dozen auditions happening within these last two weeks that I wanted to audition for as many as I could.  Turns out that the “Succeed” auditions were first.  I didn’t think I was impressive in the least, but soon after the callbacks, I was being offered Bart Bratt, the Personnel Manager.  Cool, but I said I’d like to get back to them because of the other auditions.  The producer, Sergio Pena,  is such a great guy and I get along well with him, so he made me feel like I was terrible for not doing his show.  He first told me “I totally understand, what you are trying to do as far as creating a career and how it’ll affect shows, but not when it’s my show.”  On top of this, he and I spoke about it over dinner one night when we were hanging out AND he said I should try to audition more outside of my little corner of comfort.  So he talked me into doing the show.  That clever little man!  hahaha

And last but not least, number 5: I’ve been taking classes at Zohar Dance Studios for a couple of months now.  I guess every year during Christmas they have a winter recital.  Now I have NEVER been one to want to join in this, but the teachers are just so nice and fun and enthusiastic about teaching that when they asked me to participate I had to say yes.  The number I am in is called Inner Man.  It’s me and 3 other guys each trying to be the Alpha Male.  The music is tribal and percussive so it’s easy to feel that sort of primal urge, but some of the movements are tricky, tricky.

I told my partner Perry this morning at breakfast: “I know I said I wanted to live this kind of a life, but I didn’t expect it all to just jump right into my lap.”

But I am ever grateful and cherishing every opportunity and moment of it.