Thursday, February 23, 2012

Are You a Simpleton or Brilliant?

The cast of Seminar
As a writer I could not wait to see the play Seminar on Broadway.

As a theater enthusiast I knew the ensemble company lead by Alan Rickman would be witnessing Broadway gold. And the acting was pretty wonderful (though each actor played or was directed to play the entire show on one note: one delivery: one thought). 

As an audience member, I left the show feeling the magnificent scene change was the best part of the play.

I'm trying to determine what 'went wrong' for me (and I say for me as I have found glowing reviews online for this show). Though the two I attended the show with both felt the same at the end; each thinking the other must be enjoying this new comedy and it was 'just us' feeling let down.

In a nutshell, the play is about a group of writers who pay a mentor $5,000 each to work with them for 10 weeks on their writing. A mentor that can rip them apart by reading the first line of their manuscript. (Yes, Alan Rickman's character would have stopped reading my blog after the first sentence.) The group sit around pontificating about art and what determines a good writer and honestly never goes much further than that.

Or am I just so obtuse that I can't experience the nuances that playwright Theresa Rebeck is articulating in her word choices in this piece? After all, she is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Peabody Award winner while I've only won a best score award for a musical and a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards.

Those that know me and my writing know you don't get the flowery fifty dollar words when reading my work. Nor is that who I am as a reader. I realize there are all kinds in the world and that's what makes reading so great. We get choices. My choice leans towards stories that make me feel something. That challenge me as a person - not challenge how many large words I can come up with to string together in a complicated piece of prose that causes a reader to REREAD a sentence because they didn't get it. I find movies and plays show this one archetype - the writer who is always deeply thinking and can't live in the real world. 

Perhaps that was my problem with the entire thing as a play. Not that it was because I didn't feel I was represented on that stage (as people know I'm always in my head: my world is just less Ivy League and more street). But because this play did not transport me anywhere! Because it didn't go anywhere. It stayed on a loop, caught up in its on witty banter and jargon while characters attempted to find themselves. Something we've seen over and over and that New York audiences tend to eat up with a silver spoon.

You may absolutely find you love it on your next trip to NYC. Many of the larger reviewers did. It must speak to who I am that the reviewer that comes closest to saying how I felt was a smaller review with amNewYork.

I did find one thing rather telling. I'm sure it was meant as a joke in this 'comedy' - but in my has actually rang true.

"An editor is there to show you what you meant in your writing, even when you didn't know you meant it."

Thank God us non-pedantic writers have editors that can find all the symbolism and meaning in our trite work - what would we do without them? <wink>


  1. Sigh. I love Alan Rickman. So that might have been enough for me.

    I love your last line. ;-)

    I'm sure that in theater, as in art, there can be that element of the Emperor's New Clothes. "Oh, isn't this simply fabulous? What? You don't get it? You simpleton." In fact, it may just be that you are among the few willing to say that the Emperor has no clothes!!

    1. Thank you, Melissa. Sometimes I walk away from something like this and feel like the biggest loser. :-)

    2. Au contraire - you were probably the smartest person in the room :-)

  2. I WISH I could see a play in NY! Poor little old Escondido is pretty much the armpit of southern California, but I digress. First of all, thanks for stealing my next blog post! Kidding, but it was going to lean in the direction of "what makes us 'writerly'?" and "do we need to be scholars to have our writing MEAN something?" Etc. It's disappointing to know that play wasn't what you'd hoped it to be (I think I read a review of it in Entertainment Weekly, or something like that, and they raved about Alan Rickman - I can't remember). Maybe, as a writer, you should consider writing your own play?? :)

    1. PLEASE do blog about that, Sean. I'd love to read your thoughts on it all.

      I actually started out as a playwright. My first 'writings' were for the stage. Musicals mostly. But WELL WITH MY SOUL started out as a play (though it was never produced for the stage). After hearing a reading of it with actors, I knew then I wanted to turn it into a novel and I spent a few years making that change.

      Thanks for stopping by always!