For the second mainstage production of its 2015-16 season, PlayMakers Repertory Company will present the hit 2011 Broadway dramatic comedy, Seminar, starring PRC mainstay — and arguably the best actor in the Triangle — Ray Dooley as Leonard, the no-nonsense mentor to a group of young writers, on Oct. 14-16, 18, 20-23, 25 and Oct. 27-Nov. 1 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art. First-time PlayMakers Rep guest director Michael Dove will direct this five-character play by 58-year-old Edgar Award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and novelist Theresa Rebeck (Mauritius , Dead Accounts ) for UNC’s professional-theater-in-residence.
The original Broadway production of Seminar, under the direction of Sam Gold and starring Alan Rickman as Leonard, premiered on Nov. 20, 2011 at the John Golden Theatre, where it played 191 performances before closing on May 6, 2012.
In his November 2011 review for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney wrote, “Anyone who has ever opened up his or her creative endeavors to unvarnished criticism will feel the sting — and maybe even relish the schadenfreude — of Theresa Rebeck’s tart comedy, Seminar. Four ambitious young writers test the treacherous waters of the professional world in a fiction workshop led by a jaded novelist and editor with little use for diplomacy ….”
“I have never seen a production of Seminar (which is usually a good thing when you are directing a script, I think!),” admits Michael Dove, who serves as producing artistic director of Forum Theatre in Washington, DC. He adds, “I became aware of [Seminar] from the reviews coming out of the Broadway premiere production and was really intrigued by the concept of theatricalizing these gatherings of artists who tend to work in such solitary methods.
“It seemed to be a great situation to observe,” says Dove. “I’ve somehow missed a few different productions of the play in my travels, but am glad to have found my way to this production!”
Dove says, “It’s just the smartest script…. It explodes off the page as these characters have such strong desires and are drawn so distinctly … you don’t even have to read the character names next to each line — you immediately know who’s saying what because [playwright] Theresa Rebeck has given them such specific and separate voices.
“I think stories about passionate people chasing their dreams are the best stories,” says Michael Dove. “Seminar lifts an audience to aspire to their greatest desires and creates little communities, one performance at a time.
“And I can’t divorce the draw of this artistic team from my desire to direct this show. A chance to get to work with Ray Dooley on such a delicious role and to collaborate with the incredible company of actors and designers at PlayMakers is a real pleasure and honor.”
Michael Dove says, “Seminar is about four young writers — Kate (Carey Cox), Martin (Myles Bullock), Douglas (Schuyler Scott Mastain), and Izzy (Allison Altman) — who take a 10-week writing seminar with Leonard (Ray Dooley), a famous (and infamous) editor and international journalist.
He adds, “Each student has paid Leonard $5,000 for the class, and the stakes are very high. The pressure to succeed creates a sense of tension that leads to lashing out and sexual warfare.
“The play starts with the student novelists waiting for Leonard to arrive for their first class in Kate’s Upper West Side apartment,” Dove notes. “Over the course of several weeks of classes, the characters learn just as much about their writing as they do of themselves.”
In addition to director Michael Dove, the PlayMakers Repertory Company creative team for Seminar includes production manager Michael Rolleri, scenic designer Robin Vest, costume designer Jade Bettin, lighting designer Andrew Cissna, sound designer Sean Mahoney, dramaturg Adam Versényi, vocal coach John Patrick, stage manager Hannah-Jean Farris, and assistant stage manager Charles K. Bayang.
“Seminar takes place in a “Large, Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan. It belongs to Kate’s family,” says director Michael Dove, “and it’s where she hosts the writing seminar led by Leonard. We’ve set it to be a corner unit with views of the [Hudson] river. It’s a very nice apartment, and Kate treats it like a hotel lobby — spotless and not lived in.
“There are various chairs, a couch, tasteful book displays, and a large, ‘unoffensive’ piece of artwork on the main wall,” Dove adds. “Doors go off to a hallway of various rooms and a kitchen. Set designer Robin Vest has created an open space to help us make the intimate moments feel close, no matter where you sit in the audience. She has also created an exciting surprise for late in the play.”
Dove says, “The lighting is generally naturalistic, to help create this contemporary, interior, world. Andrew Cissna is the designer (a frequent collaborator of mine in Washington, DC); and along with sound designer Sean Mahoney will find the scene transitions as the place to explore time changes and more emotional shifts in a more theatrical way.”
The show’s costumes are a “Modern mix of stylish and shall we say ‘less stylish’ New York clothes (the characters hail from a range of classes and backgrounds),” Dove points out. “The play takes place over several weeks, so we get to see a lot of different looks and the passions run high so we also see a few different stages of undress, as well….
“On the surface,” says PRC guest director Michael Dove. “Seminar is a play with a lot of talking about literature and fiction-writing, not the easiest thing to ‘show’ onstage. The ferocity [with] which the characters attack their artistry goes a long way in the pursuit of keeping these conversations lively, but it is a thing we have to keep in mind, at all times…
“I also think the balance of comedy and drama poses a particular challenge,” says Dove. “The play is very funny, but it’s not a setup/punch line sort of humor. It’s comedy borne out of truth, joy, awkwardness, and pain, so keeping all of those things going at once is a challenging but exciting act.”
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 14th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/seminar/Event?oid=4737857; and Oct. 13th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by Kacey Rigsby: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2015/10/playmakers-debuts-seminar.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents SEMINAR at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and 15 Previews, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 Opening Night, 2 p.m. Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20-23, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27-30, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31, and 2 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $15 and up ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel, except $15 (general admission) Tuesday Community Night performances.
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.
UNC NEWS SERVICES RELEASE: http://uncnews.unc.edu/2015/09/25/playmakers-presents-hit-broadway-comedy-seminar-starting-oct-14/.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2: There will be an opening-night gala performance, followed by refreshments, on Friday, Oct. 16th.
NOTE 3: There will be an All-Access Performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20th.
NOTE 4: There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the creative team following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21st, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25th, performances.
NOTE 5: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31st (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).
NOTE 6: The Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussions after the 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31st, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1st, performances.
Seminar (2011 Broadway dramatic comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/7568/seminar (Samuel French), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/490650 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminar_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Theresa Rebeck (Kenwood, OH-born playwright): http://theresarebeck.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/379131 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Rebeck (Wikipedia).
Michael Dove (director and producing artistic director of Forum Theatre in Washington, DC): http://forumtheatredc.org/team/details/michael/36 (Forum Theatre bio) and http://www.playmakersrep.org/performances/embed_artist.aspx?id=194b2da8-7d70-4c99-b11d-2b9f11ba0fbb (PlayMakers Rep bio).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)