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Friday, May 2, 2014

"Seminar" at the SF Playhouse Deals with Writers' Fragile Egos

Posted By on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 8:00 AM

"Seminar" - LAUREN ENGLISH
  • Lauren English
  • "Seminar"

Director and San Jose State theater professor Amy Glazer is beyond enthusiastic about her latest project, Theresa Rebeck's "Seminar," which opens at the San Francisco Playhouse today.

"To work on a jewel of a play with a writer I have a shorthand with, and to work on such a classic piece with great actors -- that's my bliss," she said.

Glazer has previously collaborated with the award-winning Rebeck -- who has written for TV, movies and theater -- on several other projects, including directing Rebeck's "Understudy" at the San Jose Repertory Theater and adapting her play, "The Scene," into the feature film, Seducing Charlie Barker.

Scene from 'Seminar' - PHOTO BY JESSICA PALOPOLI
  • Photo by Jessica Palopoli
  • Scene from 'Seminar'

"Even when she's satirizing a particular world, there are truths about human dynamics. She has such specificity in structuring a scene that even if you're laughing, you're also cringing. She finds depth and complexity of behavior that remind me of Chekov," Glazer continued. "And I love her as a person. I can identify with her because I am a hybrid too, working in film and theater."

"Seminar" tells the story of four aspiring novelists who are paying $500 a week to take a writing seminar with a legendary author. It premiered on Broadway a couple years ago with Alan Rickman, and then Jeff Goldblum, in the lead.

And this particular play by Rebeck has personal meaning for Glazer.

"It's about the delicate relationship between a mentor and a young artist," she said. "That's what my life has been about as a director and professor and mentor to many actors."

Scene from 'Seminar' - JESSICA PALOPOLI
  • Jessica Palopoli
  • Scene from 'Seminar'

As a mentor, you can help push an artist out of the comfort zone -- or you can be destructive to the path they're on, according to Glazer. That's something her good friends who are authors helped her understand.

One of those friends is Ann Packer, author of the best-selling The Dive from Clausen's Pier. Glazer asked Packer to come speak to the cast about the complicated camaraderie of writing groups and the dynamics of writers exposing themselves.

Glazer has no doubt that the actors in "Seminar" will be able to put those dynamics -- and the humor and satire of the play across. Leonard, the writer leading the seminar, played by Charles Shaw Robinson, is more than just a burnt-out celebrity author, Glazer says.

"Leonard is a complex, tragic figure," she said. "Charles can land the joke, but he also gets it. He can put that across."

"Seminar" opens today and runs through June 14 at the San Francisco Playhouse (450 Post). Tickets are $30-$100. For more information visit the SF Playhouse site or call 677-9596.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Emily Wilson

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