The Academy Theatre presents production of dark comedy 'Seminar' in Hapeville
In the play “Seminar,” a group of aspiring writers has their work and lives ripped apart during a 10-week writing course. Tony Award-nominated actor Alan Rickman returned to Broadway to perform in the world premiere in 2011. Now, Atlanta’s longest-running professional theater, the Academy Theatre in Hapeville, is presenting a production of “Seminar.” The show opens on April 29 and runs through May 8. Director Robert Drake and actor Casey Cudmore joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about “Seminar” and its darkly comic clash of fragile personalities.
A concise synopsis of “Seminar“:
“‘Seminar’ has four young writers at the beginning of their career, trying to figure out how to get to where they want to be, and they don’t yet realize what it’s going to cost them,” said Drake. “And the writer they hire to teach the seminar is all too happy to show them.”
“There are a couple of key romantic pairings,” Drake explained. “One is between Martin, who is the throughline of the story, and Kate. And the second is between Izzy, who is sort of the ‘femme fatale’ of the show, and Leonard, who’s the seminar writer, and Martin. And Izzy sees the whole exercise as a game, and she’s willing to do what she needs to do to win … Kate, I think, is the ignored flower, and sometimes one sees the flower too late.”
Actor Cudmore’s affectionate sympathy with her character, Kate:
“I adore Kate. The best metaphor I can come up with for her is that she’s a chrysalis,” said Cudmore. “She is this girl who’s, you know, very smart and well-educated — one might say overeducated — and is hiding behind herself. And for her, it’s a story of getting out of her own way.”
“One of the things that drew me to this play initially is, in every intense acting training world I’ve been in, there is a cult of personality surrounding a brilliant middle-aged actor,” Cudmore said. “Having an ‘Equity’ Shakespeare actor ask you why you’re afraid of intimacy at nine in the morning on a Monday is very similar to the vibe that’s going on with this story.”
What the play conveys about the real struggles of writers:
“I think that [playwright Theresa Rebeck] is looking to tell us that people can see things a lot of different ways, and that who the writer is prejudices our ability to take on the writing honestly,” said Drake. “The Douglas character has a successful uncle who’s a writer, and went to an Ivy League school, and has been to exclusive writing retreats, and has good publications. And so his writing is viewed very differently than Martin’s writing, who lives in a poor apartment in Queens, and has to take the F train into the city, and has no connections and doesn’t know anybody.”
“At the beginning of the play, all of the characters have this image of the novel author, you know, living in this 19th-century tower and sending down their Pulitzer Prize-winning work of art, flown down by doves to the masses,” Cudmore observed. “The story is them grappling with how that isn’t really the world we live in anymore. And we can still make beautiful art, but you have to sidestep through this world of agents and academia and critics and find possibly less ethical, possibly less traditional ways of getting your work out there. Because the work and the art is what matters in the end.”
“Seminar” is on stage at the Academy Theatre from April 29 to May 8. Tickets and more information are available at academytheatre.org.