URI Theatre is set to premiere its first production of the school year, an acclaimed play about young writers in New York City.
“Seminar,” by Theresa Rebeck, originally ran on Broadway from November 2011 to May 2012.
The witty play centers on four young writers living in New York City who hire a renowned writer and professor to criticize and provide feedback on their works-in-progress during a multi-week seminar. The seminars are held at one of the characters’ apartments.
The play was selected by the faculty of the theater department, after being vetted through proposal meetings.
Theater professor Bryna Wortman, the production’s director, said she saw “Seminar” during its Broadway run and saw its potential as a possible URI Theatre production.
“It had four young people, which is absolutely appropriate for our enrollment,’ she said. “I thought that it would be contemporary. It’s comedic, it’s racy, it’s well written, and it’s just perfect for young people today.”
Wortman described one of the play’s characters, the professor and writer Leonard, as “brilliant, but he’s also rather ruthless in his truth-telling and he affects them in ways that they hardly imagine when they hired him.”
The cast of the URI Theatre production comprises of Chris Morris as Leonard, Belamy Brophy-Baermann as Douglas, Laine Wagner as Izzy, Stephen Peterson as Martin and Christine O’Connell as Kate.
Brophy-Baermann, a junior theater major, described his character Douglas as an “upper-middle class, intelligent, highly sophisticated person.”
“He’s been published a couple times in the ‘New York Times’ and he’s interested in honing his craft and getting into the most respected literary circles,” Brophy-Baermann said.
“As an actor, I come up with detailed questions about who I’m portraying and I try to bring that to life through me when I act as him on stage,” he added.
“We researched to make sure we understand the literary backgrounds that these people are coming from. We’re making sure we’re very connected.”
He also described the rehearsal process for the play as intense. “We’ve been going six nights a week, three or four hours a night, making sure we are very comfortable with our characters and with the action of the play and understanding how the play can really reveal its truth,” he said.
Wortman said she believes the play will appeal to URI students. “It is a very youthful piece. The language is youthful, it is sometimes a little off-color, but it is the way young people talk today, not to be obscene, but just expressing their feelings and how they express their thoughts,” she said.
“They’re very bright, they’re very smart. It’s also how they react to someone who is very strong and truth-telling,” Wortman said.
“It’s the story of aspiring writers who go through the same emotions as we all do, but they’re in a slightly different context and they’re talking about some really engaging intellectual ideas as well,” said Brophy-Baermann.
“Seminar” will run in J Studio from Oct. 9 to Oct. 11 and again from Oct. 16 to Oct. 19. 3 p.m. matinee performances will run on Oct. 12 and 19.
The Oct. 12 matinee will be followed by a free panel titled “So You Think You Can Write?.”
Tickets for the performances are $12 for students, $15 for seniors and URI faculty and staff and $20 for general audiences.