The B Street Theatre Opens the West Coast Premiere of “Seminar”
There’s a difference between being brutal and being brutally honest. In the B Street Theatre’s production of Theresa Rebeck’s intimate play, “Seminar” the line is blurred, crossed, and erased. The small cast continued the B-Street’s reputation of bringing amazing theater productions to Sacramento in their intimate theater.
Buck Busfield, Producing Artistic Director, welcomed the opening night audience to the Regional Premiere of “Seminar” at the B Street Theatre’s Main Stage. This was the first production outside of the Broadway show that closed on May 6th of this year. The original Broadway production featured Alan Rickman, Jeff Goldblum, Justin Long and was penned by Theresa Rebeck, Pulitzer Prize finalist and Peabody Award winner Pulitzer Prize finalist and Peabody Award winner.
The Sacramento cast’s local talent was spot-on as the 5-member cast revealed hidden sides of their characters as the one-act play progressed. Though a brief semi-nude scene and some very earthy language, made this production a show for more mature audiences, the story line grabbed our attention, and the strong acting wouldn’t let us go.
The story brings us to the living room of a budding writer, and three other students who’ve paid $5,000 for a 10 private sessions from a highly revered former writer. This relentless writing teacher seemed to relish hammering his students to force out the best in them. Whether he abused them for personal pleasure, to pay back his hidden demons, as or as a warped teaching device, we never really find out. What we do discover, is that the 5 characters evolve during our evening’s visit.
Stephanie Altholz, a B Street Theatre company member, plays Kate, the student whose home serves as the stage and battleground for the play. Stephanie opens as a determined want-to-be novelist who’s been working on the same story for 6 years. She suffers some serious public humiliation by the teacher they’ve hired to hone their writing skills. Her resistance to his browbeating, transformation, and triumph drew applause from the audience.
Dan Fagan, was Douglas, whose character both impresses us and annoys us as a name-dropping, overly self-confident member of the small writing class. Dan plays the part of the well-connected student who tosses about his expansive vocabulary more to impress himself than anyone else. Even though he was dismissed by some of the other students, he is recognized as a key to the success for some.
Tara Sissom, another B Street Theatre company member, plays Izzy. Her character provides much of the sauciness that tantalizes both several characters, as well as the audience. When asked about her role, she described how it evolved through the rehearsals. Originally, Izzy was “superficial and didn’t seem very bright.” But further readings into her character revealed her to be “particularly complex and driven.” In reflection, Sissom felt that Izzy was determined to succeed and cleverly used any means to achieve her goals.
Joseph O’Malley takes on the role of Martin, a seemingly insecure student who at first refuses to share his writings or his true feelings, but later reveals his what he’s kept hidden from all. His is the character that challenges the teacher at the play’s climax, amidst some rather interesting twists.
Kurt Johnson, a B Street regular, plays Leonard, the enigmatic teacher who drives this drama/comedy. Leonard is a former internationally known literary figure with a secret past, who seems to be taking out some hidden agenda on his younger wards. Johnson loved this role, as he used his personal insight as a current trainer for new B Street cast members as an inspiration. He revealed how he pushes the young actors to open up their characters, then draws the line where they should stop. He also admitted that he drew from a few teachers he’d had personally in the past.
Seminar is advertised as “Innocence collides with experience in this saucy new comedy.” The comedy will keep you laughing throughout the production, but the drama of innocence lost will equally affect you, as it did the characters. As with many of the B Street Theatre productions, the set was simple, the story moved fluidly, and the acting proved that small theater in Sacramento is something to be cherished.
What: B Street Theatre production of “Seminar”
Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
When: August 12 through September 23.Times: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays; 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays.
Who: Written by Theresa Rebeck; directed by Buck Busfield; featuring Kurt Johnson as Leonard, Tara Sissom as izzy, Stephanie Altholz as Kate, Joe O’Malley as Martin, and Dan Fagan as Douglas.
Tickets prices: $23-$35, with $5 Student Rush tickets.
Further information: (916) 443-5300 www.bstreettheatre.org
This production is recommended for Ages 18+ due to nudity, adult content and language.
Disclosure: Drama minor in college, president of my high school drama club.