From ‘Smash’ to ‘Seminar:’ Theresa Rebeck debuts play in Philadelphia

Mark Garvin/Courtesy. From left to right: Luigi Sottile, Teresa Avia Lim, Matt Harrington and Genevieve Perrier in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production of SEMINAR by Theresa Rebeck, now running through April 14 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
Mark Garvin/Courtesy. From left to right: Luigi Sottile, Teresa Avia Lim, Matt Harrington and Genevieve Perrier in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production of SEMINAR by Theresa Rebeck, now running through April 14 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.

Theresa Rebeck, Pulitzer Prize nominee and creator of the hit television show “Smash,” brings her play “Seminar” to the Philadelphia Theatre Company now through April 14.

This is a return trip to PTC for Rebeck. Twenty years ago, she wrote her play “Spike Heels” as one of the first young playwrights in the PTC Mentorship Program.

“Seminar” is about four aspiring writers who paid $5,000 each to take a writing seminar given by a famous author. Each of the writers has different and surprising reactions to the true but cruel criticism from their tortured teacher.

Many of them, in rotating combinations, found comfort in each other’s arms. Several are forced to deal with the truth and find their true writing destiny.

Rebeck considers “Seminar” one of her most “precious” plays because it is about the “desperate courage and hope of all writers.”

She denies the play is autobiographical, but admits to adding bits of her experiences and personality to several of the characters.

“Everyone thinks that I am Kate, the young feminist writer,” Rebeck told Metro. “I was a feminist, but not that militant. I have been a writing teacher. I just hope that I was not as cruel as Leonard. Like Matt, I was reluctant to show my work,” she said.

Rebeck, who won both a Peabody Award and Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for her work on “NYPD Blue,” believes now is the golden age of storytelling because advancements in technology have lowered the cost of telling a story.

“You can now edit on your laptop,” she said. “My friend made a movie for $15,000 that was distributed nationwide,”

Rebeck encourages all aspiring writers to “create their own opportunity” by self –producing instead of submitting grant applications and facing possible rejection.

“I am not sure that art and corporate logic fit together,” she said.

Rebeck’s distaste for the studio system may stem from her very public firing as executive producer from “Smash.” Steven Spielberg recruited her to the show when he fell in love with her play, “The Understudy.”

“The show is good. Anjelica Huston (who plays the tenacious producer) told me last week the show is not broken. It was going to hit its stride in the second season like “West Wing.”

She attributed her firing to “panicking by NBC executives” and “gender issues.”

“There were 10 guys and me,” she said.


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