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Writer? Actor? What's the Difference?

The cast of the new San Francisco version of the Broadway hit Seminar come clean about their common secret.

The cast of "Seminar": James Wagner, Lauren English, Patrick Russell, and Natalie Mitchell.

When SF Playhouse veteran Amy Glazer took the helm on their new production of Seminar, a play from Pulitzer nominee Theresa Rebeck about four young writers, she didn't realize that her cast had a secret: Every single person in the play turned out to be an aspiring writer themselves. "I had no idea," Glazer admits. "I only found out because you were doing this piece about it." 

We asked the cast if they were able to write their way into a better understanding of the play—and if they really wanted to.

Natalie Mitchell (Izzy): "I write for catharsis: When I was 17 I injured my back and all the time I spent lying in bed I channeled my energy into poetry. A few years ago when I went on vacation in Morocco I almost got sold into slavery when this desert-dweller bought off my tour guide to abandon me so he could take me on as one of his six wives. Now I'm writing a solo show about it called I'm Worth 30 Camels." 

Patrick Russell (Douglas): "When I was younger I would write mock poems in the voice of some pompous character I made up, and that's just like Douglas: big and colorful, but not much behind it. Working on this show has made me want to go back to screenwriting. In grad school I was working so many shows and playing so many different people so that I didn't feel like myself anymore. I need to write just to express something that's about me. That's what I always really wanted to do all along."

Lauren English (Kate): "Yes, it turns out we're all writers, one way or another. I'm curating our work for a project that'll go into the lobby. None of us are confident enough to try and get published, but we're just going to put it out there and show the audience how we write, for better or for worse. I've flirted with short fiction—my partner writes short stories—mostly about my relationships. But things I write tend to come out flowery and sentimental, and everything looks like a poem instead of a real paragraph. I've never felt so exposed."

James Wagner (Martin): "I met Peter Coyote, the great San Francisco stage actor, once, and he said that writing is more natural than acting. I used to write quite a bit: poetry, screenplays, one-man shows, stand-up comedy. I was a dabbler. But I gave it up because spreading myself around was preventing me from getting good at any one thing. [My character] Martin gave himself completely to writing the way I eventually did to acting, so at least I can relate to that."

 

Seminar opens at SF Playhouse May 3.

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