Thursday, October 30, 2014

Praise and Reviews for SEMINAR

The audience and critics have spoken...hear what all the SEMINAR buzz is about.

"5 stars out of 5...a raucous comedy . . .  'Seminar' is a charmingly amusing delight and is one of the best comedies to play locally in far too long." 

- Chris Curcio, KBAQ Radio (Read full review here

"...very funny...Playwright Theresa Rebeck's script is razor sharp...well presented by a terrific ensemble...great fun..." 

- David Appleford, Valley Stages (Read full review here)

"...acid-etched comedy...this play is one you won't want to miss...Actors Theatre's production, with a crackerjack cast and taut direction...immediately yanks the audience into a tinderbox of jostling egos and sexual tension."

- Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (Read full review here)

"SEMINAR is one tightly knit, fast-paced, engaging, and provocative comedy of mixed manners and artistic insights. A solid ensemble delivers Rebeck's rapid fire dialogue with bristling conviction and energy." (Read full review here)

What did you think of SEMINAR? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

SEMINAR performing at the Black Theatre Troupe Building in Phoenix from October 24th - November 9th. 

Get tickets at

Friday, October 24, 2014

SEMINAR Reveals the Dreams and Nightmares of Writers

For those who have ever wanted to write a book, manuscript or movie, the process of creating, writing and perfecting a written work can be an exercise in emotional mayhem. SEMINAR delves into the trials and tribulations of four novelists that sign up for a class designed to help them in their writing endeavors.

Best-selling author of memoir The Accidental Caregiver, Gregor Collins was once in the same boat as Seminar’s group of passionate would-be novelists. Collins stated, “When this book occurred to me there was immediate resistance and doubts: I’d convince myself I wasn’t an author and that it was something ‘other’ more gifted people did, as if being an author was some hallowed ground or a club I would never be invited to.” The book chronicles Collins’ time as a caregiver for Maria Altmann, a remarkable woman nearly three times his age who became revered in the art world. As Collins worked to get his book written, he encountered just about every emotion imaginable and may have even created a few new ones in the process.

“Once I realized I was basically piecing together a 350-page love letter to Maria and our relationship, and that no one could ever delete it and it would be around forever, the floodgates opened. I now had a responsibility to write the book. I owed it to love, to art, to the elderly/caregiving community and to myself. So I went home at night after a shift and would laugh and cry as I wrote it,” explained Collins. His best-selling novel is now in the process of being turned into a play for the stage in New York City. Let the next roller coaster of emotional highs and lows begin…

Seminar functions very much on reality competition show logic,” director Ron May said. “Throw a handful of clashing personalities together in a situation where they’re all in the same room vying for the same thing; mix in an even more ruthless, more articulate Simon Cowell; marinate in a bit of sexual tension and serve up the contact sport.”

Seminar is a provocative comedy from Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck – the first of three women playwrights Actors Theatre will feature during the season – and will run from Oct. 24 to Nov. 9 at the Helen K. Mason Theatre at Black Theatre Troupe, 1333 E. Washington St. in downtown Phoenix.

The story revolves around Leonard (David Barker), a celebrity writer who fell from grace offering private writing lessons to up-and-comers. Four aspiring young novelists – Douglas (Andy Cahoon), Martin (Will Hightower), Kate (Kerry McCue) and Izzy (Kim Richard) sign up for the class. Under Leonard’s recklessly brilliant and unorthodox instruction, some thrive and others flounder, alliances are made and broken, sex is used as a weapon and hearts are unmoored. Season-ticket packages ranging from $108-$170. All tickets can be purchased online at

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SEMINAR - Star-Struck

SEMINAR cast member Will Hightower (playing Martin) guest blog posts, reflecting on the progression of his theatre career from studying in college to joining the Actors Theatre cast with some of his favorite actors and actresses.

Imagine growing up with a passion for football, admiring the heroes on and off the field for years, and with each passing year renewing your love for the game. Next, imagine playing alongside living legends from your hometown.

That’s what it feels like to play Martin in SEMINAR alongside Kerry McCue, Kim Richard, Andy Cahoon and David Barker. 

Top it off with my theatre idol Ron May directing and that’s game folks!

How did they achieve this status in my eyes (and yours too, I hope)? Let me explain.

The first Actors Theatre show I attended was THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF JENNY CHOW, directed by Matthew Wiener in 2006, because my Phoenix College theatre professor Gerald Burgess performed in the remarkable cast. It was an enjoyable and eye-opening experience, but that level of skill and status of Actors Theatre at that time felt like an unrealistic dream.

In 2007, I started my second year of college and became jaded with the curriculum of plays written by dead, white men. I started to wonder if I should have taken the full-ride scholarship to ASU for computer science instead of pursuing this now fading passion for theatre. Not exactly “the best years of my life” as sold to me in high school.

Eventually, the theatre club on campus decided we should see a play outside of little college world, but how? In a pre-Facebook society, we didn’t know where to get suggestions or how to discover new experiences. Luckily, thanks to something called a “Newspaper” with a review for a little known play titled, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” we saw the production by Stray Cat Theatre. After watching it with the lovely Kim Richard as CB’s Sister, I realized why I gave up computer science’s banal cubicle farm. This kind of theatre I wanted to perform and stories I wanted to tell!

In 2008, I transferred to ASU where I met David Barker—an intense and intimidating acting professor. I had limited experience with David until I saw his “Dodging Bullets” performance in 2009. In awe of his ability and accomplishments, I signed up for his movement class and his professional development class for the following semester. It ended up becoming an earth-shattering experience, causing more soul searching and dwelling on life choices. Ultimately, I learned from the best to accept criticism and gained awareness about my acting body as tools for my career.

In 2009, I returned as an audience member to Actors Theatre to watch Kerry McCue in RABBIT HOLE and then I saw Columbinus, directed by Ron May, at Stray Cat Theatre. Two devastatingly dramatic performances that, again, reminded my angst-y-college self that stories worth telling exist! I still believe Columbinus is one of my favorite theatre experiences to this day.

Finally, this year I saw Equivocation with Andy Cahoon acting and David Barker directing at Southwest Shakespeare Theatre Company. While I am not extremely well-versed in Shakespeare, I found the production powerful and riveting.

I also saw Andy in Childsplay’s Robin Hood, but this was something else. The play was so good it made me angry! I continue to try figuring out why. (I might have a problem.)

And now I have the privilege to perform and play with all of these amazing artists who affected me in unknowable ways. Every day at rehearsal I remember what a gift I have to feel so star-struck. 

- Will Hightower

Purchase tickets to see Will Hightower on stage as Martin in SEMINAR - running October 24th through November 9th, 2014. 

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Monday, October 6, 2014

SEMINAR: Constructive Criticism

David Barker guest blog posts as he discusses how his experience providing constructive feedback as a theatre professor versus his character Leonard in SEMINAR shredding the egos of his pupils one semi-colon at a time.

In "Seminar" I play Leonard, a teacher who unleashes criticism with no regard to anyone's feelings, decorum or ethics.  In my 33 years of university teaching, 31 at Arizona State University and 2 at UC Santa Barbara, I've always explained on the first day of classes that the ability to receive constructive criticism is required.  It is required for artistic growth and development. But it is also difficult, particularly for actors.  This is why: as an actor you become the target of criticism.  The way you move, the way you speak, the way you behave, your emotions, in short, you, in person become the target.  So when I tell you, for example, "you are not speaking loud enough" or "you should be much more upset" or "you are moving too quickly," it often is challenging for the young actor to separate artistic analysis from personal attack.  The first day of classes I ask what the difference is between these two comments: "you are not committing enough to your objective," and "you are a moron." One has to do with craft, and the other is personal. 

Enter Leonard, the amoral, alcoholic, verbally abusive former professor (he was fired for sleeping with students) who teaches four young, aspiring writers in "Seminar."  His criticism is ruthless and relentless, and deeply personal.  Leonard eschews some generally accepted rules of a civilized society.  He chooses his words to cut through ego and pretense and apparently to wound.  During his diatribes in Theresa's Rebeck's 2011 comedy, Leonard attacks the four twenty-something's with piercing words such as moron, whore, coward, pussy, whiner, nobody, weenie and big baby.  He doesn't care if someone's feelings get hurt.  He is in the business of training writers, and preparing them for the cutthroat competition they're going to face in the real world. 

At ASU, I pride myself in being a tough teacher; straightforward and honest, but completely ethical and understanding. So, in playing Leonard, my immediate point of connection is his intensity, which comes very easily to me. But the acting challenge becomes bringing to life his complete lack of sensitivity, which is more and more foreign to me as I age closer to my 60s and deepen my compassion for others.  My four precious grandchildren have softened me considerably. Fortunately I'm sharing the stage with four dedicated, talented young actors who are present every moment and generous: Kerry McCue, Kim Richard, Andy Cahoon and Will Hightower. And I trust the caring and sensitive directorial eye of Ron May.   They all want every moment to spring to truthful and specific life.  In the incubative confines of the rehearsal studio, surrounded by artists I trust, the vicious verbal attacks become fun, particularly when I consider they all serve a greater good: the bridge to the profession Leonard provides all his students with, eventually. 

- David Barker

Get your tickets for SEMINAR- running October 24th through November 9th, 2014. 

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