Thursday, January 5, 2012
A writer's review of "Seminar," on Broadway with Alan Rickman
The premise is that four young writers have pooled their money to hire a has-been best-selling novelist as a fiction coach. Rebeck carefully distinguishes the four students and the teacher into five types of writers:
1) The spoiled rich girl, stymied by lack of urgency, who just needs a push
2) The slick boy wonder, benefiting from nepotism and too smart for his own good
3) The sex-pot who steams up the page and sleeps her way to success
4) The recalcitrant snail of a genius, hidden in his shell
5) The mysterious, misunderstood pro, trying to protect his wounds with a prickly skin
Now, I know a lot of writers. I know journalists and novelists and scholars. Writers of picture books, YA, sci fi, and erotica. Teachers and students, young and old, male and female. Those with multi-book deals at Penguin and those who've never published anything.
But I don't know any of the five writers in Theresa Rebeck's play. I understand that, in fiction of all genres, it is useful to condense and stylize characters. But what Seminar glosses over is a sense of the individual work it takes to be a writer, the constant internal push a writer must give him/herself to keep going. I longed for an acknowledgment of how the creative engine is stoked by each writer in his or her individual (and often rather insane) way. Instead, all we see are stereotypes with their prose already on the page.
Seminar is a good play, but it could have been great (and a funnier comedy) if it had shown more truth about writing.