A story of brilliant and reckless creativity in “Seminar”

It’s official. This semester’s new theater season kicks off on the last day of January at the Earley Center for Performing Arts with a studio performance of the play “Seminar,”, a play created by Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck. 

In this provocative comedy, “Seminar” is about four young aspiring novelists who all sign up to take writing classes with an international literary figure who, through his reckless but brilliant instruction, causes his students to question everything about the writing process and their chances of success. 

Senior and stage manager Erin Ackman explained the process of planning this studio play with the theatre crew and faculty and how they begin to work behind the scenes in making the story come to life. 

“The play was chosen by one of our grad students, Casey, the director, and that’s how a lot of the studio shows are. It’s the grad students that put them on. We have weekly production meetings where the entire design team meets and talks about the concept where Casey says ‘Here’s kind of my vision of the play; where I want everything to be’ and then we cast it shortly after that.” Ackman said. “And throughout the rehearsal process, the design team can come in and watch rehearsals or we do ground plans of the space which is kind of a planning as if you took a bird’s eye view of a space and then you sort of plan out. There’s lighting and sound design and it’s all really based around the feel of the play like what do we want the audience’s reactions to be to these things.”

For Ackman, being stage manager is managing behind the scenes and having both the cast and crew ready for their upcoming performances. 

“Stage manager is effectively the one who runs the production after a certain point. So the director comes in, and it’s his original vision and it’s his idea and perspective and he casts everything but once we get down to performances, I’m the one who establishes call times which means when everybody else shows up.” She said, “I am the delegator of all the tasks; I call the show, which means that all of the light cues, the sound cues, all of that kind of stuff comes from me. And I help everybody close out at the end of the night, so we reset for the next show. And we do it all again the next day.”

In the world of theater, Ackman reveals the hardwork and connection that she was able to make with the cast and crew and being able to connect to the themes of the play. 

“I really did enjoy this play and part of why I wanted to stage manage for this one is because my major is English Education and so I really wanted to combine my two major and minor ideas and realize that there are ways to be a good teacher but also ways to be a bad teacher,” she said, “I’ve always enjoyed the theater program here and getting to work with such a small cast is such an intimate thing. And I feel like I got to know all of the actors in the crew very well. I consider them very good friends, I hold them in the highest regard. And I believe that even in bigger casts, there is that sort of familial dynamic that we as a program, always establish.” 

As the days count down to the first showing of Seminar, Ackman shares what MSU students can expect on opening night for this provocative comedy. 

“It will be hilarious but it will also be very gut punching, in certain places where you’ll be laughing along. But it’s in the best way possible where like I said, you see that drama and you see why there is that gut punch and it’s relatable. There’s a lot of emotional and word comedy. There’s a lot of wit to it but there is also some physical comedy.” she said. 

Seminar will be showing in the Andreas Theatre at the Performing Arts Center from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 at 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. For more information on upcoming theatre productions, performances and tickets, visit 


Write to Anahi Zuniga at anahi.zuniga@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The Minnesota State Theatre Department is showcasing “Seminar,” a provocative comedy about four aspiring novelists. (Nate Tilahun/The Reporter)

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