A Seminar On Time Travel

Last night, January 24, 2012, I had the opportunity to see Theresa Rebeck‘s play Seminar at the Golden Theatre on Broadway.  How I ended up there is another story for another blog post.  What I want to write about today, as you probably surmised from the title of the post, is Time Travel.

My first recollection of being truly interested in time travel was when an elementary school teacher gave me a book called Building Blocks by Cynthia Voigt.  From the inside flap:

 Brann Connell, a twelve-year-old boy who believes his father is a “loser,” travels back in time thirty years and learns something about his father as a little boy. In a single mystifying day of adventure, Brann learns that fate is something both to guide and accept.

Obviously from the description this is not really a science fiction book, but rather a book that explores the relationships involved in time travel.  Throw in a flux capacitor (Building Blocks was published in 1984; Back to the Future was released in 1985) and you now have a 9-year-old hooked on the notion of time travel for the rest of her life.

So what does all of this have to do with a 90-minute play in which “four aspiring young novelists sign up for private writing classes with Leonard (Alan Rickman), an international literary figure. Under his 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. The wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious as innocence collides with experience in this biting new comedy.”?  Actually quite a bit.

Before I attended, I took the time to read a few reviews.  Although from my perspective I don’t feel the following is a spoiler, some of you might, so if you plan on seeing this play (NOTE TO SELF: insert subliminal message here telling everyone to see the play) here is your chance to run away.  Even the most substantive (and critical) of the reviews failed to note that, in my opinion, one of the main themes of Seminar is that Leonard is effectively transported in time by his contact with one of his students, meeting a younger version of himself.  He has an opporunity to do what many of us often fantasize about (or is it just me?):  to go back in time and warn his young self at a critical moment to turn left instead of right.  Likewise the student with whom he identifies (see how skillfully I avoid the spoiler?) has a chance to see into the future, to hear from Leonard every twist and turn his life may take.  The entire rest of the play, although completely necessary and quite entertaining, was simply the time machine.

Read the reviews (or don’t).  Go for the comedy.  Go for the sex.  Go for the literary references.  But most importantly, go for the time travel!


From Hashtag To Broadway

On December 6, 2011, as I do every year some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I watched Love Actually.  This year was a bit different for two reasons.  First, it was the first year I allowed my son, who is now fifteen, to watch the movie with me.  Second, I live-tweeted the movie (for those of you who know me, you know I pretty much live tweet everything I watch, including Howard the Duck), using the hashtag #LoveActually.  This was my opening tweet:

Live movie tweeting may depart from usual coherence for #LoveActually, mostly because #AlanRickman *sigh* *swoon*

After that first tweet, I clicked on both the #LoveActually hashtag and the #AlanRickman hashtag to see if anyone else was watching the movie with me.  To my delight, in the #AlanRickman column on Tweetdeck, I saw several tweets about a play called Seminar with links to the play’s website.  I finished watching the movie (with a total of 57 tweets; use Snapbird with my Twitter handle, @mosesmosesmoses, and the search term #LoveActually if you are interested in what I had to say) and immediately started researching when I might be able to see the play.  It turned out that the stars aligned for the evening of Tuesday, January 24, 2012.

But Twitter wasn’t done with me yet…

First, and again while live tweeting a movie (this time Truly, Madly, Deeply) and having clicked on the #AlanRickman hashtag, I noticed that another user (@coffeelover413) had posted photos with Mr. Rickman after the show.  I sent her a tweet asking what the protocol was, and she explained that all the actors come out after the show to sign autographs (I can confirm this is indeed true).

But wait, there’s more!

From the official Twitter account of the play (@SeminarOnBway) on January 19, 2012:

This Tues 1/24 @LeonardLopate @wnyc will chat with #AlanRickman and the rest of the cast of @seminaronbway after the show. Get your tix now!

At first I was a bit concerned that this might interfere with the usual practice of autographs after the show, but my worry was all for naught as the audience was invited to stay.  I even got an opportunity to ask a question (being in the front row and doing my best Arnold Horshack impression didn’t hurt).  I explained that I had found out about the play through Twitter (I mistakenly referenced Snow Cake, which I had watched around the same time), and asked the five actors how involved they were in social media and what impact it had on their relationship with the audience.  Jerry O’Connell was gracious enough to answer, explaining that he is active on Twitter (but not Facebook) and that it brings an element of real-time feedback from theatergoers who tweet about the experience afterward.  Outside the theater, he went on to explain that because the play is about the relationship between a teacher and his students, it naturally attracts many students and they are more likely to find out about it like I did.  Also, according to Mr. O’Connell, who goes by @ComingForMurdoc, I’m kind of a big deal on Twitter:

You're Kind Of A Big Deal

Thank you Mr. O’Connell, you’re kind of a big deal yourself.

I would also like to thank the rest of the cast, even though I already did so in person, for taking the time to answer questions and sign autographs after the show.  As far as I know, only Hettienne Park is active on Twitter, but a big thanks also to Alan Rickman, Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater.

And of course I’d like to thank the person who got me those front row tickets and hung around taking pictures while I got autographs with a goofy grin on my face.  You know who you are.  You are definitely a big deal.

For my thoughts on the play itself, check out my other post, A Seminar On Time Travel.