Collaboration is nothing new for director Jerry Whiddon and actor Marty Lodge.
The two have worked together on 15 different shows at the Round House Theatre over the years. “Seminar,” opening Wednesday at Round House Theatre Bethesda, will be the 16th play for the duo.
“We’ve done comedy, we’ve done tragedy, we’ve done just about everything,” Lodge said.
“We’ve turned comedies into tragedies and tragedies into comedies,” Whiddon added, laughing.
Lodge, who spent time in Los Angeles and is now working in Chicago, said Whiddon was instrumental in helping him grow as an actor.
“When he was running this theater, he put me in the company here and he gave me roles that I would not have normally gotten at other theaters,” Lodge said. “It really gave me a chance to stretch and grow. I owe him a lot.”
From Whiddon’s standpoint, the partnership has been mutually beneficial.
“It’s been a very fruitful relationship,” Whiddon said. “We can feel comfortable with each other and feel comfortable sort of pushing each other. He pushes me, I push him.”
Lodge moved to Los Angeles eight years ago, but this is the first time the two have worked together in at least a decade.
“It doesn’t feel like [it’s been that long], though,” Lodge said. “We picked up right where we left off.”
“Seminar,” written by playwright Theresa Rebeck, premiered on Broadway in 2011. The story revolves around four young writers who pay $5,000 for a 10-week writing seminar with a seasoned writer, Leonard. Lodge plays Leonard, who is in charge of teaching these four would-be writers.
“These young writers sort of bang up against this immovable object, which is this bitter, brilliant editor, teacher who is just so concentrated on the work and he is so torn up by his own past, in a sense, that he really just knocks these writers off their feet,” Whiddon said. “They are struggling for their balance the entire play.
“It’s one of those contemporary comedies.”
Lodge said he likes to try to get back to the Washington, D.C., area every year or two to do a show since he has family here. When Lodge saw Round House had “Seminar” scheduled on its website, it piqued his interest.
“I knew Alan Rickman had done it on Broadway, then I saw Jerry was directing it,” Lodge said. “I approached the theater myself and said, “Hey, is there any way you guys would consider me for that part?’ Then I read the play and it’s just a juicy, juicy role. It’s going to be a lot of fun to do in front of an audience.”
Whiddon said neither he nor the cast had seen the show on Broadway, so everyone is bringing fresh eyes and new concepts to the mix.
“It’s brand new to us,” Whiddon said. “We’re going by the script. The dialogue is terrific. It’s just terrific. The trick is find that solid grounding you need to have [so the] comedy and the pathos work. It offers some challenges that way and I think we’re meeting them head-on.”
For Lodge and Whiddon, one thing should be very clear to the audience after watching the play.
“It’s not so easy being a writer,” Lodge said. “Everybody thinks they can write, but it’s really a lot harder than that.”
“Writing is what these people are about,” Whiddon added. “I think it’s not so easy to be anything. And I think what we all look for, in whatever we choose to do if we are lucky enough to be able to choose to do something, even that does not guarantee that somebody is going to come along and affirm what you’re doing, saying ‘I understand you are this — an artist, a writer …’ It doesn’t matter. That’s what we all look for. We look for validation in what we do.”