by Rita Charleston
Originally trained as an actor, P. Seth Bauer said he soon discovered he enjoyed the rehearsal process a lot more than performing. He said he also had a habit of trying to act an entire scene rather than just his character.
After graduating from Oberlin College and being presented with a full fellowship to the University of Texas, he went on to study playwriting. “I was kind of recruited into the field when a little play of mine won the American College Prize, so I decided to take a risk and study for my masters degree in playwriting,” explained Bauer, who declined to state his age.
That risk has paid off nicely for Bauer, a former Brooklyn resident who now lives in Germantown with his family, where he insists he feels right at home. Over the years he has written many plays that have been produced around the world, including his latest, “A Mystery?” presented by Dragon’s Eye Theatre and now having its world premiere at the annual Philadelphia Fringe Arts Festival. The inventive, interactive play continues at the Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, 3500 Reservoir Drive, East Fairmount Park, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15 and 21-22. Performances, which last approximately 50 minutes with no intermission, run at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $5-$10.
“This is an unusual play for the Fringe, which doesn’t always have shows that appeal to children,” Bauer said, “but a lot of us have kids and are always looking for things for them to do. Children’s plays have not always been my focus, but in the last two years I’ve become more and more involved in writing them, especially when kids can participate in the work and take ownership over what they are experiencing.”
Reuniting Bauer with Suzana Berger, founder of Dragon’s Eye and the play’s director, the play begins when a group of friends discover that something strange has happened, and they all decide to build a detective society using a variety of toys and other objects.
“Last year I worked with Suzana on a play called ‘Seek and Hide’ which was very successful,” Bauer said. “Suzana and I dreamed this one up together, so a lot of ideas came from her. She liked forming detective societies when she was a kid, and I liked Scooby Doo. As we collaborated, we wanted to come up with a play that used the venue’s stage space actively as if it were a place to find clues. We have hidden exits and entrances, so it’s a fun way for the audience to run around looking for things rather than just sitting still and watching the action.”
Bauer was named one of the “People of the Year” by nytheatre.com for making a significant impact on theatre in New York. Aside from writing plays, many of which have won awards such as the Barrymore, NYC 15 Minute Play Festival and many more, Bauer also teaches playwriting at the University of the Arts.
“Having been a trained actor, I think I know what a character needs from an acting point of view. I find writing dialogue very easy because I understand what people say and how they say it,” Bauer said. “I feel pretty good about the fact that I see things from other people’s perspective.“
In teaching others, he added, “I try to impart the same things to them. I know playwriting can be taught because I’ve taught it to almost every kind of person, from the homeless to college students to addicts to illiterate people. There are a few rules to learn that remain true, but every day somebody comes along and breaks the rules beautifully.”
He also believes that anyone can learn to write a play “if they are human beings who care about other human beings. Then it’s just a matter of developing a character and learning how to put all those things down on paper.”
For more information about “A Mystery,” call 215-413-1318.