A Q&A With TM Sell, Playwright Of “Coriander”

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Coriander, a “spicy little parable about policy” opens next Friday (July 11th) at E.B. Foote Winery (a BTB Advertiser), located at 127-B SW 153rd in downtown Burien.

From their press release:

A tunnel?  A surface street?  A bridge?

Watch the Gods and the Greeks debate policy in Coriander

BURIEN — Breeders Theater offers a spicy little tale about urban policy in its new show, Coriander. 

In the ancient Greek city-state of Aurora, where the living is above-average and housing prices are high, they might need a road to open up some new land.  The road would have to pass through the Garden of the Oracle, raising the ire of people of faith.  Meanwhile, some folks favor a surface street; some a tunnel; and some a bridge. 

In the middle of this is Coriander, chief administrator of the government, caught between the factions (including Tentacles, the developer, and the passionate radical Antagone), angry Gods, and the city council, led by Dimes, Draco and Ricotta, who are deep in the land of process.   And wither old King Freon?

The script and lyrics of Coriander are by T.M. Sell, with music by Nancy Warren.  Martin J. Mackenzie directs, with choreography by Teresa Widner and costumes by Melissa Sell.

Scott Green stars as Coriander, with Eric Hartley, Doug Knoop, Steve Scheide, Adrienne Grieco, Melissa Malloy, Julie Wenzel, Marianne Everett, Steve Coffey, Amber Rack, Jackie Graybill and Mark Wenzel.

The show will be at E.B. Foote Winery in Burien, 127B SW 153rd St.

The show runs July 11-12, 16, 18-20, 23-27.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with show time at 7 p.m., and 1:30/2 p.m. on Sunday, July 20 and 27. 

Tickets are still only $20, which includes wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres.

Visit the winery or call for tickets: 206-242-3852 or check out breederstheater.com. (Credit cards accepted with a $5 fee per ticket OR your credit card can guarantee the tickets, and you can pay at the door with cash or check.)

Here’s a Q&A with Coriander’s prolific local Playwright TM Sell, who also serves as a Professor of Journalism and Political Science at Highline Community College:TM Sell's Self-Portrait

Q: Why is your new play named after a spice? Will you be serving any cilantro during the play (cilantro is derived from Coriander)?

A: As often happens, I start with a title.  I can’t tell you why.  I like good titles, not that mine are.  Then I see what’s either going on in the world, or something that’s been bugging me, and try see where the title gets me to saying something about that topic.  Coriander sounds like an old Greek name, and the Greeks were one of the inventors of theater, so that gave me a way of creating a situation that, as it turns out, has parallels to ours.

Q: What is Coriander about?

A: This play is about a couple of things: the public policy process and the nature of religion.  Politics and religion are two of my favorite subjects, which most people don’t want to talk about.  So if I get them to laugh, perhaps they’ll think about it a little more.

In the Ancient Greek city-state of Aurora, a developer wants to put a road to some fresh land for more housing, and Aurora, as the most desirable place in Ancient Greece in which to live, is short of housing.  But the road will go through the Garden of the Oracle, a disused but very holy site.  And in Aurora, that means you need a hearing, and public debate, and a lot of process.  In the middle of this is Coriander, a civil servant and a virtuous man, caught between various factions within the city and the city council.  Meanwhile the Gods are deciding whether to intervene.

Q: Any parallels to the “real world” to this topic?

A: Very strong parallels between our own political process, and the attitudes of some people about the world and how it should be.

Q: Any parallels to the “old Greek” drama world to this?

A: We do have a Geek chorus, though I haven’t used it quite like the Greeks would have.

Q: Was there ever a viaduct in Greece?

A: No, but the Romans built a lot of aqueducts.

Q: Talk about your writing process – how do you come up with story ideas? How do you then go about writing an entire play? How many drafts before you’re happy? Does anyone review/edit your work? etc.

A: The first thing I need is an idea.  Then I make notes about the plot.  When I’ve got that figured out, and if I have uninterrupted time, I just start writing.  I get pretty deep into that process, and I really enjoy it.  The first draft won’t take more than three or four days.  I then have to go over it a few more times, with less major surgery on each succeeding draft.  And then we read it, and members of the company make comments.  And even then, in the rehearsal process, people will think of things they like or that don’t make sense, or I’ll hear a line that’s just wooden or a joke that gets in the way, and revisions happen.

Q: You seem to be a very prolific writer – how many plays a year do you churn out?

A: Two a year.

Q: In April, we posted an audition notice for Coriander – how did the auditions go? Anyone new/interesting? Anything unusual?

A: Auditions are always odd and interesting.  You never know who will show up.  We didn’t get many men this time, but we got some very good women, and we did OK in filling what we needed filled.  Most of the company are people who have worked with BT before, and it helps to know somebody to get in.  Group chemistry is very important.  We don’t make enough money to deal with people who are high maintenance.

Q: Will the alleged, impending recession affect theaters? Why/why not?

A: Spending on entertainment is discretionary spending, so yes, of course, that makes it harder to sell tickets.  But I think we tend to fall into the category of an affordable luxury, and at $20 the tickets are cheap enough.  Also, the economy in King County is so far in much better shape than it is in other places.

Q: Should people bring jackets to EB Foote or will it not be so cold this time?

A: The winery has air conditioning for summer, which gets turned off during the show.  So it should be fairly comfortable.

Q: On a more important note, what is your take on the B-Town Blog’s progress and rising popularity?

A: Are you getting lots of traffic?  Then there’s room for more venues for information.  That’s the good news.  The other news is, in my limited understanding, if finding a way to make internet information sites profitable.  At least your costs are lower than those of a full-fledged newspaper.

This Reporter previously enjoyed a wonderfully fulfilling and entertaining “cheap date” out for TM Sell’s previous play Crazy/Naked, held at E.B. Foote last fall. We recommend it highly.

E.B. Foote Winery is located at 127-B SW 153rd in downtown Burien:

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