Arts and Humanities

Off-Broadway Debut

The play Unseamly, written by a UM Theatre Arts lecturer, makes its off-Broadway debut October 8.

Oren Safdie During his weekly cross-country commute from Los Angeles to Miami, Oren Safdie optimizes his time on the flight, using the hours to work through student papers and develop his own writing as well.

Safdie, a lecturer in the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Theatre Arts, commutes from his home base in L.A. to teach playwriting, comedy writing and play analysis.  

“The first time teaching on campus was a thrill for me,” Safdie said. “I wanted to bring practical knowledge to teaching, to prepare students for the real world when they get out there.”

His practical knowledge includes a 25-year career in playwriting, production, screenwriting, and directing. As a master’s student at Columbia University, Safdie set up The West End Gate Theatre, where he solicited original material from his fellow students and staged a production every three weeks. The West End Gate provided Columbia writers and actors with an opportunity to stage their original works outside of their MFA program.

“I was hooked on playwriting the first time I saw my work staged. I knew I wanted to create a venue,” Safdie said. 

This semester, Safdie has found himself busier than usual, as his play Unseamly rolls toward its American premiere this month. The play is the first of Safdie’s works to be set in his childhood hometown of Montreal, and while the storyline takes from the allegations of sexual harassment against clothing brand American Apparel – of which Safdie’s cousin, Dov Charney, is Chief Executive Officer – the play serves more as a conversation.

“This was my dinner table conversation,” Safdie said of his writing. “I take characters that I know and fictionalize them. I don’t synthetically create characters.”

While the audience may come down on one side of the issue, Unseamly is staged so that each of the three characters has an equal voice.

“It’s not my job to tell the audience what to think,” Safdie said. “I lay out the facts and let them draw their own conclusions.”

Originally staged at Montreal’s Infinite Theatre, Unseamly makes its Off-Broadway debut when it opens on October 8 at Urban Stages in New York City. Safdie’s other New York productions include False Solution, Checks & Balances, Broken Places, and The Bilbao Effect. He has also written films and scripts for television.

Another new play by Safdie, Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, will debut in Montreal in February.