Kurt Bodden says sometimes after seeing his show, “Steve Seabrook: Better Than You,” people will come up and tell him that they found some of the stories he told as his character, a personal growth coach, helpful.
Bodden meant the stories – about being like the water in the dam and letting gravity do the work or turning on the lights and really looking at the cockroaches or just enjoying not doing things you don’t want to do when you’re procrastinating – to sound profound, but basically be meaningless. But if people find them useful, great, he says. And he takes it as a compliment that his motivational speaker character is not totally ridiculous.
“I wanted to do an even handed plausible show and not make it look stupid,” he said. “He was never going to say anything a real speaker would not say.”
Bodden, an actor, comic and writer has led corporate workshops in team-building and creativity, read his share of self-help books and had personal coaching, which he drew on when putting together the show.
Bodden sees similarities between the world of personal growth and improv – learning to be more open, to communicate better, and take risks. But there’s a key difference, he thinks.
I definitely feel like improv has improved my life,” he said. “I’ve performed it and taught it and taken hundreds of classes. Obviously, I’m a believer. But there’s no danger in improv whereas in self-help, you can get into this rut of thinking if I just do one more program or read one more book by an author, then I’ll be ready to take on life.”
In the show at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco, besides seeing Steve Seabrook in his role leading the workshop, we also witness him backstage talking to the lighting guy or on his cell phone, where we find out about his jealousy of more famous motivational speaker and his crush on a colleague, “The Dating Whisperer.” We also learn about him being invited – then disinvited and invited again – to be a self help speaker on cruise. Bodden says he got the idea reading his friend Beth Lisack’s book, Helping Me Help Myself, where she describes going on a cruise with Richard Simmons, the fitness personality. He named the one in the show “Consciousness Cruise,” – and later found out was a real name of a cruise for self help speakers.
Bodden, who first performed this show at the San Francisco Fringe Festival where it won a Best of Fringe award, has added new material and taken some away. Bodden has been performing for years, says doing this show at the Marsh he’s gratified to see so many people who don’t know him in the audience. The range of ages surprises him as well.
“I thought it would all be people in their 40s or older,” he said. “But even teenagers think it’s funny. They grew up with this stuff and they’ve watched Oprah or Dr. Phil, so they get it.”
Bodden, going back to his improv roots, asks for questions from the audience for Steve Seabrook. This part always goes well, he says. So well some people think it must have been planned in advance.
“I always improvise it, and it’s fun for me and fun for the audience,” he said. “People tend to be skeptical. They say, ‘Come on, you plant a lot of those, right?’ But I just get good questions.”
“Steve Seabrook,” directed by Mark Kenward, has been so successful that it’s been extended- through May 18. It plays at 8:00pm on Fridays and 8:30pm on Saturdays (until April 4, when it will play on Thursdays at 8pm and Saturdays 8:30pm), at The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia Street. For tickets, visit www.themarsh.org or call 415-282-3055