John Glover and Edward Tournier
in Secrets of the Trade
(© EB Brooks)
John Glover and Edward Tournier
in Secrets of the Trade
(© EB Brooks)
"There's a big gift that a mentor gives a mentee," says Jonathan Tolins, whose Secrets of the Trade is currently receiving its world premiere at L.A.'s Dahlia Theatre. "The extra confidence you get when someone important or someone that you look up to gives you that time and attention is a boost that helps you to do something on your own."

In the play, Tony Award winner John Glover portrays a famous playwright/director named Martin Kerner, whom Tolins describes as "having a tough time staying relevant" as the 1980s hit. He receives a letter from 16-year-old Andy Lipman (played by Edward Tournier) that "somehow touches him. He's this kid who is what Martin Kerner must have been like when he was younger -- ambitious, sensitive, talented, and fun to be around," says Tolins.

The play delves into both the positive and problematic aspects of mentoring. For example, Andy's mother suspects there's more to the relationship than what she's been told, while Andy himself wants more than may be offered. "Sometimes the mentor gets into the excitement of this relationship, and might be careless with the things he or she says," remarks Tolins. "So there comes a point when expectations aren't met -- where the mentee hears promises that aren't necessarily intended."

The playwright drew from his own experience and those of a number of people he knew when crafting the play. "There's a scene in Act One when Kerner takes Andy to lunch for the first time -- the dynamics of that lunch, Andy's eagerness, and the way he regroups whenever he says the wrong thing and then tries to say the right thing, is really painful for me to watch," says Tolins. "I was amazed by how many people had similar stories. They would give me details of their experience that would inspire me to put those things in the play. All my plays [which also include Twilight of the Golds and The Last Sunday in June] are sort of autobiographical and sort of not, but this one is very close to me."