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Kenn Watt collaborating with The Magic Theater

Award: $35,000 Performing Arts grant awarded in 1998

Premiered: Workshop production, February-March, 1999; full production, June 30-July 23, 2000

Kenn Watt, the ensemble the The Fifth Floor, and the Magic Theater collaborated on the creation and development of Summertime, a new play by Charles Mee, Jr.  The Creative Work Fund supported an intensive 1999 workshop process — among the actors, director, dramaturg, and playwright — that culminated in eight presentations of the piece in development.  That exploratory work led to the Magic Theater’s full production in 2000, when Summertime enjoyed critical and popular acclaim for a five-week run and two-week extension.

Summertime explored themes of Euripides’ Hippolytus—a tale of forbidden love told in a context of highly schematized gender roles and class structures.  It transposed this tragedy into a contemporary American setting and incorporated characters with disabilities.

Lead artist Kenn Watt and The Fifth Floor previously had produced Charles Mee’s radical adaptation of Orestes in 1995.  The production went on to win numerous Bay Area awards.  The two artists discovered that their sensibilities were well-suited to one another and Summertime enabled them to work together again.  The Magic Theater’s Literary Manager Kent Nicholson served as dramaturg, and actress Pamela Walker as casting director.

With The Fifth Floor, Kenn Watt had previously mounted critically acclaimed productions of Bake Sale, Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, Scenes from an Execution, and Orestes.  Writer and historian Charles Mee’s plays have been seen at regional theaters all over the United States, commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre Company, En Garde Arts and others.  The Magic Theater nurtures the creation, development, and production of new plays by emerging and established writers.