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  • Magic Theatre History

    1967

    • John Lion, a Graduate student at U.C. Berkeley working under the tutelage of Professor Jan Kott, directs Ionesco’s THE LESSON at the Steppenwolf Bar.
    • The company names itself “Magic Theatre” from the scene in Herman Hesse’s novel, STEPPENWOLF, where the central character Harry Haller is invited to attend an:
      “Anarchist Evening at the Magic Theatre
      For Madmen Only
      Price of Admission Your Mind”

    1969

    • Michael McClure writes THE CHERUB and MEAT POEM for the Magic Theatre, beginning an 11-year artistic relationship that establishes the Magic as an important center for the creation and performance of new American plays.

    1971

    • The Magic produces it’s first Sam Shepard play, the West Coast Premiere of LA TURISTA

    1974

    • McClure’s most famous work, THE BEARD, and his longest running hit GORF. premiere at the Magic. Both are directed by John Lion.

    1975

    • Sam Shepard joins the Magic as its Playwright in Residence.

    1977

    • Martin Esslin, internationally renowned scholar and critic, joins the Magic as its Dramaturg. The Magic becomes the first theatre in America to establish this position.
    • The Magic Theatre moves to San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason Center.
    • Alan and Bean Finneran’s SOON 3 and Jock Reynold’s HOSPITAL premiere at the Magic, introducing the new form known as “performance art” to the Bay Area.

    1978

    • Sam Shepard’s BURIED CHILD receives its world premiere at the Magic under the direction of Robert Woodruff.
    • The Magic premiers Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin’s award-winning collaboration, TONGUES.

    1979

    • BURIED CHILD wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play runs for more than one year Off-Broadway; in subsequent seasons it receives more than 400 productions around the world.
    • John Lion receives the first award given for Achievement in Theatre by the San Francisco Arts Commission, and a special commendation from the Mayor.

    1980

    • Shepard’s TRUE WEST, directed by Robert Woodruff, receives its world premiere at the Magic. The production enjoys an extended commercial run.

    1982

    • The Magic Theatre is nominated for a Tony Award as best Regional Theatre in America.
    • The Magic premieres STUCK and SANDCASTLES by Adele Edling Shank.

    1983

    • Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE starring Ed Harris and Kathy Baker, makes its debut at the Magic. The production is transferred to New York’s Circle Repertory Theatre, where it garners critical acclaim and numerous Obies, including Best New Play.

    1984

    • Lynne Kaufman’s first play, THE COUCH, is premiered by the Magic and receives the Will Glickman Award for Best New play.

    1985

    • Tom Strelich’s NEON PSALMS, another Magic world premiere, receives the prestigious CBS/FDG New Play Award.
    • Murray Mednick’s SCAR, starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan receives its world premiere at the Magic.

    1986

    • John Lion and the Magic Theatre receive the highest honor given by the Dramatists Guild. A national panel of theatre artists, critics and scholars bestows the Margo Jones Award, citing the Magic’s “significant contribution to the dramatic art through the production of new plays.”
    • The Magic premieres Alan Bowne’s SHARON AND BILLY, directed by Albert Takazauckas.

    1988

    • The Magic revives FOOL FOR LOVE, which is featured at the Singapore Festival of the Arts.
    • John Lion directs A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, in honor of the Eugene O’Neill centenary. The production runs for 165 performances, becoming the longest-running play in the history of the Magic Theatre.

    1993

    • Mame Hunt becomes Magic Theatre’s fourth Artistic Director.
    • The Magic inaugurates a two-part Educational Outreach program, consisting of the Magic Learning Project and the Young California Writers Project. Both use theatre as a catalyst for learning in all parts of the high school curriculum.
    • After it’s initial three week run, Claire Chafee’s WHY WE HAVE A BODY, directed by Jayne Wenger, extends for an additional six months.

    1994

    • The Magic opens PLAYLAND by Athol Fugard, directed by Benny Sato Ambush, on the night of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration

    1996

    • PIECES OF THE QUILT, conceived of by noted Magic actor Sean San Jose Blackman, a stunning collection of short, new plays which both celebrate and mourn those living with or who have perished from AIDS, opens at the Magic.

    1997

    • The Magic opens it 30th Anniversary Season with Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST

    2000

    • The Magic premieres Late Henry Moss, written and directed by Sam Shepard, starring Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, and Cheech Marin.

    2002

    • Anne Bogart conceives and directs the paired plays Bob and Room.
    • Award-winning choreographer Joe Goode writes, directs, and choreographs Body Familiar.

    2003

    • Chris Smith becomes Magic Theatre’s fifth Artistic Director.
    • The Magic premieres acclaimed Irish novelist Edna O’Brien’s Triptych. David Mamet directs the world premiere of his play Dr. Faustus. Both productions are extended and break box office records.

    2004

    • The Magic premieres the musical The Opposite of Sex starring Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba and an all-star Broadway cast.
    • Chris Smith directs the world premiere of Charles Grodin’s The Right Kind of People.

    2006

    • Acclaimed puppet artist Basil Twist directs Paula Vogel’s The Long Christmas Ride Home with choreography by Joe Goode.
    • The Magic premieres Moving Right Along, written and directed by Elaine May, starring Marlo Thomas.

    2008

    • Loretta Greco becomes Magic Theatre’s sixth Artistic Director.

    2009

    • MAURITIUS and AMERICAN HWANGAP break Magic attendance records.

    2010

    • OEDIPUS EL REY wins rave reviews.