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The meaning of family

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Playwright Wendy Kout looks at three generations of Jewish life in We Are the Levinsons

By MAX SPARBER

Playwriting and writing for television are ostensibly similar undertakings. In fact, if you’ve ever been on the set of a sitcom, it can look very much like a stage set, with bleachers set up for live audiences and much of the action of the show performed uninterrupted, like a scene from a play.

They are not the same. Wendy Kout has written for both, starting with seven episodes of Mork & Mindy in the early 80s and also creating the popular sitcom Anything But Love, which featured Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis as co-workers at a Chicago magazine who spent years battling a mutual attraction for each other.

Playwright Wendy Kout, whose play We Are the Levinsons will debut at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company in April. (Photo: Courtesy of Wendy Kout)

Kout, who authored the play We Are the Levinsons (debuting at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company on April 22), turned to playwriting in the early 2000s, frustrated with her inability to get a movie produced. Her writing partner suggested turning it into a play.

In an interview with American Jewish World, Kout expressed her relief at the experience. “It’s so nice to work in a medium where the writer’s voice is so respected,” she said. “When you write for television, you’re writing somebody else’s voice. You’re writing their stories.”

As a playwright, Kout has explored Jewish themes (and as a screenwriter; she wrote the 2011 film Dorfman in Love, which was a fan favorite on the Jewish film festival circuit.) With We Are the Levinsons, Kout looks at three generations of a Jewish family as the oldest generation nears the end of their lives. Kout also explores the meaning of family, introducing a transwoman who comes in as a caregiver and develops into a sort of adopted family member.

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We Are the Levinsons runs April 22 – May 14 at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, Highland Park Community Center, 1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul. . Tickets start at $20 and are on sale now. Call 651-647-4315 or visit mnjewishtheatre.org for reservations and more information.

(American Jewish World, 3.24.17)

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