Local Watertown organizations team up for historical play

The annual Watertown Area Historical Society display that is part of Rails to Trails will get a unique new addition this year in the form of a short play put on by the River City Theatre Company.

The play will be based on the life of Isaac Ives Lewis, the founder of Watertown, as seen through entries in his diary. The roughly 20-minute play, which will feature audience interaction, will be staged six times throughout the course of the two-day festival.

“I’m definitely excited for the opportunity for River City to partner with the Historical Society,” said RCTC’s Lindsay Zumbrunnen. “I’m really excited about the whole aspect of getting to bring history to life and help people learn more about the history of Watertown in an interactive way.”

The idea first came to life when the Historical Society approached the theatre company about the idea in November. After coming to an agreement, the Historical Society’s Nathan Johnson wrote the script, which was re-worked into a play by RCTC.

The play is based on Lewis’ life, from his childhood through his founding of Watertown, Zumbrunnen said. She estimated the show to be somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, including interactive portions like singalongs and folk songs from the 1800s. Many of the aspects will cater to children, but Zumbrunnen said the show is really for just about anybody.

“It’s really geared toward all ages,” she said. “I think all age groups will come away something different from it. Adults, I think, will learn more about the history, and I think children will enjoy learning about Isaac’s childhood, and getting to enjoy the songs.”

Performances will be held at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 19, and at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 20. Between the shows, children can have their picture taken with cast members, or visitors can peruse the historical society’s related display.

Both the historical society’s display and the RCTC production will be in the Community Center. This type of production is new for RCTC, but Zumbrunnen said the group is embracing the opportunity to try something different.

“We’ve never performed at the Community Center, so that will be a different space to work with,” she said. “We’re working with a small cast. We have about 10 people involved who have been involved with some of our past productions, and there will be some audience participation, which will be a fun aspect we’ve never worked with before.”

In addition to the play, the historical society will have its exhibit up in the Community Center. The Historical Society exhibit will highlight the early years of Watertown and its residents, both the new settlers and the Dakota band of Native Americans.

There will be specimens of Big Woods wildlife, and hands-on displays for children. A quilt which was owned by Deborah Pettit will also be on display. Mrs. Pettit’s husband was an early dealer in Watertown townsite shares and has a Watertown street named for him. A silent auction featuring original artwork will also be part of the event.

The exhibit will be open from 1-7 p.m. on Friday, July 19, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. Combined with the Theatre Company’s play, it should offer a unique look at Watertown’s history.

“Come check it out,” Zumbrunnen said. “It’s going to be a fun, interactive way to learn about the history of Watertown and Isaac Lewis.”


Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]