Accomplished Canyon Crest Academy student modernizes play for film festival

When his play “Lady Windermere’$ FAM” premieres at the San Diego International Fringe Festival this month, it will be another notch on Phillip Magin’s already impressive résumé.

The 17-year-old, who just finished his junior year at Canyon Crest Academy, has been acting since he was 9 and recently won a National Youth Arts Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Grumio in the CCA performance of “Taming of the Shrew.”

Throw in co-host for the news show on CCATV, presenter for TEDx Youth San Diego, Leadership Council Member for Teen Volunteers in Action, performing as Prospero in “The Tempest” at the Old Globe Theatre and winning awards for his performances in the Student Shakespeare Festival in Balboa Park, and one starts to get the idea about this talented young man.

There’s the short film (Zeke Zeppelin) Magin produced and directed at age 15, which was accepted into the All-American High School Film Festival, and another short film that won an Audience Choice Award at CCA’s Mini Cine Festival.

In fact, “Lady Windermere’$ FAM” comes to the Fringe Festival six years after Magin’s first written play was produced, that came at the North Coast Repertory Theatre at age 11. But acting has always been his main priority.

“When I was little, I was always into performing or using my imagination to write,” Magin said. “When I was in third grade at Solana Vista Elementary, I auditioned for the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ I remember I worked really hard and it was down to me and one other guy for the Emperor, and I got it. I was really excited and I remember thinking, I really want to do acting.”

Magin has come a long way from there, and the Fringe Festival is a great fit for his current project:

“What I love about the Fringe Festival is that it gives you that creative freedom.”

This is his third year participating in the festival, starting in 2014, when Magin and partner Jacob Surovsky were street buskers performing with puppets in the mall for donations.

“We annoyed a lot of people in the mall,” Magin explained. “I was the ringmaster of this (puppet circus) and I was using a megaphone and bugging people to ask for them to give money.”

The festival bills itself as a destination for innovative artistic expression, and the pair won Outstanding Street Theatre Artists for that performance.

In the 2015 Fringe Festival, Magin acted in a play called “My Mother is In the Audience,” which was written by Surovsky and was one of the highest grossing plays at the event that year.

In addition to writing, directing and producing “Lady Windermere’$ FAM,” Magin is also acting in Surovsky’s “Hateful Hands” during this year’s festival, which runs from June 23-July 3.

Magin said he gets a lot of the humor he puts into his plays from his family. Dad John works for Decision Sciences in Poway, mom Alexandra does marketing at a health products company and 15-year-old brother Logan plays lacrosse and runs cross country.

That inspiration extends to immediate family, as the inspiration for “Lady Windermere’$ FAM” started with a gift from Phillip’s aunt.

“My aunt gave me this copy of the complete plays of Oscar Wilde. It was winter break, I finally decided to open it up, and the first play I read was called ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan,’” Magin said. “It’s a classic play from the 1800s. I thought the plot was really interesting and some of the quotes were funny, but mostly it’s just so long and boring and there’s all of these monologues.

“I love Shakespeare and I think his plays are much more relevant than Oscar Wilde’s are today. It got me thinking, someone should really try to adapt these plays for a younger audience.”

And “Lady Windermere’$ FAM” was the result of that thinking.

Set in modern day London, the story centers on a 30-something director who is tasked with putting on a performance of “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” However, the director is disillusioned with the art form so he decides to rewrite Oscar Wilde’s play for younger audiences.

Things get complicated when the director, Barry, has to deal with his drug-addicted artistic associate, an affair with the actress playing Lady Windermere and a group of temperamental actors, including eccentrics Walter and Rosalie. Eventually, Barry asks a 10-year old — played by 12-year-old Mo Hetzer — to write his play and the youngster fills it with internet memes that are unfamiliar to the cast and crew.

The actors — Nadiya Atkinson, Antony Balsano, Aly Charfarous, Alyssa DeVries, Nicole From, Geoffrey Ulysses Geissinger, Grant Ritchie, Zachary Sundstedt, Adam Sussman and Sean Woytowitz — and crew members are mostly Canyon Crest Academy students.

As the play is a clash of generations, so, too, is the music, as it is a mix of classic British rock and pop songs from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and rap songs.

“Lady Windermere’$ FAM” can be seen June 25 (4 p.m.), June 26 (10:30 p.m.), June 27 (7:30 p.m.), June 29 (9 p.m.) and July 2 (1 p.m.) at Tenth Avenue Arts Center Main Stage (930 10th Ave., #1, San Diego). For more tickets and more information, visit www.sdfringe.org.

But before then, Magin had to worry about his final examinations at CCA.

“It’s funny because it’s hard for me to pass chemistry, but at the same time I can write and produce a play.”

Copyright © 2018, Del Mar Times
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