Scene from Water! Water!
University of Illinois, Urbana 1962

By any measure, Partch’s oddest stage work is Water! Water!, subtitled "An Intermission with Prologues and Epilogues". The subtitle expressed his rather cynical belief that it was the intermission, when the audience rushed with "eager anticipation and outright relief" for a drink, that constituted the focal point of any concert or theatrical event. The piece’s framework is a broad satire, poking fun at formal concert occasions; at one point, some of the instruments (mounted on casters for this production) chase and attack the producer, who attempts to have them relegated to the pit. Set in the fictional California town of Santa Mystiana, the libretto includes a Lady Mayor, a drought, a jazz band of hipsters, a coven of ancient water witches, a baseball game, and an epic flood -- as Partch put it, "The end of the world as we know it!"

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