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The Contemporary American Theater Festival

2014 Season in Shepherdstown, West Virginia

By: CATF - 03/10/2014

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Ed Herendeen founded the theatre festival. Giuliano photo.
Ed Herendeen founded the theatre festival. Giuliano photo.

Shepherdstown, West Virginia:   The Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University has announced its 24th season featuring five new American plays, including three world premieres. Theater Festival Producing Director Ed Herendeen has chosen scripts from Christina Anderson, Charles Fuller (winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), Thomas Gibbons, Bruce Graham, and Chisa Hutchinson. 

In total, the Festival will present 102 performances of these plays, along with supplemental events and programming, between July 6 and August 3, 2014 (official opening is July 11) on the Shepherd University campus in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

In addition to the plays – produced in rotating repertory, which allows audience members to see all five shows in just two or three days – the 2014 Season will feature free lectures, stage readings, discussions, thematic classes, late-night salons, and an art exhibition.  Plus, patrons have the opportunity to purchase tickets to audience immersion events including lunches with artists and breakfast with the Theater Festival’s founder

“Selecting a repertory of new work is the most important responsibility I have as Producing Director and one that I am passionate about. I seek plays that are full of philosophy, spirituality, psychology, politics, and diverse stories. I clamor for works of theater that are engaged with life itself and are an intrinsic part of human existence,” remarked Herendeen, who founded the Festival in 1991. 

About the new season, he said, “The 2014 Repertory features a panorama of the American landscape. We have invited five writers that represent the exciting state of contemporary playwriting in America. These plays, all written within the last year or two, range from the intimate and personal, to the political and national, to the ethical and moral questions awaiting us in the near future. Taken together, they explore a variety of cultural perspectives on life in the United States. These writers each have a distinctive voice and a unique theatrical vision that will harness the power of live theater to create transformative experiences this summer for artist and audience alike. These writers are listening to America. They are telling America’s stories. They are attempting to unpack the turbulent American experience.”

THE 2014 PLAYS & PLAYWRIGHTS:

THE ASHES UNDER GAIT CITY
By Christina Anderson | Director TBA | 100 minutes | Venue: Marinoff Theater

World Premiere.

Supported, in part, by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation.  Originally commissioned by Portland Playhouse.

When a devastating fire burned Gait City to the ground, the community decided to rebuild. An enduring and noble gesture, but with one crucial oversight: They forgot the black people. A popular internet guru, Simone The Believer, launches a campaign amongst her followers to encourage black Americans to migrate to this town, and reclaim their roots. Inspired by the 19th Century exclusionary laws, this play delves into ownership, identity, and the power of belief.  It dramatically captures the influence of cult behavior, through technology’s lens, while tackling the continued and complicated nature of race in our contemporary world.

 Christina Anderson is a New Dramatist Fellow and her work has appeared at Steppenwolf, Penumbra, Yale Rep, A.C.T. and The Public Theater. Her plays include Blacktop Sky, Hollow Roots, Good Goods, and Pen/Man/Ship. She is a playwright-in-resident at Magic Theatre and Core Writer at The Playwrights’ Center.

ONE NIGHT
By Charles Fuller | Directed by Ed Herendeen | 100 minutes | Venue: Frank Center Stage

Commissioned and first produced (2013) by Cherry Lane Theatre (NYC), Angelina Fiordellisi, Artistic Director, in a co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (NYC).

 Down on their luck, two Iraq war veterans mysteriously arrive at a seedy motel, looking for a place to hide and start over. They are burdened with secrets from their time in the ‘sandbox’ and desperate to make sense of life in the here and now. As the trauma of the past blends unflinchingly into the present, this one night finds a soldier simmering in her patriotic duty for justice and freedom—her own. Raging against the searing subject of sexual abuse in the armed services, this suspenseful and provocative play asks:  “Why am I a hero if I die, and a nuisance if I live?”

 Contains graphic language. For mature audiences only.

Charles Fuller won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for A Soldier’s Play, which he would later adapt into the film A Soldier’s Story, netting his screenplay nominations for the Academy and Golden Globe Awards. He won an Obie Award for Zooman and the Sign in 1980. In addition to theater, he has written short fiction and for CBS, Showtime, and PBS.

UNCANNY VALLEY
By Thomas Gibbons | Directed by Tom Dugdale | 90 minutes | Venue: Studio 112

A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere (in affiliation with InterAct Theatre Company and San Diego Repertory Theatre).

The relationship between the creator and the created unfolds in the phenomenon known as the uncanny valley where Claire, a neuroscientist, works with Julian, an artificial being, on becoming human.  Drawing on current research and the not-so-distant future, this spellbinding and deeply satisfying new play travels to the ethical heart of humankind’s bid to outrace mortality.  How far are we willing to go to forget, while insisting on never being forgotten?

Thomas Gibbons is playwright-in-residence at InterAct Theatre Company, which has premiered many of his plays including Permanent Collection, Pretending to America, A House With No Walls, and Bee-luther-hatchee. His work has been seen at CenterStage, Roundhouse Theatre, Northlight Theater, and many others.

NORTH OF THE BOULEVARD
By Bruce Graham | Directed by Ed Herendeen | 110 minutes | Venue: Frank Center Stage

Business is falling apart, and so are the walls in this crumbling auto-repair shop on the wrong side of the Boulevard. Three childhood friends and one crusty old man sift through the merits of their floundering lives while confronting the vanishing middle-class around them. But just when the last road to prosperity seems at its dead-end, a questionable opportunity unfolds before them: Are they corrupt enough to escape the corruption that’s ruining their neighborhood? This blistering, working-class comedy aims for the gut and takesno prisoners.

Contains explicit language. For mature audiences only.

Bruce Graham returns to CATF, which produced his Coyote on a Fence in 1999, prior to its Off-Broadway run. His other plays include Any Given Monday, Something Intangible, Belmont Avenue Social Club, and many others. He also writes for television and film, including Cedar Cove, Dunston Checks In, Steal This Movie, and Anastasia.

DEAD AND BREATHING
By Chisa Hutchinson | Director TBA | 80 minutes | Venue: Marinoff Theater

World Premiere.

Carolyn is a cranky old broad who just wants to die already! She’s gone through almost as many nurses as she has treatments, but just can’t seem to kick the bucket. With her new—profane but God-fearing—hospice caregiver all up in her “lady parts,” she sets about convincing Veronika to help her to just get it over with. Full of surprises, this hilarious exploration into mortality and morality tests the boundaries of faith and forgiveness, prejudice and pridefulness, when the stakes are nothing short of life… and death.

Contains strong language and nudity. For mature audiences only.

Chisa Hutchinson’s award-winning plays include She Like Girls, Sex on Sunday, The Subject, Dirt Rich, and Somebody’s Daughter. She’s been a Lark Fellow, Dramatist Guild Fellow, resident at the William Inge Center for the Arts, New York NeoFuturist, and a staff writer for Blue Man Group. In 2013, she became a resident playwright at New Dramatists.

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