CATF cast arrives
At sunset Monday, a collection of professional theater workers from across the country met on the lawn of Shepherd University’s Frank Center to get started on this year’s 2010 Contemporary American Theater Festival.
They are mostly strangers now, but they will get to know each other very quickly. Over the next four weeks, the cast and crew of 87 will work nearly 12-hour days as they build all the scenery, set the lights and sound and take part in exhaustive rehearsals in time for opening night on July 11.
Monday’s picnic provided a chance for the assembled cast and crew to introduce themselves to each other, as well as local dignitaries, in a relaxed setting.
Once everyone had taken a seat with their dinners, the speeches began. Mayor Jim Auxer delivered a short set of remarks on Shepherdstown’s rich history.
CATF Director Ed Herendeen delivered a passionate artistic statement, encouraging the assembly of professional theater workers and actors to “create dangerously,” and he dedicated himself to providing an environment where controversy is encouraged.
“Real issues, controversial subjects, innovative production elements, this theater festival audience will witness the collision of stories, styles and voices to a better understanding of ourselves,” Herendeen said. “I hope that what I am saying resonates with you.”
This year’s festival backs up those words with a repertoire of productions touching on white racial identity, torture, the war in Iraq, mass media culture, aging and dementia.
Lee Sellars, a playwright and actor with a long history working with the CATF, explained that Herendeen is trying to set a high bar for everyone to reach during this 20th festival season. This year Sellars is performing in and writing the music for the “Eelwax Jesus 3-D Pop Music Show,” which lampoons the archetype of mass media culture’s penchant for alarmism.
Another play, “White People” by J.T. Rogers, asks what it means to be white in America. There’s also “Lidless,” by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, which is the story of a former Gitmo detainee who tracks down his former interrogator.
America’s execution of the war in Iraq forms the backdrop to the play “Inana,” by Michele Lowe, with tells the story of an Iraqi museum curator trying to protect a statue of the Goddess of War. Another intriguing play is “Breadcrumbs” by Jennifer Haley, which tells the story of an aging reclusive writer suffering from memory loss as she struggles to finish her autobiography.
More information about CATF is available at www.catf.org.