Plays, lectures, films, more get underway at 23rd annual festival
SHEPHERDSTOWN – There’s plenty of excitement here this week as the Contemporary American Theater Festival unveils its new season and begins offering a variety of companion events from free lectures to a film series to meals with the festival’s creator.
[cleeng_content id="540506554" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Tonight brings the first chance to see this year’s rotating selection of works by playwrights Sam Shepard, Mark St. Germain, Liz Duffy Adams, Jon Kern and Jane Martin as the festival holds the first of two nights of “Pay What You Can” previews.
The preview shows continue Thursday and then the new season begins in earnest on Friday.
It’s the 23rd year for the festival, which unfolds on the Shepherd University campus though July 28.
Among the elements making this year special: plays will in the Center for Contemporary Arts II building, which was unveiled to the public earlier this year. As in years past, works also will be staged in the university’s Frank Center for the Performing Arts. The festival will no longer use the Sara Cree Studio Theater.
Again this year, those who attend CATF can enjoy a number of free extra “Talk Theater” events sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council.
The lineup includes five post-show discussions where ticket-holders can stay late to take part in a moderated discussion with members of the acting company.
After each night’s performance, the free “After-Thoughts Café,” will offer theater-goers an opportunity to kick back at the Yellow Brick Bank at 201 E. German St. with Peggy McKowen, the festival’s associate producing director, and James McNeel, the festival’s managing director.
New to the festival this year is “CATF in Context,” a scholarly undertaking that allows participants to examine the inspiration behind the works staged this summer.
There’s no charge to attend, but those interested must reserve a seat by calling the CATF box office. The sessions begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and July 13, 20 and 27 at the Center for Contemporary Arts II at 62 W. Campus Drive.
Saturday afternoons throughout the festival, CATF holds its Humanities Lectures in the auditorium of Reynolds Hall on the university’s campus. Those talks begin at 4:30 p.m.; there is no charge for admission.
This year’s CATF also includes a number of free-to-attend stage readings at the Shepherdstown Opera House, the historic theater at 131 W. German St. downtown.
Fans of the theater can get a sneak preview of the plays under consideration for the 2014 season as actors from current season read plays starting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Details about the staged readings can be found at CATF.org.
Tickets must be purchased for other components of the festival, such as the film series, “CATF at the Movies” happening Friday afternoons during July at Shepherdstown Opera House.
The films, each tied thematically to one of the offerings in the 2013 repertory, are this week’s “Dr. Strangelove,” “East of Eden” on July 12, “The Great Gatsby” on July 19 and “The Crucible” on July 26. Tickets for the matinee cost $10, and include an introduction from a CATF insider.
The popular “Breakfast With Ed” series allows where fans of CATF to enjoy a morning meal and small-group conversation with Ed Herendeen, who founded the festival and continues as its producing director.
The 90-minute breakfast gives audience members the chance to talk with Herendeen about the 2013 plays, the festival’s history, how CATF works move through rehearsal and the developmental process, theater trends and other topics.
Tickets cost $25 and are available for 10 a.m. Sunday and July 11, 14, 18, 21, 25 and 28.
Along similar lines is “Lunch & Art,” which festival-goers can connect with members of the 2013 CATF company over a lunch catered by Harpers Ferry’s Chef Miriam.
The 60-minute gatherings cost $30 and are scheduled for Friday and July 12, 19 and 26. Those who attend have the chance to learn about the actors’ careers, how they approach the creative process and find out all the behind-the-scenes details about the season’s lineup.
Want to go?
What: “Pay What You Can Previews” at the Contemporary American Theater Festival
Where: On the campus of Shepherd University, Shepherdstown
When: Tonight and Thursday. The regular season begins Friday and continues through July 28
How much: Following the “Pay What You Can Previews,” discounts are available to West Virginia residents. Seniors, students, groups and others also qualify for special rates.
Details: For more on the new season of plays and for information on securing tickets or getting special pricing for packages of tickets for four or more plays, go online to catf.org or call the theater box office at 800-999-CATF.
What’s in store on the CATF stage this summer?
SHEPHERDSTOWN -– Contemporary American Theater Festival founder Ed Herendeen has described this season’s rotating repertory as “complicated, vivid, fleshy and ambitious.”
A look at what’s on tap: