Tuesday, August 9, 2011


July is the time to stretch your theater wings and join the migration of theater goers to the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

This year CATF celebrated its 21 year. With a past history of over 85 plays by 60 different playwrights, this festival is now a destination of its own for theater goers.

With three stages, It’s like going to the circus--- except that the big show is what is the latest in contemporary American theater.

Here’s a re-cap of this year’s line-up:

In the center ring, the main attraction was undoubtedly the two works by Pulitzer prize winners. David Mamet’s “Race” --the provocative drama of two lawyers defend a wealthy white executive accused of raping a black woman and Sam Shepard’s “Ages of the Moon,” a gritty reunion of two old friends over bourbon on ice to reflect on fifty years of love and friendship--over the barrel of a shotgun--both were worth the trip.

On the side ring, Kyle Bradstreet’s “From Prague,” is a compelling exploration by three characters in a city of ghosts, “where memory and consequence collide.”

In the smaller ring, Lucy Thurber’s “ The Insurgents” tackled violence and patriotism and Tracy Thorne’s “We Are Here” presented a “functional” happy family coping with the death of a son.

It’s not any one play however, but the combinations that make CATF an exhilerating experience. Themes range from individual to global concerns, situations contain both the comic and the serious. And opinions on what
is great and what is terrible will vary. What is never a question is the consistent high quality of the actors and the directors.

The ambience of historic Shepherdstown with art galleries and historical sites nearby to enjoy the time between shows, is the perfect place to step back a bit from urban theater centers and to take time to think just what “American” and “contemporary” and “theater” mean--starting of course, at its famous bakery:)