Greetings from NYC

I am in New York City for meetings with playwright Eisa Davis ( THE HISTORY OF LIGHT) and director Liesl Tommy. We are in the pre- production phase. We will discuss casting ideas, set and costume ideas, etc. While I am here I will meet with Sheri Wilner, playwright of the past CATF productions HUNGER and FATHER JOY. Sheri has enjoyed great success and critical acclaim at our Theater Festival. She is one of my favorite writers and we have developed a strong professional relationship. I am interested in hearing about her current projects.

Last week we presented our ECONOMIC IMPACT SURVEY at a Press Conference in Charleston West Virginia. We partnered with The Gateway New Economy Council and conducted a survey of CATF patrons attending the 2008 Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV. We were interested in measuring the magnitude of the Theater Festival’s impact on the local economy. We have long believed that our annual Festival economically benefits the local economy in a substantial way. We presented our findings to our elected officials, business leaders and supporters in order to provide them with credible data that demonstrates the economic benefits of a vibrant and vital nonprofit arts industry. The survey makes clear that an investment in CATF is an investment in our community, state and region. We had a successful news event in Charleston, WV. We were joined by US Senator Jay Rockefeller who made encouraging remarks regarding our art and our business.

—Ed Herendeen

The Point of Theater

I remember reading this quote from playwright Craig Lucas:

“ In order to earn a long standing position in our hearts — a play must deepen our appreciation for life, and to do that it must have depth.”

I believe that the point of all theater is to give the contemporary audience a fuller appreciation and better understanding of reality. And . . . theater can turn reality on its head; it can turn it inside out and confuse all the issues so that the audience is left with a bunch of unanswered questions. This is what I like about contemporary theater . . . it does not promise easy solutions. Contemporary plays resist a single interpretation. I am drawn to playwrights who write plays that can simultaneously hold two or more conflicting opinions and defy single interpretations.

I seek plays that are full of philosophy, spirituality, psychology and politics . . . plays that are engaged with life . . . plays that are an intrinsic part of human existence.

—Ed Herendeen

Welcome to talktheater

Welcome to my first blog. I am looking forward to beginning a free wheeling conversation on theater, new plays and my work as a director and producer.  So for those of you who don’t know me . . . allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ed Herendeen and I am the Founder and Producing Director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival. My producing partner is Peggy McKowen (Associate Producing Director) and she will be joining us in our talktheater blogging.

I started the Theater Festival in 1991 on a wing and a prayer and a $90,000 budget. My dream was to create a home for the development and production of new American plays. Now my dream has become a reality. In 2010 CATF will celebrate her 20TH Anniversary . . . an awesome milestone! It blows my mind.

I have a confession to make. I love theater. I spend a lot of time and energy witnessing theater, producing theater, directing theater and debating/talking theater. This thing I love is a demanding beast. Why do I do it? Because I need to. It’s my passion. It’s my calling. The theater thrills me and it feeds my insatiable hunger to express myself. This hunger demands that I take risks and push myself to take on ambitious and often times impossible projects. When the work is successful, it gives me great joy and when it fails . . . I keep working.

I believe that the theater is my vocation. Directing theater gives me unexplainable pleasure, and it often keeps me awake at night worrying about it. It can be the most fulfilling vocation imaginable. I also believe the greater the risks and the more challenging the projects . . . the greater the joy.

My passion for directing new work began in Graduate School at Ohio University.  I discovered the thrill and excitement of working on a new play with a living playwright.

Ever since then I have been hooked on producing and directing new work. New plays are produced without a safety net of tradition . . .there is no production history to fall back on.

Theater persists because of new plays. There is a profound joy in creating something new . . . for the first time.

The following quote by playwright Steven Dietz goes directly to my core as an Artistic Director:

“The theater is not about nostalgia. The theater is not a museum. Plays don’t hang on walls, oblivious to time. The theater is a rehearsal of the concerns of the present moment.”

–Ed Herendeen