Reed Birney and Son Ephraim on Acting Together for the First Time

The father and son duo are performing in Joseph Dougherty’s historic two-hander this summer in West Virginia, and learn a lot about each other in the process.

It’s 1944 and Chester Bailey wants to enlist in World War II. Instead, his parents find him a job at the Brooklyn Navy Yards that will allow him to play his part without crossing the ocean. A devastating workplace assault renders Chester blind and without hands—but he doesn’t see it that way. His spirited imagination and unwavering denial of his injuries lands him in a Long Island mental facility. Psychologist Doctor Philip Cotton is assigned to Bailey to administer a dose of reality. In the process, he becomes protective of the young man and bolsters his creative mind.

That remarkable story is the basis for Chester Bailey by Joseph Dougherty, which is currently having its second production at Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) in Shepherdstown, W. Va., through July 28. And it stars Tony-winning actor Reed Birney and his son Ephraim as Doctor Cotton and Chester Bailey, respectively (the entire Birney family are performers; Reed’s wife Constance Shulman and daughter Gus are also actors). Read More » / Allison Considine / Download PDF »


Rousuck’s Review: Contemporary American Theater Festival

It’s Thursday, and theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us for another of her weekly reviews of the regional stage.  Today,  she spotlights the six plays being presented in rotating repertory at this year’s Contemporary American Theater Festival, a showcase for important new work held annually since 1991 on the campus of Shepherd University in historic Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Read More », & & MARGOT KOHLER / Download PDF »


Review: Antonio’s Song: I Was Dreaming of a Son at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Antonio’s Song is a masterful collaboration between two distinguished artists—some may remember Dael Orlandersmith’s emotionally charged Yellowman that tore through Washington D.C. some years ago, or her Stoop Stories. Her lyrical language and raw emotional style blend perfectly with the basic story of co-writer Antonio Edwards Suarez in Antonio’s Song: I Was Dreaming of a Son.

The intimacy of the setting in Studio 112, the unrelenting honesty of Suarez as he shares their reflections and the lyrical choreopoem style blend with the jazzy bopping music for an engaging experience at this year’s Contemporary American Theater Festival. Read More »

DC Theatre Scene / Debbie Minter Jackson / Download PDF



Behind the Scenes with CATF

A behind-the-scenes tour of all-things CATF with Founder Ed Herendeen only confirms that he’s as dialed in and enthusiastic about theater as he’s ever been. A running (and fascinating) commentary covers the festival’s every detail— examining workrooms, practice studios, sets under construction, costume and prop design, and audio/visual boards … discussing script development, directorial concepting, actors, furniture restoration, and interns arriving from all over the country. You learn eventually that somewhere around 150 people will be employed by CATF this summer, and Herendeen seems to know all of them—including bits of their stories. Read More »

The Observer • Download PDF