Welcome Remarks

Last night we welcomed the 2010 Contemporary American Theater Festival Company to Shepherdstown, West Virginia . The Board of Trustees hosted a fabulous picnic on the Frank Center Lawn. It was a magical evening. I want to share with you my Remarks to the 2010 Company:

Monday June 7, 2010

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
-Jack Kerouac

This quote by Jack Kerouac really resonates with me because it best describes the kind of people gathered here this evening. We are all just a bit mad…mad to live…mad to create…mad to talk about serious issues…mad for radical innovation…mad for art…And we burn, burn, burn for creating new American theater. We are fearless in our support for the American playwright.

For me the work never gets old. Every season is a new beginning. Tomorrow we will put into motion the 2010 Repertory. We have five new scripts to nurture, develop and produce this summer.

The thing I care about most in my professional life is new work, particularly new American writing that is socially engaged and represents the diversity of America, and that is what the Contemporary American Theater Festival stands for. I share with you a profound belief that what we are doing is important and vital. We are creating the future of the American theater. And the future spends the summer in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Tonight we are clearly witnessing a veritable tsunami of creative energy. And we will unleash this tsunami in the rehearsal halls, shops and admin offices. We are activators of creative energy. We are engagers of creative thinking. We are animators of creative rebellion. We are co-creators of this tsunami of creative exploration. And I am inviting you to join me as my collaborator, partner, and co-creator. This summer you and I will discover the joy of making art together with five extraordinary American playwrights.

I love rehearsing a new play…it is an exhilarating experience…Because new plays are produced without a safety net of tradition. New plays do not have a production history to fall back on. New plays are risky…and I love taking risks. I am most happy when I am in rehearsal…”making believe”…”creating belief.” We are makers of belief! We create truth and beauty on-stage. And this process begins tomorrow.

Theater artists are: tolerant, independent, curious, witty, persistent, observant, questioning, optimistic, energetic, passionate, flexible, intuitive and perceptive. My role as Producing Director is to create an atmosphere for you to take risks and create dangerously. I encourage all of you to “listen” and “look”…the more you look…the more you will discover in rehearsal.

“Once in a while
You get shown, the light,
In the strangest places
if you look at it right.”
-The Grateful Dead

Our Theater Festival presents an image of American society. The work that we produce is an expression of our national identity. And our 2010 Repertory plays a vital role in America’s understanding of herself, her times and her destiny. We are vital to the social, moral and education of our American community. Our Repertory will help to strengthen the moral and spiritual lives in a people who live in a turbulent and uncertain world as we explore these plays and define their meaning.

THE EELWAX JESUS 3-D POP MUSIC SHOW embraces radical innovation. INANA seeks inspiration and understanding in a multi-cultural world. BREADCRUMBS will demonstrate the power of story. And LIDLESS and WHITE PEOPLE will reassert what it means to be humane rather than merely human. Our stunning Repertory gives us the opportunity to create art…in the present moment…in an age of demonization and fear of difference. We will gather a contemporary audience and invite them to look at their fellow human beings with curiosity and generosity. We will engage them with five daring and bold new plays that present real ideas, controversial subjects, and innovative production elements. The Theater Festival audience will witness the collision of stories, styles, and voices that will lead all of us to a better understanding of ourselves as we attempt to navigate the future.

I hope that this resonates with all of you…because I believe that this kind of work is embedded in our artistic DNA… and…I am counting on you to rally around our Mission and Core Values:

MISSION: “Dedicated to producing and developing new American theater.

> To sustain an artistic process of innovation and daring.
>To tell diverse stories.
>To create a profound and ever evolving relationship between the audience and the work.

Imagine starting a professional non-profit theater…Imagine producing a theater repertory dedicated solely to new work…Imagine the challenges of making theater during these difficult economic times…

That any theater comes together at all, ever, is a miracle. It’s been said by many, that in order to take on a career in the professional theater, your need to do it must supersede virtually every other desire you could possibly have. To make it you must make sacrifices: of your time, of your financial security, of your personal life, and many times of every last shred of your peace of mind. You must be tough. Your self esteem had better be bulletproof, and not simply in terms of the numerous professional rejections and the struggle you will invariably face. You also need to know who you are and like whom you are 24/7.

The world is indeed better off because there are those of us who live to write, act, direct, design, stage manage, work tech, work in admin—and perhaps the most daunting prospect of all…start and build their own theater company.

Many of us did not choose this work; it chose us. But if we choose to answer that call, what we really do is, we honor the past, we commemorate the present, we share and we change the future in a way that does honor to all and violence to none. For those of you who are spiritually inclined, it is “the gods” work we do.

In that light…Thank you for being here. On behalf of Max Baker, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Jennifer Haley, Michele Lowe, J.T. Rogers and Lee Sellars WELCOME TO SHEPHERDSTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA.

“Make voyages…
Attempt them…
There is nothing else…”
-Tennessee Williams

Ed Herendeen, Producing Director