Tag Archive for: J.T.Rogers

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


                     “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring

                       will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  T.S. Eliot

 All the risk taking, creativity inducing, entrepreneurial flames that have ignited the Contemporary American Theater Festival since 1991 continue to burn strong. Opportunities abound for creative stimulation, and inspiration continues to flow as we begin our 20th Anniversary Season.

 We embrace the excitement and wonder of our 2010 Repertory and we are clearly focused on  our vision, mission and core values. We are a community of artists who are united by a common purpose–to help people raise the standard of living meaningful lives by producing provocative contemporary works of art that help us to understand our world and ourselves. Our work empathizes with others because empathy lies at the heart of morality, and we are a theater company that embraces social responsibility. Our purpose drives our mission, which drives our vision, which is inspired by our core values.

Creativity is the nucleus of our collective enterprise. We understand that the creative process is essential to the health and success of our organization. We are a theater that is willing and agile enough to adapt to the unpredictable rhythms of society. This means that our Theater Festival is alive with possibilities. We celebrate the power of ideas and we seek fresh opportunities for new thinking. The 2010 Repertory will continue to rock-the-boat and shift the status quo.

Our 2010 playwright’s: Max Baker, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Jennifer Haley, Michele Lowe, J.T. Rogers and Lee Sellars function as master storytellers, while sending activist tentacles into the world to bring about dialogue and positive change.

So here’s a question: What does the Contemporary American Theater Festival truly represent? How does the work we create relate to the current social events and why does it really matter? I invite you to attend all five plays…and see for yourself…Because theater can move us…it ignites our passions and inspires the best in us. When we try to explain why theater is so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal. Great art works through the emotions. Our success depends on how well we do this.

Throughout history and in cultures everywhere, people look to the artists for assurance and clarity when facing uncertainty. Artists act as our emotional guides. They help us to become more self-aware by mirroring our behavior. Self-awareness plays a crucial role in empathy, or sensing how someone else sees a situation: If a person is perpetually oblivious to their own feelings, they will also be tuned out to how others feel. Being attuned to how others feel in the moment can create an atmosphere for social awareness and empathy. Empathy which includes listening and understanding other people’s stories creates resonance. The root of the word resonance is revealing: the Latin word resonare, to resound. Resonance, the Oxford dictionary states, refers to “the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection,” or more specifically, “by synchronous vibration.” This occurs in the theater when the audience is on the same wavelength emotionally with the actor and production–when they feel “in sync.” And true to the original meaning of resonance, this synchrony “resounds,” prolonging an “AHA!” experience with the audience.

Our 2010 Repertory presents five new works that will inspire and create resonance…plays that will move you with our  compelling vision and collective mission. I am attracted to contemporary writers who are attuned to our world and whose stories help us to define these tumultuous times.

I assure you that Max Baker, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Jennifer Haley, Michele Lowe, J.T. Rogers and Lee Sellars are attuned to today’s world and their stories will create resonance long after you leave the theater.

Ed Herendeen


We have added four additional performances of WHITE PEOPLE by J.T. Rogers. This is great news! So check-out the new schedule on the CATF Web-site www.catf.org . I recommend that you make your ticket reservations now if you want to experience this powerful new play by J.T. Rogers.

“What is wrong with self-preservation? Where’s the sin there? Yes, I live in a community of people who look like me. I choose to live where my children will be privileged, where they’ll find opportunity. For thousands of years people all over the world have grouped with their own. But now we decide–What?–this is a bad thing? All of a sudden, we should throw comfort–protection–out the window? All of a sudden, I’m supposed to look around at the world and feel shame?”            Martin in WHITE PEOPLE


 The theater is a democracy. It pushes–expands our notion of who the “we” is. It creates a live, dynamic transaction between the performer and the audience. And this transaction is often controversial. I believe it is vital that our Theater Festival is a flash-pot in today’s turbulent world.The theater is a place where we can have a community dialogue about topics and issues that make us uncomfortable. I hope that our production of WHITE PEOPLE will prompt a fruitful dialogue about race and language in our culture.

“I mean, look around here. Everything’s different now. People are coming here on boat, foot, camel. Bringing their religion, food, talk…and I understand! I mean, the rest of the world is burning down. Even people like Dr. Singh are crawling over each other to get here. So I say good! Fine! But there’s just one thing everyone needs to remember: we were here first. You understand? Now that means something. All these people–black, brown, yellow–they need to see us, get behind us, and wait their turn. That’s what you call fair and that’s what you call just. Because me and Earl: We were here first.”     Mara Lynn in WHITE PEOPLE

Producing contemporary theater, especially in this moment, is a form of social activism. It is a statement of belief in the power of community, in the power of sharing the most private feelings in the most public of spaces–the theater. Contemporary theater is a messy business…it thrives on risks…This state of risk-taking can sometimes produce a collision of values between the audience and the risk-hungry artist.

I look forward to reading your comments. Lets’ talk…

Ed Herendeen


What does it mean to be a white American? What does it mean for any American to live in a country that is not the one you were promised? WHITE PEOPLE is a controversial and darkly funny play about the lives of three ordinary Americans placed under the spotlight: Martin a Brooklyn-born high powered attorney from a white-shoe law firm in St. Louis, MO; Mara Lynn, a  housewife and former homecoming queen in Fayetteville, NC; and Alan, a professor struggling to find his way in New York City. Through heart-wrenching confessions, they wrestle with guilt, prejudice, and the price they and their children must pay for their actions. WHITE PEOPLE, a new play by J.T. Rogers is a candid, brutally honest meditation on race and language in our culture.

J.T. Rogers (THE OVERWHELMING CATF 2008) returns to Shepherdstown with a sobering, unsettling but deeply rewarding look at a combustible issue many of us prefer to sidestep…WHITE PEOPLE will not be easy to sit through. It will raise questions as it challenges our assumptions about race. So…be a part of the conversation and join us in the intimate Performance Space in the Center For Contemporary Art at the 2010 CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN THEATER FESTIVAL. I am looking forward to having a lively conversation with you about this controversial new work.


Lee Sellarsplays Alan, a Manhattan professor who admires the determination of New York’s Dutch colonizers even as he acknowledges their persecution of Jews and Quakers. At the same time he is exhilarated, almost smitten, by Felicia, a black student.

Lee Sellars: Alan in WHITE PEOPLE

Margot White creates the role of Mara Lynn, a mother in Fayetteville, NC., who wrestles with memories of her cheerleader past; the faded athletic glories of her husband, Earl, now a delivery-truck driver; and the struggles of her young, epileptic son. Frustrated, she vents her wrath on an Indian physician. 

Margot White: Mara Lynn in WHITE PEOPLE

Kurt Zischke plays Martin, a driven St. Louis lawyer who bemoans what he sees as the decline of the English language and popular music. His disdain for his black secretary…and black culture in general…is pronounced.

Kurt Zischke: Martin in WHITE PEOPLE

Ticket Alert!    Several performances of WHITE PEOPLE are sold-out. Make your plans now to see this remarkable new work.

Ed Herendeen