Tag Archive for: Max Baker


It is FESTIVAL TIME in Shepherdstown WV. Shepherdstown is the oldest town in West Virginia doing the newest plays in America. Visitors from across America are descending on this historic semi-rural town nestled in the foothills of the BlueRidge Mountains to experience Five new American plays in rotating Repertory. Our small town is alive with aggressive storytelling and creative rebellion. The pubs, restaurants, and shops are filled with conversation. People are talking-theater. Everywhere you go you hear the buzz of radical innovation. The tsunami of creative energy is thriving throughout the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Shepherdstown is the cultural gateway into West Virginia. And the people are talking…Theater critics are talking…

                    “A gas-masked figure tossing moon pies. A stuffed dachshund named Sarah Palin. A tap-dancing vagina. Those are just a few of the hallucinatory images that swim out of THE EELWAX JESUS 3-D POP MUSIC SHOW, the most memorable, if not the most satisfying, production at the 2010 Contemporary American Theater Festival. —THE WASHINGTON POST  Wednesday, July 14, 2010

                   “If you long for the curious likes of Samuel Beckett’s WAITING FOR GODOT, or Tom Stoppard’s ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, you’re in for a treat…you’ll get an eye-popping evening with CATF’s world premiere offering of THE EELWAX JESUS 3-D POP MUSIC SHOW.”—THE HERALD MAIL July 13, 2010

                    “The 20th Anniversary of CATF appears to be the finest yet of the five play summer series.”—Bob Anthony, allartsreview4u.com

                    “INANA…Michele Lowe has written a well made thing. It’s a pleasure to watch a play go beyond what is expected.”—THE MONSTERRAT REVIEW

Yes people are talking…more later… I am looking forward to your comments.

Ed Herendeen


Week three at the Festival…we are in the thick of the creative process. Scenery, costumes and props are being constructed. The Frank Stage has bits and parts of scenery from five different shows scattered across the stage. Sculptures for INANA are being fabricated and carved in the sculpture studio. The costume shop is busy with actor fittings, shopping and construction. Our Props dept is raiding the local flea markets, shopping for props and creating props. The electrics crew is hanging three rep lighting plots.The admin staff is preparing for our opening weekend. And the actors are digging into the third week of rehearsal. Needless to say…there is a tsunami of activity throughout the Festival. I can honestly tell you that I am having a BLAST. The work is hard and exhilarating. The work is intense and collaborative. The work is endless and yet full of joy.

I am pleased with the publicity that we are receiving. Elizabeth Blair from National Public Radio visited rehearsals and conducted interviews with Max Baker and Lee Sellars. She is doing a feature story on our 20th Anniversary Season which will air on NRP soon. West Virginia Public Radio did a story on the Festival which aired this week. Wednesday’s Washington Post had an interview with Michele Lowe and Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. WYPR Public Radio in Baltimore is doing a story on INANA next week. So the word is getting out…we are creating BUZZ.

So…can I count on you to help me “spread-the-word?”  

Ed Herendeen

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