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Play offers a message

March 28, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

Play offers a message

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Ed Herendeen wanted a play about race relations and playwright Cherylene Lee delivered big, the producing director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival said.

The play, "Carry the Tiger to the Mountain," will debut at the festival from July 10-26 in Shepherdstown, but already it is garnering important attention, Herendeen said.

On Sunday, West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood will listen to a dramatic reading from the play, "Carry the Tiger to the Mountain," before kicking off a forum on race at the governor's mansion.

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On Tuesday, Lee and Contemporary American Theater Festival officials will be on Capitol Hill for another dramatic reading at a reception hosted by the Asian Pacific American Heritage Council.

On Wednesday, Lee will be speaking at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown.

The play is the first ever commissioned specifically by the Contemporary American Theater Festival.

Herendeen said he wanted a play that would be part of President Clinton's Initiative on Race.

The play is based on a true event.

In 1982, a Chinese-American named Vincent Chin was celebrating his upcoming wedding with friends in Detroit when two out-of-work auto workers, mistaking him for Japanese, killed him. The two white men were convicted, but never served time in jail.

Herendeen said he wanted a play that would get people to think about race relations. He said the play follows Chin's mother, Lily Chin, in her efforts to deal with her grief.

Underwood awarded a community partnership grant Friday for $25,000 to Shepherd College for the Contemporary American Theater's production of "Carry the Tiger to the Mountain."

"My vision is to create a statewide atmosphere of racial harmony through respect, understanding and tolerance," Underwood said. "Funding this play is one part of a year-long look at race relatins in West Virginia and how we can live and work more productively in the next century.

"'Carry the Tiger to the Mountain'" promises to be a breakthrough production for the Contemporary American Theater Festival This company has earned a national reputation as a home for the development of new American plays and is having a significant impact on the development of cultural tourism in West Virginia," Underwood said.

Herendeen said the risk involved in commissioning a play has paid off.

"The playwright did a reading last summer off Broadway and got a terrific response," Herendeen said.

"I believe that in addition to producing and developing new plays we are compelled to instigate new work to take a leadership role in causing new work to be created," Herendeen said.

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