Contemporary American Theater Festival

July 07, 1999

'Tatjana in Color'By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va., -Modern issues will surface on two stages set in the past at this year's Contemporary American Theater Festival.

Jeffrey Hatcher's "Compleat Female Stage Beauty" takes place in 1660s London, while Julia Jordan's "Tatjana in Color" is set in early 1900s Austria. Both plays are making their world premieres on the campus of Shepherd College in Shepherdstown.

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"We have come to be known as a theater that presents contemporary issues about today's world," says Ed Herendeen, producing director of the festival, now in its ninth season.

The festival continues today through Sunday, Aug. 1, one week longer than in years past.

"Our audience has been telling us that three weeks is too short," Herendeen says.

Self-discovery, adolescent sexuality, multifaceted character traits and abortion are themes this year.

"It may be our most political theme yet," Herendeen says, but he believes it will suit diverse audiences.


"We're going to satisfy the hunger that they have for social issues, for political debate ... for fine art. Our audience believes that good writing matters," Herendeen says.

Last year the festival drew more than 7,500 people, and there are hopes to attract more than 10,000 this year, Herendeen says. The budget has grown from $90,000 in 1991 to more than $500,000, Herendeen says.

The Plays

'The Water Children'

Written by Wendy MacLeod

Directed by Ed Herendeen

Megan, a pro-choice actor, stars in a right-to-life commercial, making the battle over reproduction very personal. An unexpected romance, a ghost child and a zealot on the edge complicate what was supposed to be "just a job."

The festival's producing director, Ed Herendeen, says it's "a serious-comic look at the abortion issue," which will make both pro-life and pro-choice audience members think MacLeod is on their side. "You'll have to draw your own conclusions," he says.

Frank Creative Arts Center.

'Compleat Female Stage Beauty'

Written by Jeffrey Hatcher

Directed by Ed Herendeen

The story of actor Ned Kynaston, the foremost portrayer of female characters on the Restoration stage. When a new rage for female actors crosses the Channel, his reign as "the most beautiful woman in theater" is threatened. But this star rises, falls and rises again.

"It's just a fun, entertaining play," particularly when Kynaston tries teaching women how to act like women on stage, Herendeen says.

Contains adult situations and brief nudity.

Co-commissioned by CATF and Pittsburgh's City Theatre.

Frank Creative Arts Center.

'Coyote on a Fence'

Written by Bruce Graham

Directed by Lou Jacob

A story of two men on death row and their struggles to come to terms with their crimes. One, the publisher of The Death Row Advocate, is redeemable - his crime seems questionable and unreal. The other is unredeemable - his crime is heinous and something in which he takes great pride. The audience is dared to find compassion for the most unforgivable of men.

Sara Cree Studio Theater.

'Tatjana in Color'

Written by Julia Jordan

Directed by Brad Rouse

This play imagines the story of Tatjana von Mossig, a 12-year-old model with whom Austrian painter Egon Schiele, 22, was accused of having a sexual relationship. She refused to testify against him.

Contains adult situations and brief nudity.

Sara Cree Studio Theater.


Tickets for the plays range from $18 to $22, but tonight's showings of "Compleat Female Stage Beauty" and "Tatjana in Color" can be viewed at a pay-what-you-can rate.

Memberships are available for $100, which includes admission to all four plays, one comedy club ticket, three "connect with the art" events, opening night members' reception Friday, July 9, and one "bring-a-friend" ticket.

CATCards are available for all four plays at various rates for seniors, students, faculty and staff.

The opening night reception includes a post-show tent party. The cost is $30 per person without CATCards and $8 for CATCard holders. Member CATCard holders get in free.

For information, call 1-800-999-CATF or 1-304-876-3473 or visit the festival's Web site at

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