CATF comes to downtown Shepherdstown in July with a hybrid of two audio plays and two street parties, plus a series of podcasts structured around the two plays. The decision to pursue a hybrid approach was pretty clear when CATF had to make the call in February about the summer season, said Peggy McKowen, CATF’s Associate Producing Director. “For the regular six play repertoire productions we have over 150 people working in close proximity and moving from one small group to another, plus another 30 to 40 local volunteers working the front of house. We knew that even when the rules would be relaxed for the general public it would take much longer for the union contracts to reflect a return to normal practices. So we were anticipating the complexities and restrictions of isolating and testing the entire company in our small town and decided that we couldn’t produce the full in-person in-theater events at the level we wanted.” McKowen reported that the theater industry is still working through the details for resident theater companies to return, so it was a good call.
It will be a different feeling this summer. The festival normally touches every corner of Shepherdstown and the Shepherd University campus for 6 to 8 weeks. This year’s productions will bring just 2 actors to town for a night each and rely on fewer than a dozen volunteers. According to McKowen, the focus on downtown events was a conscious decision to “give the community an opportunity to gather again and to focus on supporting local businesses. We wanted to celebrate and renew the partnerships we’ve built up over the past decades with the University, the town, the artists.”
What to Expect
The downtown events will take place on Friday evenings on King Street (behind the library), starting on July 9 with a street party featuring local musicians. The July 16 street party will be similar, but will feature artists bringing their global experiences to Shepherdstown. The first audio playcast on July 23 will be Sheepdog by Kevin Artique and the final audio playcast on July 30 will be The House of the Negro Insane by Terrence Anthony. Information about both plays can be found on the CATF website (CATF.org – under the 2021 season) and both will be available to stream on demand until August 27.
A Vocal Difference
McKowen described the changes in preparation and rehearsal with the audio-centric productions. “It changes the way you come to a scene. Theresa Davis, our dramaturg, worked with the playwrights to re-write specifically for the shift from a visual description. The actors also need to redirect their energy into the vocal quality. Even during rehearsals, the directors kept the actors separate in the studios. Without the physicality, we really focus on the storytelling. For the audience, the stage is in your head.”
A Resolution for 2022
Both of the 2021 plays will be in next year’s festival repertoire, along with the other four plays originally slated for the 2020 festival. As McKowen pointed out, “they will be different plays when we recast them for the stage. Even if we are starting from the same script, there are always things to discover as you go through the process. That’s what makes CATF so new every year.”
For playcast tickets or street event reservations, call the box office (new number) at 681-240-2283 on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from noon to 5 pm. You can also order tickets by emailing BoxOffice@CATF.org. For additional information and updates, visit CATF.org on the web or @CATFatSU on Facebook.By Staff Contributor