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TO JULY 29
We all have friends who cue up the Deliverance soundtrack at the mere mention of West Virginia. But for those in the know, there’s a lot more to the Mountain State’s culture than its backwoods banjo-pickers. This month, the Contemporary American Theater Festival is proving once again that West Virginia is as “wild and wonderful” on the stage as it is in the Appalachians. In its 11th season, the Shepherdstown-based festival is offering up four works by emerging American playwrights. There’s something to arouse the interest of every theatergoer: from the artistic, erotic, and spiritual passion of John Olive’s The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa to Harry Newman’s human-rights thriller, The Occupation, to Craig Wright’s high school reunion comedy, The Pavilion, to Stephen Belber’s memory play, Tape (pictured), which was developed as a movie for this year’s Sundance Film Festival. CATF will also feature a lecture series, staged readings of new plays, visual arts exhibitions, and a program of new American music, including the work of West Virginia composer Mark McCoy. Says CATF’s founder and producing director, Ed Herendeen: “Over the years, we’ve developed an audience with an adventurous taste for new American theater”many of them Washingtonians who know that a 60-mile drive down country roads and $75 buys you four plays (compared with one play at the Kennedy Center). “The oldest town in West Virginia,” quips Herendeen, “is presenting the newest plays in America.” The festival runs to Sunday, July 29, at Shepherd College’s Frank Center Stage and Studio Theater, Sherman and King Streets, Shepherdstown, W.Va. $25 for one performance, $75 for four. (800) 999-2283. (Amanda Fazzone)