The Contemporary American Theater Festival’s annual 3-week July celebration will feature five world premieres and a recent work by “This is Us” producer and screenwriter Bekah Brunstetter.
The Brunstetter play, The Cake, tells the story of a Della, North Carolina woman who finds peace and solace in her fundamental Christian religion. Della, a baker, runs into Jen, the daughter of her late best friend, who asks her to bake the centerpiece cake for her upcoming wedding — to another woman.
Brunstetter’s challenge in writing this play, she told Daryl Miller of the Los Angels Times, was to write a sympathetic portrait of a character whose views would be anathema to most of her audience. ” It was really important to me to start with a character who has conservative values and make her the hero — and, hopefully, have an audience fall in love with her,” Brunstetter said. “And then, after we get to know her, have her do something that, quote-unquote, ‘we’ don’t agree with. And then we have to wrestle with how we feel about her, just like she’s wrestling with her belief system.”
In addition to her work on “This is Us,” Brunstetter writes for the Starz network show “American Gods.“ Her plays Going to a Place where you Already Are and The Oregon Trail have played here at Theater Alliance and Flying V, respectively.
The Festival’s remaining plays are all new works, but some of the playwrights are familiar. Michael Weller (Fifty Words, The Full Catastrophe) brings us A Late Morning [in America] with Ronald Reagan, in which Tim Matheson will play the 40th President as he, sipping lemonade in retirement, shares startling stories about his time in office. Memoirs of a Forgotten Man by veteran playwright D.W. Gregory, who now lives in Silver Spring, tells us the story of a man with a photographic memory living in Stalin’s Soviet Union, where the penalty for remembering the truth may be death.
Other new plays in the Festival include Amy E. Witting’s The House on the Hill, C.A. Johnson’s Thirst, and Angelica Chéri’s Berta, Berta. Witting, a semi-finalist in the 2017 O’Neill playwriting contest (and not to be confused with the late novelist Amy Witting), has written a drama about two estranged cousins and a new baby. Johnson, a 2016-2017 Dramatists Guild Fellow, presents a dystopian world in which a family’s access to water depends on the whim of a local tyrant. Chéri, an I AM SOUL Playwright Fellow at the National Black Theatre and a Lynn Nottage protégé, writes a story about a condemned man who is given a last chance to make amends to a long lost lover. Berta, Berta was a finalist for the 2017 Bay Area Playwright’s Festival.
The Contemporary American Theater Festival takes place in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Tickets will become available here starting March 26, 2018.