Friday, April 20, 2012

Spotlight: Shepherdstown, WV

"S" is for Shepherdstown in the A to Z Challenge

There are many resources today for online networking besides the ubiquitous Facebook. I mentioned in yesterday's "R is for Role Playing Games" post how I was using to find local gamers, and to start an local arts alliance.

Another interesting resource is Yahoo Groups. If you go to and look in the lower left hand corner, you will see something that says "Groups"

Just above Health and International in the lower left is the "Groups" link

You can join an existing group, or you can create a group for any subject under the sun. Let's say you have a particular thing for Hummel figure collecting. I'm sure there's a group for that. In fact, I just did a search, and I found one called Hummelmania! Anyway... you get the idea. Groups can be national, or they can be local.

I joined a group that specifically focuses on technical theater in the Washington DC area. It is called DC-TheaterTech. There are job postings for stage managers, overhire carpenters, etc...

In 2010 I put up a message that I was available for work. I received an email within a couple of days that the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV was in need of a prop shop manager. And that is where I spent six weeks of my Summer.

Shepherdstown is located about 90 minutes west of DC. It is in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, close to Harpers Ferry and Charlestown. It is a delightful little town, full of old hippies that thought that DC was too conservative.

The main drag is German Street. It is on a long hill, and it reminds me somewhat of Carytown in Richmond, VA. Of course Carytown is a neighborhood, while German Street is basically the entire town.

German Street

One of the lovely things about the bars and restaurants is that they tend to have incredible back patios. These fenced in areas contain lush ancient trees and shrubbery, and are a wonderful place to catch an open mic night or a guest band. On other nights, it is just a great place to get away for a quite drink and a smoke.

The Mecklenburg Inn and the Blue Moon Cafe were two of my favorite hangouts:

Atrium to back patio at the Mecklenburg Inn

The Blue Moon Cafe has a delightful street side terraced patio.

Also not to be missed are tacos and burritos at Maria's Taqueria. Maria's fresh home made pico de gallo is out of this world.

Shepherdstown is home to Shepherd University, a state funded university. Shepherd University hosts the Contemporary American Theater Festival, an annual festival of a handful of new American plays running con-currently. In 2010, we did Breadcrumbs by Jennifer Haley, The Eelwax Jesus 3D Pop Music Show Book and Lyrics by Max Baker, Music by Lee Sellars, Inana by Michael Lowe, Lidless, by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, and White People by J.T. Rogers.

The shows covered Alzheimers Disease and loss if identity, existentialist angst featuring a musical duet of a gynecologist and tap dancing Vagina (I'm saving that for my "V" post!), the first Iraq war from the viewpoint of an Iraqi arts curator, rape as a means of prisoner co-ercement at Gitmo, and racism.

None of these were what you would call "main stream" shows. Yet the crowds that come out to Shepherdstown year after year are remarkable. According to Hagerstown magazine, in 2008 CATF generated 2.1 million dollars in patron spending, and another 1.1 million in corporate and organizational spending.

As a member of the crew, I stayed in the dorms at Shepherd University. My first impression of the white cinderblock walls was that they were not "un-prison-like". But the rooms were comfortable enough. As part of the management staff, I got my own room and there were only two of us in our dorm. Most dorms had 4 per dorm, and 2 per room.

Mornings were a short walk across campus to the prop shop. I had several interns working under me. After a long day of prop procurement, design, and construction, I'd take a stroll down German street, buy a beer, light up my  pipe, and listen to some local music on one of the outdoor patios.

The company took the entire crew for a rafting ride down the Shenandoah river. I was able to visit nearby Harpers Ferry, Charlestown, Hagerstown, and Martinsburg. One of the highlights was meeting the Sanders family and being part of the Fish Tales outdoor marionette show featuring Giant Ass Puppets. Click the links on Martinsburg and Giant Ass Puppets for more!

All in all, it was a great six weeks.

Partnerships between your town and a local college, university, or other organization could result in a symbiotic relationship that benefits both. And social media is a great way to find out about unusual opportunities. Check out Yahoo Groups to see what might interest you.

P.S. If you go to the Lost Dog to get a cup of coffee, don't ask for a lid.

"S" is for Shepherdstown, and April is Parkinson's Awareness Month


  1. Now I want to know why not ask for a lid... :)

    Beautiful photos! Being from the west coast, it's a type of town structure that I'm not used to. I need to visit a place like that.

  2. Wow! You've been successful in recruiting me to go visit Shepherdstown! I am also a theater person and a performing poet, so reading of any promising open mic venue makes my heart beat just a little bit faster.

    I think I would fit in well there.... and I would never know it existed if it wasn't for the A to Z challenge. How cool is that?

    Grateful I found you today!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    Fellow A to Z Challenge Writer
    twitter: @juliejordanscot
    S is for Sara Teasdale
    On a Mission to Spread Word-Love Throughout the World

    1. Let me know what you think of it if you do stop by!

  3. Hi Arthur - good to meet you ... it'll be interesting to hear more about your theatre work .. I have no knowledge of Gaming .. but this sounds a very interesting summer job - cheers Hilary

  4. I used to work for the Blue Moon cafe as a dessert chef. You will not be disappointed in stopping by, everything there is fresh, and most of the produce is local from a local amish farm.