CATF’s uncanny hit, ‘Uncanny Valley,’ heading to New York

Scene from CATF production of Thomas Gibbons'
Scene from CATF production of Thomas Gibbons' "Uncanny Valley." (Courtesy of CATF)

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va., August 19, 2014 – The stats are out for the recently concluded 2014 edition of the Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University (CATF). Having completed its 24th season on August 3, the company logged its best season attendance ever as it concluded 102 performances of five plays, with performances aided and abetted by numerous special events and exhibits.

Perhaps the biggest news from CATF, however, is word that for the first time, CATF is going to New York. Big Time.

According to its press release, “CATF has been invited to transfer its world premiere production of Uncanny Valley by Thomas Gibbons to New York City’s Off-Broadway venue 59E59 Theaters…. Uncanny Valley will be presented by CATF for a four-week run beginning on October 2.While the Theater Festival has had numerous plays subsequently produced in New York and around the country … this marks the first time in the Festival’s 24 year history that it will move one of its Shepherdstown productions as-is—same cast, crew, set, costumes, etc—to a new venue.”

The release notes that “59E59 Theaters, a nonprofit founded by the Elysabeth Kleinhans Theatrical Foundation (, features three distinct theater spaces located at 59 East 59th Street in Manhattan.” “Uncanny Valley” will be staged at 59E59’s “Theatre B.”

“Uncanny Valley” is an uncanny play. In our July 20 review of Mr. Gibbons’ complex one-act drama, we wrote, “In an age where so many novelists, script writers, and playwrights can’t resist an impulse to oversimplify or dumb down material for the audience or insert a needless mini-sermon to make sure their point is taken, Mr. Gibbons lays out a veritable litany of social and scientific dilemmas and leaves his audience to puzzle them out for themselves. His is a play that makes the audience work. If taken in the right spirit, that work can be gratifying indeed.”

READ ALSO: CATF: Thomas Gibbons’ “Uncanny Valley” is uncannily good

The play focuses on the actual “coming-to-life” process of an extraordinarily lifelike android named Julian (Alex Podulke). “Julian” possesses a rapidly trainable, beyond-the-state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. And the startling way that capacity is ultimately put to use spins out existential questions that will likely haunt audience members—even jaded New Yorkers—into the wee hours of the morning in watering holes and Starbucks locations all around Manhattan.

“’We are thrilled to be taking “Uncanny Valley” to New York and could not be more proud of the Theater Festival’s role in launching this new American play,’” noted producing director Ed Herendeen in CATF’s release. “’From the moment we decided to produce this play back in December,’” he continues, “’it has been an extraordinary artistic process and journey working with Tom Gibbons, the creative team, and the cast on bringing this play, and these characters, to life. I am so looking forward to sharing it with the 59E59 Theaters audiences. It’s the perfect play with which to make our first foray into New York City and this unique opportunity marks a new, exciting chapter in the Festival’s history.’”

“Uncanny Valley” will run from October 2-26 at 59E59’s “Theatre B,” with performance dates each week from Tuesday through Sunday.

As indicated in CATF’s 2014 program notes, “Uncanny Valley” is also continuing on in a series of “rolling premieres” which, like its New York edition, are rolling out in partnership with the National New Play Network. Additional upcoming debut productions of the play will take place at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, Philadelphia’s InterAct Theatre Company, and Capital Stage in Sacramento, California.

Meanwhile, back in Shepherdstown, planning for CATF’s Silver Anniversary Season, slated to open July 10, 2015 is already underway. For Festival information as it breaks, and for details about where “Uncanny Valley” is happening next, visit the CATF website, or call 800-999-CATF.

Tickets and Information for “Uncanny Valley’s” New York adventure: Visit or call TicketCentral at 212-279-4200.


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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17