Contemporary American Theater Festival
|Contemporary American Theater Festival|
|Location(s)||Shepherdstown, West Virginia, United States|
|Founded by||Ed Herendeen|
|Date(s)||July of each year|
|Type of play(s)||New American plays|
The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) is an American annual professional theatre festival held at Shepherd University, located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. According to the New York Times (in 2015), it is one of "50 essential summer festivals". In 2016, Germany's World Guide identified the festival as of the "Top 10 theatre festivals not to miss this summer". A representative of the Theatre Communications Group in its publication American Theatre stated that "(CATF's) forward focus has helped ... change the American theatre conversation, bringing new voices and pressing topics to the stage ..."
- sustain an artistic process of innovation and daring;
- tell diverse stories;
- to create a profound and ever-evolving relationship between the audience and the work.
To satisfy this mission, it specializes in premieres and second or third productions of new plays, currently producing five plays each summer in repertory.
A 2010 NPR segment stated: "For 20 years, in the oldest town in West Virginia, new plays have had a home and a loyal audience. The Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University is a dream for the writers of those plays."
The festival was started in 1991 "on a wing and a prayer and a $90,000 budget" by producing director Ed Herendeen. It was modeled after the Williamstown Theatre Festival, located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It has the goal of producing and developing new American theater, specifically plays that deal with contemporary issues and strive to challenge and entertain audiences. In addition to finding new scripts which could be either premieres or on a second/third production, the festival has also commissioned works since 1998. Through the summer of 2013, the festival has produced 100 plays, by 73 American playwrights, including 37 world premieres, 9 of which were commissioned. It had an operating budget for 2013 of $1 million
Housed on the university's campus, the CATF uses three performance spaces. The first is the 416 seat Frank Center for the Arts Stage, a conventional proscenium performance space without a curtain. The second is The Stanley C. and Shirley A. Marinoff Theater, a 180-seat flexible seating space, located in the recently completed Center For Contemporary Arts II(CCA II). This space replaced the Studio Theater, an adapted space in Sara H Cree Hall. The third space is a smaller adapted black box space in Room 112 of Center For Contemporary Arts I. The CATF scene shop and costume shop are also located in the new CCA II.
- Uncanny Valley, 2014 Festival
- H2O, 2013 Festival
- Gidion's Knot, 2012 Festival
- This world premiere production received a Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play citation as one of the top three new plays of 2012. The play has been published by Dramatists Play Service and had 14 productions scheduled for 2014 around the USA. According to American Theatre magazine, it is the 11th most-produced play in the 2013-2014 theater season.
- Farragut North, 2009 Festival
- My Name is Rachel Corrie, 2007 Festival.
- This production was notable because of the controversy surrounding the play (see the play's article in Wikipedia for details of the controversy). The festival playbill contained a two-page ad, "My Name is Rachel Corrie Does Not Tell the Whole Story: Don't Be Misled", which included photos of six other women named Rachel who were killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. A member of the festival's board of trustees resigned in protest and several regular patrons decided not to attend the festival in response to the selection of this work. The Artistic Director "was flooded with letters urging the board members to remove the play". The actual production was without incident and no drop in attendance.
- Compleat Female Stage Beauty, 1999 Festival
- Carry the Tiger to the Mountain, 1998 Festival
- This play by Cherylene Lee – and the festival's first commissioned work – focused on the beating death of Vincent Chin in 1982 Detroit. The play's production became the impetus for a state-wide discussion on race and served as the backdrop to the governor's year-long efforts on this issue, which began with a town-hall discussion, in the theater, following a production of the play. The festival was recognized for its role as catalyst for this important dialogue with the 1999 "Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts."
Complete production history
The following is a complete list of the festival's productions.
- 2016 Festival
- pen/man/ship by Christina Anderson, Not Medea by Allison Gregory,*** The Wedding Gift by Chisa Hutchinson*, 20th Century Blues by Susan Miller*, The Second Girl by Ronan Noone
- 2015 Festival
- 2014 Festival
- 2013 Festival
- 2012 Festival
- 2011 Festival
- 2010 Festival
- 2009 Festival
- 2008 Festival
- 2007 Festival
- 2006 Festival
- Augusta by Richard Dresser*, Jazzland by Keith Glover**, Mr. Marmalade by Noah Haidle, Sex, Death, and the Beach Baby by Kim Merrill*
- 2005 Festival
- 2004 Festival
- 2003 Festival
- 2002 Festival
- 2001 Festival
- 2000 Festival
- 1999 Festival
- 1998 Festival
- BAFO by Tom Strelich, Carry the Tiger to the Mountain by Cherylene Lee**, Gun-Shy by Richard Dresser, Interesting Times by Preston Foerder**
- 1997 Festival
- Below the Belt by Richard Dresser, Demonology by Kelley Stuart, Lighting Up the Two Year Old by Benjie Aerenson, CATF Dance Ensemble
- 1996 Festival
- 1995 Festival
- Beti the Yeti by Jon Klein, Maggie's Riff by Jon Lipsky, Psyche Was Here by Lynne Martin*, Voir Dire by Joe Sutton
- 1994 Festival
- 1993 Festival
- A Contemporary Masque by Stephen Bennet, Alabama Rain by Heather McCutchen, Black by Joyce Carol Oates, Dream House by Darrah Cloud
- 1992 Festival
- Static by Ben Siegler, Still Waters by Lynn Martin*, The Baby Dance by Jane Anderson, The Swan by Elizabeth Egloff
- * world premiere
- ** world premiere; commissioned by CATF
- *** National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere
- + staged reading
- ++ staged reading; commissioned by CATF
- ~ CATF Actors' Lab Workshop
The plays are professionally produced using the LORT D contract of the Actors' Equity Association (AEA). The festival operates under agreements from AEA, United Scenic Artists, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
The festival is a member of the National New Play Network.
Annually, CATF holds 'Hostel YOUTH! - a theater immersion program for young adults (ages 14–18)
In 2008, the first phase of the new Center for Contemporary Arts was dedicated. Phase One houses the CATF administration offices and one of large studios has been adapted for a third performance space.
In 2008, the festival had an economic impact of $2.1 million to the Eastern Panhandle region of West Virginia. 
In 2013, the festival brought $3 million of revenue to Shepherdstown, and attracted nearly 14,000 people — primarily from the D.C. region, but also from 30-plus states and various foreign countries.
The Festival is a Blue Star Theatre - part of a collaboration between the Theatre Communications Group and Blue Star Families offering discounted admission to all military personnel and their families.
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- Jruhstorfer. "WorldGuide Editors". World Guide. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
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- "Contemporary American Theatre Festival History & Archives". Retrieved November 11, 2011.
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- "The Season". Contemporary American Theatre Festival. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
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- "TCG Member Theatres". Theatre Communications Group. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
- BWW News Desk. "Contemporary American Theater Festival Joins National New Play Network". broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
- "CATF's Hostel YOUTH". catf.org. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
- Handelman, Jay (July 28, 2013). "Behind the Scenes: Considering the theater world without critics". The Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
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- "Blue Star Theatres". Theatre Communications Group. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
- Official website