Contemporary American Theater Festival

Contemporary American Theater Festival
The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) is a professional theater festival held every summer at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, United States. It is regarded as one of the top summer festivals in the United States as well as one of the country’s best theater festivals.

The Contemporary American Theater Festival was founded in 1991 by theater director Ed Herendeen who has served as the festival’s producing director ever since. Herendeen was inspired by the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. The CATF aims to produce and develop new American theater, focusing on plays that deal with important contemporary issues. According to the board of the festival, its core values are fearless art, daring and diverse stories, and a profound dynamic among the audience, the artist, and the work.

The CATF specializes in debut, second or third productions of new plays. The festival has also commissioned works since 1998. As of 2015, the CATF has showcased 105 new plays, including 40 world premieres and 10 commissioned works, by 77 American playwrights. 40% of the playwrights are women, which is well above national averages. Notable productions include Carry the Tiger to the Mountain (the festival’s first commissioned work), Complete Female Stage Beauty, My Name is Rachel Corrie, Farragut North, Gidion’s Knot, H2O, and Uncanny Valley.

The Contemporary American Theater Festival is held on the campus of the Shepherd University. It uses three performance spaces: the Frank Center Stage, the Stanley C. and Shirley A. Marinoff Theater, and a black box space in the Center for Contemporary Arts. The largest venue has a capacity of 416. Since its inception, the CATF has become one of the nation’s 50 essential summer festivals (according to New York Times) with an operating budget of over $1 million. The festival attracts over 14,000 spectators every year.

The CATF is a member of several theater associations. It operates under agreements from the Actors’ Equity Association, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and United Scenic Artists of America. Several plays that premiered at the festival have won prestigious theater awards, including the American Theater Critics Association Award. The 2014 festival’s production of Uncanny Valley by Thomas Gibbons was transferred to 59E59 Theaters in New York City and received favorable reviews.

Contemporary American Theater Festival

Photo: Seth Freeman




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