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Contemporary American Theater Festival returns to Shepherdstown

By Staff | Jun 8, 2018

The Contemporary American Theater Festival welcomed 2018’s company to Shepherd University last week, with a picnic Wednesday evening and first rehearsals Thursday and Friday.

Over 150 company members, CATF staff members, sponsors, trustees and other community members attended the events to celebrate the beginning of the CATF season. “For those who are new to the festivals, this is the day where we learn,” said associate producing director Peggy McKowen at the beginning of the first rehearsals May 31. “It’s the first day, so just like anything else, you anticipate getting started. When you get started, that’s such an important moment.”

McKowen said the best part of the first rehearsals is getting the chance to see and be touched by the plays.

This year, five plays are making their world premieres at CATF: “A Late Morning (In America) With Ronald Reagan” by Michael Weller; “Berta, Berta” by Angelica Cheri; “Memoirs of a Forgotten Man” by D. W. Gregory; “Thirst” by C. A. Johnson; and “The House on the Hill” by Amy E. Witting. “The Cake” by Bekah Brunstetter will be the only previously performed play this season.

“We’re taking over the town,” said general manager Joshua Midgett, who said this is his fourth year with CATF. “This day is really exciting. The beautiful thing about world premieres and shows is that their roles have never been read before.”

Fight director Aaron Anderson has been thinking especially hard about one play that will include multiple gunshots.

“I’ve been thinking of some of the technical requirements,” said Anderson. “I’m trying to make sure the gunshots can be done repeatedly and safely. It’s a wonderful process, and this is my favorite place to work because CATF’s mission is outstanding.”

Public relations manager Gabrielle Tokach said CATF’s collaborative nature allows the playwright to edit the script to fit the actors and stage.

“Right now, we have five of the six playwrights here,” said Tokach. “We get really jazzed about having the playwrights in the room with the designers and the directors and the actors.”

Tokach said these first few days of events help the company to learn about one anothers’ projects and develop connections before getting into serious rehearsals.

“Because we do rotating repertory and produce six shows in such a truncated amount of time, this is our time to come together,” Tokach said, mentioning CATF favorite Lee Sellers is returning again this season with the political thriller, “Memoirs of a Forgotten Man.”

“Everybody’s excited to begin this season, and to come together in this collaborative process,” Tokach said. “It’s so exciting – it’s that creative energy, it’s tangible.”