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‘Plays by Women of the Contemporary American Theater Festival’ released on Feb. 28

By Staff | Mar 8, 2019

St. John's Episcopal School Theater Teacher Charlotte La Nasa, left, talks about CATF with playwright D.W. Gregory during the book release at Four Seasons Books on Feb. 28. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Feb. 28, the Contemporary American Theater Festival released its first collection of plays to the public, during a party at Four Seasons Books on Feb. 28.

The editors of “Plays by Women of the Contemporary American Theater Festival,” CATF Director Ed Herendeen and CATF Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen, answered questions and signed copies of the book, along with one of the book’s featured playwrights, D.W. Gregory. According to Four Seasons Books Owner Kendra Adkins, hosting the release party was an opportunity to be part of an important moment in CATF’s history.

“I believe this is monumental, as we move into the future of CATF. This is a fantastic opportunity to spread knowledge of the Contemporary American Theater Festival further,” Adkins said, mentioning 15 percent of the book’s sales at the store would be donated to CATF.

For Herendeen, the evening was both a time to celebrate the book’s release, and CATF’s long relationship with the community.

“It means a lot to us, to see 29 years of support for CATF. This really demonstrated also, the partnerships the festival has with the business community in Shepherdstown,” Herendeen said. “When we support one another, we all benefit.

From left, CATF Director Ed Herendeen, CATF Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen and playwright D.W. Gregory discuss CATF's newly-released selection of plays, "Plays by Women of the Contemporary American Theater Festival" at Four Seasons Books on Feb. 28. Tabitha Johnston

“Maybe this is the right time for this book to be released,” Herendeen said. “We have some great material.”

According to McKowen, since the book’s five plays are all written by females, CATF is going to encourage women’s studies programs to include the book in their study materials.

“It’s interesting, when we started this project, the publisher actually said to us, ‘Can you compile some plays to collect in anthology?’ So eventually we came to our top five group,” McKowen said. “One of the reasons we chose this grouping, is because woman playwrights are only represented by 17-20 percent in the industry. At CATF, 50 percent of our playwrights are women.”

Despite this statistic, Herendeen said CATF hadn’t deliberately chosen an almost equal number of plays by men and women — out of the 127 plays CATF has produced, 65 were written by women.

“I only chose the plays over the years that I felt compelled to produce. I only chose what plays touched me,” Herendeen said. “Our very first play was by a Hispanic woman. Our second play was by an African American woman. And that wasn’t intentional.”

Now that CATF has printed one book of plays, it is hoping to print more in the future, which the goal of having all of the plays available in a library which will be part of CATF’s future building.

“When we look at our future strategic plan, stage three, we plan to have a permanent new space for CATF,” Herendeen said, mentioning a $5 million donation for this performance space was given, under stipulations the building would include the library.

During the event, McKowen also announced that Gregory’s recent purchase of a home in Shepherdstown has made it possible for her to take a position as an adjunct professor at Shepherd, teaching theater history and writing.