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Just a sneak peek: Contemporary American Theater Festival offers glimpse into upcoming season

By Staff | Mar 30, 2019

CATF Founding and Producing Director Ed Herendeen introduces the audience to the background for a scene reading from "My Lord, What a Night," by, from left, Tom Brooks, Nelson Smith, Town Council member Cheryl Roberts and Nicole Davis. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Once again this year, the Contemporary American Theater Festival gave community members an early look at what lies in store for the festival’s 2019 season this summer.

Awareness of and attendance at the Shepherdstown Sneak Peek grew from last year, according to attendees at the March 20 event in the Marinoff Theater.

“Welcome to season 29,” said Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen, mentioning this will be her 12th season with CATF. “I want to thank you all for coming and supporting us. Together, we’re going to have a great season.”

Following McKowen, Founder and Producing Director Ed Herendeen expressed his appreciation for his staff and the Shepherdstown community, which he credits as integral components to CATF’s success.

“The magic of Shepherdstown, is we are embraced by so many wonderful people here,” Herendeen said, mentioning the location of Shepherdstown has also helped attract people from larger cities to CATF, year-after-year. “The geography of Shepherdstown has allowed us to create an atmosphere to nurture and integrate new talent.”

Playwright Deborah Brevoort reads an excerpt from one of her plays, during CATF's Shepherdstown Sneak Peek in the Marinoff Theater on March 22. Tabitha Johnston

According to Herendeen, CATF not only gives its performers visibility and experience, but also places new plays in the public eye. The six plays Herendeen has chosen for this year’s season will not disappoint festival attendees, as they vary in theme, tone, style and . . . the gender of the playwrights.

“We have produced 127 plays since 1991 — 65 have been written by women,” Herendeen said, mentioning he only recently discovered this fact. “I only produce plays that I am compelled to produce, but it is so good to see it is about 50/50 for our writers.

“We believe we are truth-seekers. We crave the power of conversation. We enhance the power of words. Now, and forever, ‘words matter,'” Herendeen said, reflecting the evening’s motto. “At the Contemporary American Theater Festival, ‘words matter,’ ideas matter and you, our loyal audience, matter. Together, we are creating the future of American theater in the oldest town in West Virginia. You have to be our evangelists out there, you have to spread the word.”

Herendeen then announced 2019’s six plays: the world premiere of “My Lord, What a Night” by Deborah Brevoort, “Support Group for Men” by Ellen Fairey, the world premiere of “Wrecked” by Greg Kalleres, the world premiere of “A Welcome Guest: A Psychotic Fairy Tale” by Michael Weller, “Chester Bailey” by Joseph Dougherty and the world premiere of “Antonio’s Song/I Was Dreaming of a Son” by Dael Orlandersmith and Antonio Edwards Suarez.

As the evening’s special guest, Brevoort read an excerpt from one of her plays and talked with Herendeen about her new play. A portion of “My Lord, What a Night” was then read by community members Tom Brooks, Nelson Smith, Nicole Davis and Town Council member Cheryl Roberts, to close the event.

Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen welcomes attendees, during CATF's Shepherdstown Sneak Peek in the Marinoff Theater on March 22. Tabitha Johnston

To order your CATF Rep Pass, call the box office at 800-999-2283.