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CATF company welcomed to Shepherdstown for 2019 season

By Staff | Jun 7, 2019

CATF Founder and Producing Director Ed Herendeen talks about the upcoming season, during the company picnic at Shepherd University's Center for Contemporary Arts on May 29. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — “The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience,” Emily Dickinson once wrote. And for Shepherdstown, the community’s soul is once again getting the opportunity to welcome an ecstatic experience, in the form of the Contemporary American Theater Festival’s 2019 company.

Rehearsals for the Contemporary American Theater Festival began on May 30 and are now well underway, in preparation for the festival’s opening date on July 5. But to start out the season well, CATF hosted a picnic at Shepherd University’s Center for Contemporary Arts on May 29, during which community members and Shepherd University faculty got to interact with the members of CATF’s company.

“This is our 29th season, and we are grateful for the opportunity to create more great American theater this year,” said CATF Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen. “There are people who do so much to make this possible. This town supports CATF in every way, and part of that is thanks to the leadership of the mayor, the town council and the community.”

Mayor Jim Auxer then came to the platform, where he personally welcomed the 2019 company to Shepherdstown.

“Welcome to Shepherdstown! The oldest town in West Virginia and the heart of history in the Shenandoah Valley,” Auxer said. “Theater enriches our lives, stimulates our thoughts and feeds our souls. I want to thank you all for being here, and for Shepherd University for hosting CATF.”

Community members and Contemporary American Theater Festival company members fill up their plates at the company picnic at Shepherd University's Center for Contemporary Arts on May 29. Tabitha Johnston

Another local politician, Delegate John Doyle, also spoke during the event, as he followed Auxer to the podium.

“When Ed Herendeen told me of the idea for starting this, the Contemporary American Theater Festival, back in the day of Millard Fillmore, I thought ‘He’s trying to make us think,'” Doyle said, mentioning that in his first tenure as a delegate in a Democrat-majority House of Representatives and in his current, second tenure as a delegate in a Republican-majority House of Representatives, one thing has remained the same.

“What hasn’t changed? Support for the Arts, all over in West Virginia,” Doyle said. “I was afraid when the conservatives got in control of state government, they wouldn’t support the Arts, but they haven’t done that, because they can see the benefits the Arts offers us.”

As the evening came to a close, CATF Founder and Producing Director Ed Herendeen discussed changes CATF and Shepherd University will be working toward in the future.

“Stage three — a 300-seat theater — will be happening. The president is behind us, and even asked us if she could expand our lobby,” Herendeen said. “It is so encouraging to have a president who is supportive of intelligent, provocative theater. “

Mayor Jim Auxer welcomes the Contemporary American Theater Festival's 2019 company to Shepherdstown, during the company picnic at Shepherd University's Center for Contemporary Arts on May 29. Tabitha Johnston

Herendeen also took time to encourage this season’s staff, and challenged them to challenge themselves and each other to create an unforgettable season.

“We are going to reinvent and recreate the future, starting tomorrow morning, when we start reading through the plays,” Herendeen said. “We have an awesome responsibility. Tonight, I challenge you to create fearless, bold and daring work. Demand more of each other — demand passion, demand fury.”

To learn more, visit www.catf.org, email info@catf.org or call 800-999-2283.