Contemporary American Theater Festival opens 2019 season
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Over the weekend, the Contemporary American Theater Festival celebrated the opening of its 2019 season with Opening Night Parties on Friday and Saturday at the Frank Arts Center.
Hundreds of theater lovers descended on Shepherdstown and joined in the celebration of the season, which is featuring six new American theater productions and the largest company size in CATF’s history, according to CATF Director of Development Vicki Willman.
“Opening night is always one of the most exciting nights each season,” Willman said. “As a member of the full-time staff, it’s something we work on from the end of each season.
“We went from six people to 150 at the end of May. The cast has been working on the plays through the month of June to get ready for the opening. And finally, in July the last piece of the picture arrives — the audience. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Willman said, mentioning she enjoyed seeing the crowd so excited to be at the festival on Friday evening. “The energy within the company and all these people that come from 55 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and other countries is amazing. It’s thrilling and exciting to share this with everyone.”
Although Willman has worked for CATF for a number of years, she said she always looks forward to learning from each season’s plays.
“I always find something in each play that draws me to it. This year, the ones that are speaking to me the most from the minute I read them, are “Chester Bailey” and “My Lord, What a Night,” but I could find reasons to consider any of the plays as my favorite,” Willman said.
According to CATF Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen, four of CATF’s plays were opening over the weekend.
“I feel that they all went well and had good performances,” McKowen said. “Everybody in the company responded well. One little thing that goes wrong in the company can have a domino effect, but nothing happened and it was great.
“I hope the audience will leave with a different or enhanced understanding of their world, and they feel their time in this theatrical experience was inspiring enough for them to go to the theater — not just our theater, but any theater,” McKowen said.
For Shepherdstown resident Beth Batdorf, the play she attended on Friday evening did just that.
“I always feel sad after the season ends, because it so invigorates our town,” Batdorf said. “At the end of each season, we have to start counting the days until the start of the next season.”