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CATF Unmuted: Festival partners with Speak Story Series, American Conservation Film Festival

By Staff | Jul 10, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — This Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. will be the first of two virtual events this month, featuring partnerships between the Contemporary American Theater Festival and other local Arts-related organizations.

According to Speak Story Series founder Adam Booth, this month’s storyteller, Tom Lee, was specifically chosen to highlight his series’ partnership with CATF. The partnership had been planned months before the coronavirus forced both CATF and the Speak Story Series to move into virtual formats for the foreseeable future. Originally, Booth was going to have a number of storytelling events throughout June and July, rather than the single monthly performance his series has had throughout the rest of its eight seasons.

When the Speak Story Series goes live this month, Booth will be speaking from the Marinoff Theater, which is one of the spaces CATF uses for its productions, and Lee will be storytelling from his home in Connecticut. Booth said he anticipates Lee’s performance being visually interactive.

“In some of his similar work that I’ve seen, he’ll tell a story about particular artwork, where the story will be told through the art,” Booth said, mentioning Lee’s working relationship with the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made it possible for him to feature their art with his storytelling. “He uses the story as a vehicle to also teach about art history, [and] how visual art and storytelling have coincided for millions of years.”

The American Conservation Film Festival will be returning this year, for its second year of partnering with CATF. Last year, it took over CATF’s Friday Film Series, which had been established in 2016, featuring films sharing similar themes with CATF’s plays. Rather than having a month of Friday film showings, like it had last year, ACFF will virtually show one film, “The Vasectomist,” on July 24.


“Our films relate to humanity and culture and issues that are affecting us all right now. The plays are cutting edge in that way, too. So actually conservation and contemporary theater seem to go quite well together,” said ACFF Executive Director Jennifer Lee.

Lee will also be speaking live from the Marinoff Theater, and hopes to have the doctor featured in the movie to also be featured live from his home, to discuss the movie after its showing.

“[The movie] profiles this one doctor in Florida who performs vasectomies in Florida and in third-world countries like the Philippines. He performs operations where overpopulation is a problem,” Lee said, mentioning the movie shares similar themes with the play “Babel,” which will be produced in CATF’s next season.

CATF Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen said these partnerships are just a couple of the virtual events CATF will be featuring this month, in the absence of its regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She anticipates these partnerships continuing for years to come, and drawing more attention to Shepherdstown’s other Arts organizations.

“Being able to invite the film festival and the storytellers and other arts festivals is a way for us to kind of create this nonstop experience for all of our audiences, and also to partner with all of these amazing organizations,” McKowen said. “It’s a way to also showcase Shepherdstown as this rich cultural environment.”


According to CATF Public Relations Manager Gaby Tokach, the Speak performance will be the only CATF Unmuted event with a ticket price this summer.

“The money is going to Speak, which is going to the programming of that event, as it normally would have happened,” Tokach said, before expressing her excitement about CATF’s partnerships. “We’re really excited to work with these other organizations to showcase different types of storytelling and how these different mediums can help us reflect on and better understand our world.”

To reserve Zoom “seats” for CATF Unmuted events, which begin on Saturday, visit catf.org/spektrix-merchandise/.

CATF is also featuring Shepherdstown businesses throughout this month on its Facebook page. This series will be held every Wednesday and Friday at 5 p.m., through the end of the month.