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CATF gains commercial success

By Staff | Dec 30, 2011

As we approach the announcement of a new season of Contemporary American Theater Festival plays, the Shepherdstown theater reflects on recent commercial successes connected to CATF’s history of plays.

James McNeel,managing director of the CATF, said that festival organizers have been hard at work preparing for the 22nd year since the last season wrapped in July and are celebrating the many accomplishments the theater festival has seen in the last year.

McNeel explained that Ed Herendeen, CATF producing director, is in the process of reading scripts and making final selections for the 2012 season.

McNeel described the selection process as a “complicated matrix” of deciding what is artistically feasible and what is affordable.

“We do a lot of stuff that other theaters won’t touch,” he said.

Actors perform in the 2008 CATF production of 'Stick Fly.' (submitted)

The CATF saw a record number of patrons at its shows last summer.

“We had a terrific year,” he said. “In terms of box office it was our most successful.”

McNeel said this summer’s audiences can look forward to more of the unique mix of work that characterizes CATF selections.

“Our audience really likes new work,” he said. And according to McNeel, the CATF is the place to launch it.

McNeel, shared that three previous CATF selections met commercial successes in 2011.

In a CATF press release he stated that “Stick Fly” by Lydia R. Diamond, a play that was seen at CATF in 2008, is playing on Broadway, under the direction of Kenny Leon, a well-known regional director who often directs in Washington at Arena Stage.

The film “The Ides of March,” which received four Golden Globe nods, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Director (George Clooney) and Best Screenplay, also has a CATF connection. The screenplay was written (with help from Clooney and Grant Heslov) by Beau Willimon, adapted from his play “Farragut North,” which was staged in Shepherdstown in 2009.

“Lidless” by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig premiered Off-Broadway in New York this fall in a production at the Soho Repertory Theatre. Lidless was presented at CATF as part of its 2010 season.

According to McNeel, “Lidless” was considered by the American Theatre Critics Association’s ATCA/Steinberg Award for best new play.

McNeel also noted that one featured CATF performer has gone on to be featured in a film.

Tamara Tunie, who starred in the CATF production of Tracy Thorne’s, “We are Here,” is featured in the film “Flight,” directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington and John Goodman.

McNeel described the CATF as the “incubator” for “emerging voices” in American theater and said that he’s happy to see CATF selections go on to different venues and see commercial success.

“We want all of our plays to go on and be produced again, again and again.”

He went on to say, “It means we’ve done our job. It means that someone saw what we saw.”

“We love all those successes,” he said.

The 22nd season of the CATF will take place July 6 through the 29. The 2012 season’s repertory of plays will be announced this February.