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CATF celebrates 25 years

By Staff | Jun 15, 2015

The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) welcomed its company of actors, playwrights, interns and crew to Shepherdstown.

At the annual company picnic last Wednesday evening, producing director and founder Ed Herendeen discussed what the 25th season has in store.

“It’s not in our DNA to look back,” he said regarding the past 25 years of the festival.

“I’m thinking about the next 25 years.”

Herendeen said theater artists reinvent every time they hit the stage.

And with that, he introduced this season’s playwrights: Steven Dietz, Michael Weller and Barbara Hammond, all in attendance as well as Sheila Callaghan and Johnna Adams.

“We are a playwrights inspired theater,” he said.

This season’s plays include the world premieres of “World Builders,” “We Are Pussy Riot,” “On Clover Road,” and “The Full Catastrophe,” as well as “Everything You Touch.”

“Ideas are powerful, but stories are more powerful,” he said.

A theme throughout the evening, Herendeen said the stories CATF tells carry courage.

“Tonight, the future calls us, so welcome to the future,” he said.

“The future ladies and gentlemen, spends the summer in Shepherdstown West Virginia.”

Shepherdstown’s Mayor Jim Auxer opened the event with remarks, greeting the company for the summer.

“The townspeople love CATF. The community loves it,” he said.

“It’s a great event for the town. It brings business and it brings us fame!”

“I really want you to really enjoy Shepherdstown,” Mayor Auxer said.

Outgoing Shepherd University president Suzanne Shipley also spoke to the role courage plays in bringing CATF to the stage every year.

“You need to think about the courage it takes to bring something like this to a place like this for 25 year,” she said, nodding to the CATF board and staff.

Speaking to the new members of the company and those returning, Shipley encouraged the group to look around, reach out and be kind and helpful to one another during a summer of new experiences.

Shipley said she’ll be giving standing ovations all summer and encouraged the performers to look to the audience for inspiration.

“Think about the courage your audience brings to your artwork and they are there hoping you will shock, amaze, surprise them and make them think in new ways,” she said.

“New plays are frightening and we are fearless in our pursuit of giving birth to new plays,” Herendeen said.

“The American theater persists because of new plays,” he said.

CATF’s 25th season will be held July 10 to Aug. 2. In addition to the five plays in rotating repertory, the festival includes stage readings, a lecture series, workshops and classes, art exhibitions, and more. More information about the festival and ticket info can be found by visiting www.catf.org or by calling 800-999-CATF.