Mission & History
To produce and develop new American Theater.
The ultimate theater experience.
Daring and diverse stories;
A profound dynamic among the audience, the artist, and the work.
• Founded in 1991 by Ed Herendeen.
• To date, 121 new plays produced, including 47 world premieres by 85 American playwrights (production history).
• CATF has commissioned 10 new American plays.
• 50% of all plays produced by women writers (well above national averages).
• 2017 attendance: Issued over 17,500 tickets to 5,500 patrons from 36 states, DC, and around the globe.
• 2008 independent economic impact survey reported that CATF generates $2.1 million for the local economy. Read more about CATF’s audience and economic impact by downloading this document.
• Operates under a LORT D contract with Actors’ Equity Association and in agreements with United Scenic Artists and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers
• Annual operating budget of $1.3 million
• Proud member, Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the National New Play Network (NNPN).
• Hosted the annual conference of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) in 2013.
• Johnna Adams’s Gidion’s Knot premiered at CATF in 2012; it was published in American Theatre magazine, was a citation winner of the ATCA/Steinberg Award; and was one of the most produced plays in the 2013-14 season nation-wide.
• Made its Off-Broadway debut with the transfer of CATF’s production of Uncanny Valley by Thomas Gibbons to 59E59 Theaters, October 2 – 26, 2014. Reviews appeared from Peter Marks and the Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and others.
• Member of the Blue Star Theaters Network for military personnel and families.
• Presented the Governor’s (W.Va.) Award for Leadership in the Arts in March 2012.
• The 1999 CATF commission, Compleat Female Stage Beauty by Jeffrey Hatcher, was later adapted as the film Stage Beauty, starring Clare Danes, Billy Crudop, and Tom Wilkinson.
• Check out the latest CATF news and press by clicking here.
CATF’s commitment to new work is an annual festival of new plays by American playwrights, most often premieres or second or third productions. CATF invites you to celebrate the Summer of SIX, by seeing all six plays in rotating repertory. CATF focuses on plays that deal with contemporary issues that boldly challenge and entertain audiences.
The Contemporary American Theater Festival, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit, is hosted on the campus of Shepherd University (Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, President), a public liberal arts institution founded in 1871, and located in historic Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Situated along the banks of the Potomac River, and just 70 miles north of Washington, DC, and west of Baltimore, MD, Shepherdstown is a mixture of metropolitan thought and rustic ambience. Drawing on populations of Northern Virginia, western and suburban Maryland, DC, and Baltimore, 60% of CATF’s audience comes from outside the State of West Virginia. The CATF season is truly America’s newest plays in West Virginia’s oldest town.