Ed Herendeen

Ed Herendeen at CATF: ‘Not a One-Person Operation’

Ed Herendeen


The founder of Contemporary American Theater Festival looks back on 31 years of producing new plays in rep.

In 1991, Ed Herendeen found his way to Shepherdstown, W.Va., after a three-year stint as an adminstrator at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. In partnership with Shepherd University, he set out to bring some of the Berkshires’ summer theatre magic to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Under Herendeen’s leadership, the Contemporary American Theater Festival has produced 133 new plays, 56 world premieres, and 11 commissions in its 31-year history.  I first traveled to CATF in the summer of 2015, and I was lucky to return the following three summers in my capacity as a writer and editor for American Theatre, each time bringing friends and family to experience America’s newest plays in West Virginia’s oldest town. MORE»


Producing director Ed Herendeen (center) at the reading of the CATF season lineup in June. (Photo by Seth Freeman)


Ed Herendeen

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Ed Herendeen


More than 30 years after the fact, Ed Herendeen can still recall the moment he knew Shepherdstown would be the perfect place to build something like the Contemporary American Theater Festival.

He was visiting the town with his wife, Sue, and they were sitting on a bench in front of the Frank Center on Shepherd University’s campus. The Blue Ridge Mountains were in the distance, and the picturesque landscape that spread out in front of them spoke volumes without making a noise.

“We were just staring into an empty field, and my wife said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to grow old in this town?’” Herendeen reflected in an interview Tuesday. “And that’s what did it for me, that’s what did it for us.”


Photo: Ed Herendeen, left, founded the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown more than 30 years ago. Photo by Seth Freeman.