Peggy McKowen

Taking Time to Dream

As Associate Producer for CATF I spend 10 months working with Ed Herendeen to plan, organize and facilitate “the art” and programming. I spend 10 months, organizing calendars and schedules; hiring artists and staff; streamlining production and department budgets and plotting for 80 + people to join us in June.

Most importantly I work with our artists to ensure that they have the best collaboratively artistic experience possible.  And occasionally, I assume the role of artist.  This year I’m designing the scenery for From Prague by Kyle Bradstreet and the costumes for our 2011 Commission, The Insurgents by Lucy Thurber.

Yep, I wear those artistic hats while I’m game-planning for the Festival-at-large. On the one hand I’m telling the designer in me to CREATE while on the other hand the festival producer in me is thinking this is only one set design in the context of a five show repertory. Ironically as an administrator I’m telling other artists to DREAM first and then later  resolve with the Festival team and collaborative process “the fit” of a show into the “whole” of the repertory. I feel a bit like Mrs. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde.

Fortunately, I work with a great Producer who says to me when I’m wearing my designer hat, “I love it when you talk art…just create, dream…” And, that’s what I’ve tried to do this week – TAKE TIME TO DREAM about the world of From Prague.

From the script by Kyle Bradstreet:


A ruined, crumbling church. As if God were only a memory.  It is December, and a light snow has recently fallen about the stage.

“She wore a white and grey scarf. Transparent. Looked like snow on a sad day.”

“Me on the floor, her on the sofa wrapped in the translucent snow.”

“You know what I mean by shuffling, right? Dragging my feet like this so you leave a trail in the snow. Evidence that you were there, goddam it.  You feel immortal for a bit, looking at that path behind you.”

So I ask myself what do my memories of trails in the snow look like?  What does snow look like during joyous or painful moments as I remember?  What does it look like in the light of a growing dawn?  And, the people that make up those moments, how do they color my snowy world? And how do I create this world – a world of memories that seduce the audience from the moment they arrive at the theater?

Yes, you’re right…From Prague may have snow in it…but what kind?

This gives you a taste of where my thoughts are going.  Next week I’ll put those images into textures, colors, shapes…and what I think will be a huge element, scale. More as I continue to dream; as I bounce back and forth between shows and as I juggle the activity between the two sides of my brain.  Yeah, I know…wish me luck.

Ed Herendeen

It’s Worth The Trip

What dya’ say we go on an odyssey?… What a great sound that has.

What dya’ say we go on an adventure?

(pause, another approach)

How about…let’s just take a trek to Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia doin the newest plays in America?

It’s closer than you think…AND… It’s worth the trip!

So…what dya’ say?

Do you wanna be engaged?

Do you wanna be entertained?

Do you wanna be inspired, transformed and transported by the power of a good story?


Where else can you see and experience FIVE new plays in rotating repertory in a beautiful, rural, historic American town? Where else can you meet other theater lovers like yourself and form an instant kinship and bond over art and ideas? Where else can you have total access to the makers of the art and engage in a living conversation? Where else can you dine, relax, walk and talk-theater?


There is no place like the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Our 21st Odyssey continues with a rotating repertory of FIVE new American plays by:SAM SHEPARD. DAVID MAMET. TRACY THORNE. KYLE BRADSTREET.  LUCY THURBER.

So…What dya’ say we go on an odyssey…an adventure…and discover new American theater?

(pause, very simply this time)

How ’bout let’s just drop everything and go to the THEATER FESTIVAL?

Wanna join our artistic community…in July? Do you wanna share our journey to create the future?

Come on…What dya’ say?


Be present for the future of the American theater.

BE HERE NOW! The future spends the summer in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

So…What dya’ say?

Ed Herendeen, Producing Director


The Contemporary American Theater Festival has grown beyond my wildest dreams. More importantly, it’s remained true to it’s mission and core values: a theater that celebrates truth and beauty without ignoring the destructive forces of a dangerous world; a theater company that poses provocative questions about contemporary issues. The work is often personal…sometimes political…sometimes controversial…often profound…and entertaining.

In every Festival Season you will find love and loss, paradox and mystery. But you won’t ever see mindless, escapist entertainment–because CATF doesn’t distract audiences with status-quo work. In an age of commercialism, we’re something of a miracle: serious artists producing challenging new works for the American stage.

I can’t promise you that every play, lecture, talk-back or performance will enlighten you, or cure even one tiny neurosis. I can promise you that each Repertory will contain some of the most radically intimate and socially conscious writing being performed today. The Contemporary American Theater Festival is a annual reminder that everyone has a story to tell and a voice to tell it. Those who attend the Festival and the playwrights and theater artists who create it are joined in an uncommonly close way. We are an artistic community. Every summer we come together to celebrate the glory and the heartache of being human.

I personally invite you and your friends to join me on our 21st ODYSSEY beginning on July 8th 2011. We will announce the 2011 Repertory later today.

Ed Herendeen, Producing Director