Tonight the CATF Board Of Trustees will honor and show our appreciation for the remarkable leadership of Lisa Younis. Lisa has completed her two year term as Board President and her nine years of service as a Trustee. Suzanne Shipley, President of Shepherd University, is hosting a party for Lisa and the CATF Board in her beautiful, historic home at Popodicon. This important celebration marks another milestone in the Festival’s history. Tonight we pay tribute and recognize Lisa’s unselfish dedication to our mission: “to produce and develop new American theater.” Lisa has lead our Board during the most difficult economic climate since the Festival began twenty years ago. Under her watch the Festival persevered and continued to produce extraordinary new works for the American stage. Tonight we salute her leadership and service. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Lisa. 

Lisa joins an elite group of former CATF Board Presidents.  Ron Jones, Andy Michael, Mary Helen Strauch, Lynn Shirley, and Stephen Skinner have provided the Theater Festival with their leadership, advice and dedicated support. Each of these extraordinary individuals has been instrumental in guiding and nourishing the creative work of the American playwright. I am forever grateful to these past presidents. They have embraced my vision to create a home for the future of the American theater.

Serving on an arts board is, especially in this moment, a form of social activism. It is a statement of belief in the power of community. The Contemporary American Theater Festival is supported by an outstanding Board of Trustees. They are a generous collection of individuals who are deeply committed to the Festival’s mission and core values. They give so much of themselves in service to our theater and to our community. They believe in the power of contemporary theater. They believe in the power of story. They believe in the power of sharing the most private of feelings in the most public of spaces–the theater. Together we breathe the same air–actor with actor, actor with audience, audience with audience–as we confront pain and difference, conflict and joy in the safe environment of the stage. Our Board shares a passionate belief that we can only grow as a society if we find the strength to confront and consider ideas and issues that may make us uncomfortable. Our trustees believe that a community without art has no voice, no memory, no aspiration — a community without art is no community at all.

I am always inspired when I walk into our board room and see the dedicated faces of our trustees. They have made room in their lives for our work. With so many things competing for their time, our trustees continue to commit their resources (intellectual as well as financial) as they freely choose to dedicate their valuable energy to our artists and our work. Our community is made better because of their support fot the Contemporary American Theater Festival. 

On behalf of the entire Theater Festival artistic community, I want to personnally thank Lisa Younis for her dedication and service as our Board President. I wish her all the best and look forward to seeing her, and her husband John, in our audience in the years to come.

I also welcome our next Board President — Jenny Ewing Allen. Jenny will continue to guide the Festival into the future. She will help to create and nurture an environment for a strong supportive relationship between the board members, the artists, and the festival staff as we continue our mutual creative journey.

–Ed Herendeen, Producing Director


The Contemporary American Theater Festival attracts theater fans, theater tourists and adventure seekers who travel short and long distances to see and experience our work…they follow us…they take to the road to see contemporary theater. We have created a sub-culture of audience members who participate in the entire experience.

Where else can you spend two days seeing and experiencing five new plays in a beautiful, rural, historic American town?

Where else can you meet other theater lovers and form a kinship and bond over art and culture?

Where else can you have total access to the makers of art and engage in a living conversation?

Where in America can you join a community of art travelers from across the nation and world and form relationships with people like yourself…who feel competent and free to question our contemporary world?

Where else can you shop, dine, relax, walk and talk-theater…talk  about real life issues, concerns and fears by listening to live theatrical stories?

Every July our audience takes to the road and joins a community of thrill seekers…truth seekers…beauty seekers…knowledge seekers…interesting and engaging human beings who form kinship’s with other human beings. This is an annual community made up of friends, traveling companions and strangers who all share a common (spiritual) bond. Many of you have been attending the Festival for years! I think that is REMARKABLE! You reunite in Shepherdstown with the same folks each season. You make the annual CATF TREK. You are a part of the CATF ODYSSEY…a unique theater adventure to be shared with friends…old friends…new friends etc…

Our loyal fans know what I am talking about when I describe the CATF TREK and the close bonds that a shared Festival experience brings. New relationships are quickly developed, as strangers become friends in the supportive environment of the Festival. We provide an opportunity for “random encounters” every summer. The random Festival encounter is perfect, cosmic, generating reunions and the warm glow of artistic and intellectual curiosity.

The Contemporary American Theater Festival is sort-of a secret society of people checking out great contemporary theater while escaping from everyday life to encounter a sense of belonging. Each person defines the festival experience a little differently. Sure the plays, the programming, the artists are the main attraction. But the audience is YOU. The audience is US!

I believe that our audience feels a special connection, brotherhood and kinship that you just can’t replicate at other theater venues…because we offer an entire experience that is about more than just seeing a play. Our geography…our location…our destination is truly unique.

How do you define your Festival experience? Please share with me a story about a “random CATF encounter”. Please share a personal CATF story. Tell me a remarkable CATF experience. I look forward to hearing from you on this Blog or via facebook etc…I want to hear from you.

Ed Herendeen, Producing Director


The passion that we share for the Contemporary American Theater Festival acts like jet fuel and ignites the passion in our artists and audiences. This mutual passion helps us achieve critical success. And our passion and love for the work helps us overcome the financial barriers and obstacles that we face with each new season. Because doing what we love not only increases our odds at success, but it dramatically increases our happiness.

People spend more than fifty percent of their waking adult life working, so we might as well do what we love: Producing and developing new American theater in Shepherdstown, WV.

“An artist has to keep one ear to the ground and one to the heart.”–Bruce Springsteen

We have created an experience unlike any other theater. Each and every CATF Season is unique and different and stands alone and apart from other seasons. We treat our fans and artists to a different experience each and every season. No two Festival Seasons are the same…because we are pioneers in new play development. We differentiate ourselves from our competition by providing a total Festival experience. We have a reputation for nurturing a shared common experience. The Festival creates an instant kinship with our artists and our audience base. How do we do this?

We encourage independent behavior in our artists.

We innovate and don’t follow.

We stand-out.

We create our own landscape.

Our work is memorable.

Our work is remarkable.

We are willing to experiment.

We create a profound and ever evolving relationship between the audience and the work.

Our diverse group of playwrights provides a powerful combination of established and emerging voices: A mix of unique backgrounds unencumbered by conventional wisdom. This proves to be an extraordinary combination of innovative writing and provocative ideas. Our work, our plays, our Festival is authentic. And this authenticity endears us to our artists and fans. We will continue to keep a certain intimacy between ourselves and our patrons. We will continue to facilitate the culture of openness and availability that we have cultivated over the past two decades by enhancing the live theater experience. We will bring the Festival audience together in a vibrant community of conversation. Our Festival offers “all access.” Our patrons are participants…not just spectators. They assist us in our creative work: the development of new American plays. The CATF audience expects to be part of the Festival’s unique collective experience.

Ed Herendeen, Producing Director

Fall 2010: Another Beginning

The 2010 Festival is history and the work speaks for itself. Now it is time to re-invent a new repertory. Nothing compares to the feeling that I have when I begin to plan a new season. It is Fall in Shepherdstown and that means reading scripts. I have been traveling back and forth to New York and Chicago where I have been meeting with playwrights and Literary agents…taking “pitches” and attending readings and workshops. My Kindle is loaded with new scripts. Beginning a new season is thrilling, exhilarating and frightening. I am ferociously devoted to finding provocative scripts with good stories and new ideas…new works that express the beauty, wonder, and dirty truth of the human spirit.

Our Odyssey continues…

For two decades the Contemporary American Theater Festival has invited brave artists and adventurous audience members to join us on an extraordinary odyssey to discover and create the future of the American Theater. It has been an exhilarating voyage in search of new American plays. Over the years we have explored and produced new works by some of the best playwrights in America, as well as discovering a new generation of emerging writers. Our quest for innovative new plays and new ideas has earned us a reputation as one of America’s most important producers of new work. Our long strange trip has been an artistic endeavor of collaboration between the artists, the work and our followers. This eventful journey began on a wing and prayer AND a burning passion to make art. Our passion, creative spirit, imagination and industrious commitment to discover truth and beauty in our turbulent world–guides us on our next odyssey.

I am looking forward to sharing with you my thoughts on our upcoming 2011 Theater Festival. I also look forward to hearing from you. Please send me your comments, reactions, impressions and testimonials from our 2010 Season. Let’s start a digital conversation. Let’s TALK THEATER!

Ed Herendeen, Producing Director