Mission & History
To produce and develop new American theater
The ultimate theater experience for artists and audiences
Daring and diverse stories;
• Founded in 1991 by Ed Herendeen.
• To date, 133 new plays produced by 96 playwrights (production history).
• CATF has produced 56 world premieres, and commissioned and produced 11 new American plays.
• 50% of all plays produced by women writers (well above national averages).
• 2019 attendance: Issued over 18,500 tickets to 6,000 patrons from 38 states, DC, and around the globe.
• 2018 independent economic impact survey conducted by Shugoll Research, reported that CATF generates $5.86 million for the local economy. Read more about CATF’s audience and economic impact visiting the our thinkimpact website page.
• 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 $1.5 million
• Proud member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), National New Play Network (NNPN), and Blue Star Theaters Network.
• 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 in 2004.
• Presented the West Virginia Governor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts in March 2012.
• 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.
• Hosted the annual conference of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) in 2013.
• 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.
• Associate Producing Director Peggy McKowen presented with the West Virginia Governor’s Award for West Virginia Artist of the Year in 2018.
• Plays by Women of the Contemporary American Theater Festival, an anthology of plays first produced at the Festival, was published by London-based Methuen Drama in 2019.
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.