Peggy McKowen Appointed as CATF’s Acting Producing Director

Marellen Aherne & Peggy McKowen

Marellen Aherne (left) and Peggy McKowen (right) with Playwright Terence Anthony at a Playcast Plus event in July 2021.


A message from CATF’s Board President, Marellen Aherne:

This is a momentous time for the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Ed Herendeen’s vision has given rise to the Contemporary American Theater Festival and put Shepherdstown, West Virginia at the forefront of American theater. His steadfast dedication to playwrights and commitment to telling provoking and timely stories has no doubt shaped the landscape of new play development. As Founder Ed Herendeen announces his retirement, we are joyously celebrating his countless accomplishments and the milestones of the festival.

Staying true to CATF values, we are exploring new possibilities. CATF is in the process of transforming its leadership model and over the next year, the Board will conduct a national search for members of the next leadership team. During this significant transition, there is truly only one person who can lead the festival.

The Board of Trustees has emphatically appointed Peggy McKowen the Acting Producing Director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival. As of September 9, Peggy assumed all Producing Director responsibilities.

Peggy has been CATF’s Associate Producing Director, and Ed’s artistic partner, for fifteen years. In addition to her leadership role, she has designed some of the most memorable costumes on CATF’s stages such as The Wedding Gift and Everything You Touch. She has worked in theaters all over the country – from Alaska to New York – and around the globe in Germany, Brazil, and China. She chaired West Virginia University’s Department of Theatre & Dance, was instrumental in the creation of Shepherd University’s groundbreaking Contemporary Theater Studies program, and named the West Virginia Artist of the Year in 2018. The Board knows Peggy’s unparalleled artistry, leadership, and knowledge of the inner workings of the festival will lead CATF forward.

As Peggy takes on the role of Acting Producing Director, she will be leading the full-time staff members – Ebonée Helmick, Trent Kugler, Nicole M. Smith, Gabrielle Tokach, and Vicki Willman. They all have their unique talents and areas of expertise, and come together to create a most remarkable and collaborative team. Most importantly, they all have the dedication and passion to craft and shape the CATF experience.

CATF is not complete without you. The board, staff, and artists are anxiously awaiting your arrival in Shepherdstown for the July 2022 season – the final season of plays selected by Founder Ed Herendeen.

With deep appreciation for your ongoing support,

Marellen Aherne




Marellen J. Aherne
President, Board of Trustees