Summer News: CATF Contemporary American Theater Festival Rolls Out Another World Premiere Season!

The 2024 Contemporary American Theater Festival will run July 5th through July 28th, 2024.

By: Apr. 12, 2024
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Believe it or not, Summer is coming.  After we sneeze our way through a way-too-flowery Spring, we get to contemplate the joys of those little weekend getaways here and there, sneaking out of town to enjoy some solid artistry in friendly locales. 

Shepherdstown, West Virginia has to be one of my favorite artistic retreats.  Come July, the city will be buzzing with amazing new work, as the Contemporary American Theater Festival celebrates its 34th year on the boards.  This week, Artistic Director Peggy McKowen presided over the rollout of the 2024 season, held in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and it was a wonderful evening, with a preview of the dynamite drama that will be on tap before we know it.

The headliner for this year, with performances at the Frank Center mainstage, is Donja R. Love’s two-play cycle that meditates upon the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and its impact on communities of color, “What Will Happen to All That Beauty?”  Set in Brooklyn, Love’s writing has a combination of wit and bite that traditional CATF audiences will love.  To give us a rich taste of Love’s talents, DC stalwarts Felicia Curry and Jude Tibeau read a hilarious scene from “Beauty?,” and judging from the giggles and outright guffaws they got out of the crowd, Jones should have a hit on his hands.

Rounding out the 2024 season is Paloma Nozicka’s “Enough to Let the Light In,” a thriller about deeply-buried secrets, which will be staged in the Marinoff Theater, CATF’s in-the-round space.  Directing this show will be Kimberly Senior, whose production of “The Niceties” a few years back was a stellar treatment of contemporary issues. 

Meanwhile in the nearby Studio 112, CATF will host Harmon dot aut’s “Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting,” offering a unique glimpse of the world as seen through the eyes of an autistic child, whose life is documented by a film-maker with synesthesia.  The challenges of dealing with children on the spectrum, and of understanding this in a multidimensional way, is only the starting point for what promises to be a truly innovative evening.

One of McKowen’s innovations at the CATF is to include new stage spaces in downtown Shepherdstown, like the town’s original Opera House, newly renovated and refurbished.  This year’s offering at the Opera House will be Mark St. Germain’s “The Happiest Man on Earth,” inspired by the story of Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku, whose resilience in the face of almost certain death is a lesson for us all.

This year, CATF audiences will also be invited to expand our artistic horizons, and embrace some of the other programs that Shepherdstown has on offer.  Attendees to this year’s rollout were serenaded by musicians from the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival, which includes opportunities for younger musicians to participate in a music camp, and will feature works by modern composers, from August 3-18.  Katie Tertell, Artistic Director of the ACMF, led a string quartet that gave us a taste of works by Debussy, Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Phillip Glass.

Shepherdstown may be a small place, as towns and cities go, but it has rapidly re-established itself as a major arts destination, for theater and classical music aficionados alike.  Come on, Summer!

Photo:  Details from the Poster for "Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting."  Courtesy of the Contemporary American Theater Festival.

The 2024 Contemporary American Theater Festival will run July 5-28, on and near the campus of Shepherd University in nearby Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

For tickets call 800-999-CATF (2283) or visit .


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