CATF Impacts Local And State Economies

CATF Impacts Local And State EconomiesAt a press conference hosted by Shepherd University on November 8, the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) released the final reports of an economic impact study conducted by one of the country's largest arts marketing research firms, Shugoll Research. During the 2018 season, the professional theater hired Shugoll to research, conduct, and analyze an economic impact study.

The study, which followed the Americans for the Arts methodology, concludes that the Contemporary American Theater Festival is a cornerstone of cultural tourism in Jefferson County and in the state of West Virginia. The Festival generates money for local businesses, the local and state governments, and area residents. At the press conference, CATF Founder and Producing Director, Ed Herendeen stated "I am proud this economic impact study acknowledges that the Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University is an economic engine. The report demonstrates that cultural tourists spend money in our community. CATF means business. The arts mean business."

According to Shugoll Research, the direct economic impact of the Festival is $5.86 million. The Contemporary American Theater Festival's direct spending is $1.25 million and contributes $2.6 million in household income to local residents. Excluding the cost of the tickets to the Festival, the average patron spends $238.17 on lodging, dining, retail, recreational activities, and more during their trip to the Festival.

The nationally recognized new play festival contributes $1 million to local and state governments. Jefferson County enjoys $340,000 generated from the Festival. West Virginia receives $745,000 as a result of the Festival, translating to an 800% return on investment for the state.

In addition to a survey that was distributed to patrons throughout the Festival, Shugoll Research orchestrated two focus groups. When patrons were asked what words come to mind when they think about the CATF, patrons responded with "innovative," "compelling," "masterful," and "vibrant." Patrons also commented on the "high level of production values", the Festival's professionalism, and the provocative and contemporary nature of the plays.

Shepherdstown's patrons embrace the Festival experience and community atmosphere. During one focus group session, a patron shared their Festival experience. "Over the course of the weekend, you feel like you're part of this theater-going community. There is this sense that we're all in this together. And even as you're walking through the town, you see people that you remember from the audience, and sometimes you see the actors. It's like this whole event is happening with everyone."

As a result of the survey and the focus groups, Americans for the Arts ranks the Contemporary American Theater Festival as in industry leader in customer satisfaction, quality of the work, communications, service, value for the price, and customer service from the staff.

"On behalf of Shepherd University," President Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix stated at the conference, "I am extremely proud to recognize the extraordinary partnership with CATF and the significant economic impact they have on our region."

In closing, Herendeen remarked how "thankful and proud" he is of "CATF's 29 year partnership with Shepherd University. This partnership is about transforming the future.

"The report recognizes the incredible economic impact of CATF and Shepherd. We are a community that embraces and supports the arts. And our lives in the community are better because of it."

For more information about the Contemporary American Theater Festival's economic impact, visit CATF online at or Shepherd University online at

Founded in 1991 by Ed Herendeen at Shepherd University, the mission of the Contemporary American Theater Festival is to produce and develop new American theater. Inclusive of the 2018 season, the Festival has produced 127 new plays, including 52 world premieres and 10 commissions. CATF focuses on thought-provoking plays that address relevant and timely issues to boldly challenge and entertain audiences.

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