Contemporary American Theater Festival Sampler

CATF_The Second Girlby Bruce Appelgren, Peak Custom Tours, Director

“The play’s the thing….”

Even if you have never been an active theatergoer, you would enjoy the Contemporary American Theater Festival. It was here I discovered ‘the play’s the thing’ can lead to a wonderful and purposeful life. Peak Custom Tour’s theater sampler offers a unique way to increase your appreciation of a life in the theater – a welcoming lunch with a festival staff member, seeing early set designs and models, a backstage visit to see the actual sets, a question-and-answer session with actors after a performance, and breakfast with the festival founder. Not to mention seeing three superb productions of new American drama. These are but a few experiences of the wonderful mix of arts and talent that go into creating a theater festival.

ContemporaryAmericanTheaterFestival_MarinoffTheater_©SethFreemanSeveral years ago, I attended a series of continuing education classes that introduced me to this Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), its staff, and the varied arts of the theater. We had discussions with playwrights, witnessed a play literally created from courtroom transcripts, watched emotional read-throughs with Broadway professionals, and talked about how to nurture new American plays. The picture I received was a remarkable snapshot of life in and about the theater. Even though I was new to it all, I was impressed by the complex, collaborative creative process that brings these plays to life. And beyond that, the festival took the time to share all of it! Yet I barely saw the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating theater. A recent article in American Theatre about this festival cited below describes much more of what is involved in creating this repertory festival.

ContemporaryAmericanTheaterFestival_TheWeddingGift_©SethFreeman“In short, it’s clear that CATF, which puts playwrights at the center of the action, is one of the nation’s preeminent festival-based new-play springboards, rivaled only by Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference. . . .
the program is atypical for summer theatre, not only for its location—in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, roughly 75 miles from the D.C. metro area—but for the way it puts edgy new plays through the repertory wringer.”

I had to look up repertory. Wikipedia defines it as: “A repertory theatre (also called repertory, rep or stock) can be a Western theatre or opera production in which a resident company presents works from a specified repertoire, usually in alternation or rotation.” Suffice it to say that putting on six plays in 2017 in two weeks of multiple performances requires actors to wear different hats in different plays. Plays in this sampler tour package in order of viewing are “Byhalia, Mississippi” by Evan Linder, “We Will Not Be Silent” by David Meyers, and “Wild Horses” by Allison Gregory.

Yes, ‘the play’s the thing’ that creates wonderful new experiences amidst lively ideas and talented artists in a charming historic town. I think you’ll enjoy it!

Click here to read the article in American Theatre about this festival in Shepherdstown.

To see the dates for our Theater Festival Sampler of the 2017 Contemporary American Theater Festival, please visit visit here»


Photos by Seth Freeman