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Annual Shepherdstown Theater Festival Returns With Live Performances

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The Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown was one of many live cultural events around the state to balance safely entertaining audiences with working around COVID-19 last summer. This month, the festival has fully returned to its regular live performances.

After postponing its yearly rotation of plays in 2020, the festival made a partial return in 2021. Organizers held outdoor events, released behind-the-scenes YouTube videos, and adapted plays as audio dramas.

Now that the six shows originally slated for the 2020 season are finally being debuted as full-fledged performances, Producing Artistic Director Peggy McKowen says there’s a feeling that the Eastern Panhandle’s cultural life is returning.

“It is a really nostalgic kind of moment for us at CATF to go through this transition and produce this work this summer. And it is really heartwarming to know that these audiences are still supporting us,” McKowen said.

She said there had been some uncertainty in the process of bringing the works to life. Staff had to overcome economic uncertainty and take care of mental health during production. Because of the amount of time between when the festival started work on the plays in 2020 and when the live performances debuted in 2022, much of the plays’ personnel also ended up changing.

“As time evolved, we lost some of those initiating members of the team. Of the six plays, only one of the directors has stayed through the process from 2020 to 2022,” McKowen said. “So we have five new directors who came on at various moments throughout the last two years. That’s been very interesting, because they bring a different perspective to the play, even though we had some shape to the play already.”

The festival is running six different plays through the end of the month, including:

  • Whitelisted by Chisa Hutchinson
  • The Fifth Domain by Victor Lesniewski
  • Babel by Jacqueline Goldfinger
  • Ushuaia Blue by Caridad Svich
  • The House of the Negro Insane by Terence Anthony
  • Sheepdog by Kevin Artigue

Information about the plays and their showtimes can be found on CATF’s website.