Traveling to Shepherdstown, WV to cover the Contemporary American Theater Festival is the most sought-after assignment among DCTS writers.
If you’ve been to the Festival over its past 20 years, you already know why. It’s a pleasant 2+ hour drive from DC into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It takes place in 3 fine performing spaces at Shepherd University, in the charming town of Shepherdstown, home of a surprising number of shops and dining that runs from fine to fun. You get to see performers who don’t often come to Washington, usually performing in two plays in rotating repertory. You can meet them in town at the restaurants – or at least wave to them – as they scurry to their next performance.
Mostly, you go to see which five plays have been selected by founder and producing director Ed Herendeen. Entering the main lobby of the festival, each year, you see banners saluting not the productions but the playwrights. This year, those flags are flying the names of David Mamet, Tracy Thorne, Lucy Thurber, Kyle Bradstreet and Sam Shepherd.
As happens most years, some performances have sold out; your best chance to see them is midweek. Check with the CATF box office.
This year’s prize assignment went to Jayne Blanchard, who reviewed four of the five plays on the Festival’s opening weekend.