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CATF Founder Ed Herendeen to Retire

In December he’ll leave the influential new-play festival he founded and has run since 1991.

Ed Herendeen.

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA.: The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), a home for new plays since 1991, has announced that its founder and producing director, Ed Herendeen, will retire, effective this December.

Over 30 years ago, Dr. Michael P. Riccards, the former president of the then Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), asked Herendeen what it would take to create a professional theatre on the campus. When Herendeen replied with a vision of a theatre festival focused on new-play development, Riccards jumped in.

In its first season, CATF produced two plays in repertory. Since then, the festival has grown exponentially. Today patrons can see six plays in rotating repertory throughout the month of July, with a total of more than 100 performances, and over 60 engagement and educational events. To date, CATF has produced 133 new plays, including 56 world premieres.

“It’s always been about the work onstage, about the voice of the playwrights,” said Herendeen in a statement. “The plays deal with timely issues. They ask questions. They inspire conversation and even controversy. That’s why the festival has grown.”

In addition to sharing plays onstage, Plays by Women of the Contemporary American Theater Festival, an anthology of CATF-premiered plays, was published by London’s Methuen Drama and is being used in theatre classrooms across the U.S. CATF plays have also gone on to have productions in regional theatres across the country, on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in London, including Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North, produced at the festival in 2009.

Marellen Aherne, president of CATF’s board of trustees, said in a statement, “For 31 years, the festival has had a remarkable leader. We are excited about our future and thankful to Ed. We find ourselves in an excellent position to realize the bright future ahead.”

Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, president of Shepherd University, added in a statement, “Shepherd University has enjoyed a very special partnership with Ed and the Contemporary American Theater Festival for over 30 years. Ed’s creative vision and unparalleled commitment to authenticity and excellence will long be remembered. His passion for performance and evoking emotional responses to real life issues underscore his remarkable legacy. Ed is an icon of our times.”

CATF’s board of trustees appointed the festival’s associate producing director Peggy McKowen as acting producing director. McKowen will lead the organization during a nationwide search for the theatre’s next leadership team.

The plays for CATF’s upcoming season in July of 2022, which had been planned by Herendeen for 2020 but were shelved for the past two summers by the COVID-19 lockdown, are The Fifth Domain by Victor Lesniewski, Whitelisted by Chisa Hutchinson, Babel by Jacqueline Goldfinger, Ushuaia Blue by Caridad Svich, The House of the Negro Insane by Terence Anthony, and Sheepdog by Kevin Artigue. For more information about the Contemporary American Theater Festival, visit CATF online at

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