But it's a long road to sellouts and standing ovations.
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Plays need time to figure themselves out.
Words are written and rewritten, the waters are tested by producers and directors and then presented before a variety of audiences.
But where do playwrights find a stage to introduce and fine-tune their work?
One place is the Contemporary American Theater Festival.
Now in its 21st year, CATF has had a singular mission: to produce and develop new American plays.
A professional, resident company based at Shepherd University, "we're a playwright-centered organization," said James McNeel, director of development and marketing. "This means that each season, we endeavor to provide an opportunity for the contemporary playwright to have a new play developed and prepared for future productions and a permanent place in the American theatrical canon."
This year's festival will showcase five plays in four weeks at Shepherd. They include "Race" by David Mamet; "Ages of the Moon" by Sam Shepard; "We Are Here" by Tracy Thorne, "The Insurgents" by Lucy Thurber and "From Prague," by Kyle Bradstreet.
The festival opens Friday, July 8, and continues through Sunday, July 31.
While there is no specific theme that connects the plays, McNeel calls it "a 'language season' — beautiful, crisp, poetic writing from all five playwrights."
CATF founder and producing director Ed Herendeen says the plays "explode, they needle, they bleed and they will give you room to reflect and dream."
There might be other venues where new plays are presented, McNeel said. But what differentiates CATF from almost every other theatre, "is our commitment to rotating repertory. We currently produce five new plays in rep in three distinct venues — 90-seat experimental space, 165-seat Studio Theater and the 416-seat Frank Center. This means that our audience can see all five plays in a two- or three-day period."
Also, most of the Equity acting company will perform in two of the five plays, he said.
"So while the stages are being changed from one show to the next, the actors finish one role and prepare for a completely different one in another play," he explained.
The Contemporary American Theater Festival had its beginning in 1990, when Herendeen, who was working for the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, was invited by Shepherd University to visit the campus and consult on how to start a professional Equity theater. He was later offered the job. The first season followed in 1991.
Including this year, CATF has produced 90 plays, including 34 world premieres, by more than 60 different playwrights, McNeel said. The company operates with a budget of more than $1 million.
Many of CATF's plays have gone on to productions off-Broadway in New York and regional theaters across the country, McNeel noted. "For example, in the fall of 2003 alone, there were five plays formerly produced in Shepherdstown receiving productions in New York."
McNeel said CATF has a long track record of commissioning playwrights to write new work, including this year's "The Insurgents," which received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In all, eight new plays have been commissioned.