Contemporary American Theater Festival announces summer 2024 season

New, exciting work from July 5 to 28 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

At a well-attended reception on April 8 in the beautiful main hall of DC’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) announced its 2024 season. Presenting quality professional productions of new American plays in top-notch facilities at Shepherd University in nearby Shepherdstown, West Virginia, each July, CATF is a highlight of the often-quiet summer period in the theater calendar.

Given present-day theater economics, many newer plays are 90-minute, small-cast one-acts. So it is particularly gratifying that one of CATF’s 2024 offerings is Donja R. Love’s What Will Happen to All that Beauty? A two-part epic story of the effects of HIV/AIDS on a Black family during the 1980s and afterward (with a supper interval between the two parts), the play’s eight-actor cast explores questions of legacy, family, and healing against the background of the AIDs crisis.

During the reception, Love spoke of the imperatives of dealing with a crisis like AIDS in the 1980s, in words that apply to more recent crises as well. “Visibility is survival,” he said, “community is survival.” Two of the actors who will appear in the show presented a brief scene, in which a caregiver (Felicia Curry) tries to persuade an HIV-positive man (Jude Tibeau) to take his medications.

The CATF season includes three other, highly varied, plays. The Happiest Man on Earth, by Mark St. Germain, is based on the memoir of a Holocaust survivor who endures unimaginably harrowing experiences yet finds light even in the darkest circumstances.

The intriguingly titled Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting, by Harmon dot aut, tells the story of a nonbinary filmmaker, an autistic teenager with synesthesia, in the context of their life at home and with their parents. Enough to Let the Light In, by Paloma Nozicka, focuses on girlfriends who find their lives and relationship changed dramatically over the course of an evening as buried secrets begin to emerge.

Musicians from the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival (ACMF) played several pieces during the reception, notably “Shine You No More (Last Leaf)” by Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen. ACMF will have a concert and workshop season in Shepherdstown and other nearby locations in August. During the CATF season, CATF and ACMF are collaborating on a multidisciplinary presentation, A Mother’s Voice. Created by Musici Ireland to honor the women who endured the mother and baby homes (the so-called Magdalene Laundries) in 20th-century Ireland, the production features elements of an immersive exhibit, original music by Irish composers, and the voices of three of the mothers.

Shepherdstown is roughly a one-hour, 40-minute, drive from Washington DC. A delightful college town in its own right, Shepherdstown is also close to other places of interest including Harper’s Ferry, the Antietam National Battlefield, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Having attended CATF productions for several years, I can say from personal experience that the excellence of the productions makes the trip well worthwhile, particularly given that audiences will get to see new, exciting work that isn’t being performed anywhere else in the area.

The 2024 CATF season extends from July 5 to 28. For information about production dates and ticketing, go to Tickets (regular, $70; senior, $60; Sunday evening, $40) are available online. ACMF’s season of workshops and concerts extends from August 3 to 18. For further information, visit


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