Contemporary American Theater Festival announces 2024 season

CATF will run from July 5 through 28 at four venues across Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) announces its 2024 July season, featuring three new plays and an offering in two parts. In addition to these five mainstage experiences, the Festival is co-producing a bonus multidisciplinary experience. CATF is also hosting more than 30 special events led by industry experts and artists, including lectures, post-show conversations, and discussions that surround the themes explored in the plays. CATF will run from July 5 through 28 at four venues across Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

“When I first selected the season, I started talking to some of the artists who were going to help bring these plays to life and the word ‘brave’ kept coming into the conversations. But when I think about this season, I really think that it is about different types of love. In these four scripts, I read stories about loving each other amidst incredible challenges and how that love is healing, noble, and hopeful,” stated Peggy McKowen, CATF’s Artistic Director.

Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting by Harmon dot aut was selected as one of three plays across the country to receive the Venturous Playwright Fellowship Grant. CATF partnered with Harmon to submit the grant proposal for consideration as part of the 2024 season and will present its world premiere. Set in rural Kansas against the backdrop of a looming tornado, audiences are introduced to Chantal, a non-binary tween/teen with synesthesia. Chantal dreams of becoming a filmmaker and their loving parents offer support and guidance along this poignant and humorous journey.

Written as an offering to the community of Black individuals living with HIV/AIDS, Donja R. Love’s What Will Happen to All That Beauty? follows the couple Max and J.R. during a trying time in their relationship. As the relationship unfolds, Max dedicates so much time fighting for her husband’s life, that she suddenly discovers she must soon fight for her son. What Will Happen to All That Beauty? will be performed in two parts and dinner will be available for purchase during selected performances.

McKowen first came into contact with Donja R. Love’s epic at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. “The first time I heard the play, I was struck by it. I felt connected to it because I really do believe that life is about love and beauty, and that is what this play embodies.”

CATF presented a staged reading of Enough to Let the Light In by Paloma Nozicka in 2023 as part of its Fall Reading Series.

“The response from our audience was tremendous. There were so many varying and spirited perspectives and ideas about the relationship between Marc and Cynthia that I knew it had to be included in our 2024 July season,” McKowen shared.

Paloma Nozicka’s play is both a love story that twists and surprises, and a psychological thriller that will leave the audience with more questions than answers. When a couple spends the evening together, they slowly start to reveal secrets about themselves that ultimately test their relationship.

The Happiest Man on Earth by Mark St. Germain recently had its world premiere at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Based on the memoir by Eddie Jaku, the play recounts the true-life story of a Holocaust survivor. The tale references the escape from terrifying experiences and ends with the joy of love, marriage, and fatherhood. It is both challenging and uplifting — a reaffirmation of life. This small, intimate play balances the season’s more epic productions.

In addition to the plays and two-part offering presented at the Festival this year, CATF has partnered with the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival to produce A Mother’s Voice, featuring Musici Ireland. This multidisciplinary concert/production is a commemorative dedication to women affected by the mother and baby homes in Ireland during the 1900s. This is a special event with a limited run that will only occur in the second part of July.

Individual tickets to the CATF 2024 July season range from $40-$70. Packages of three or five mainstage performances range from $174-$300. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 681-240-2283.


Tornado Tastes Like Aluminum Sting
A world premiere by Harmon dot aut
Directed by Oliver Butler

CB sees life through a lens: the camera. CB experiences life — a shifting, repeating fractal that nobody else seems to see — through the lens of their mind. A quick, loving, nonbinary filmmaker with synesthesia, CB follows their parents around the house, documenting them in the pursuit of understanding them. Meanwhile, CB’s parents struggle to love, learn, and support CB in the exploration of their dreams. All the while, the memory of a tornado looms in the distance of a Kansas landscape. This play centers around an autistic teenager (flashing between the ages of 11 and 19) seeking to know and be known.

What Will Happen to All That Beauty?
By Donja R. Love
Directed by Malika Oyetimein

In 1986 Brooklyn, Max and her husband, J.R., share a profound love while eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first child. But as an epidemic rages, the couple’s future is tested. Max spends her time fighting for her husband’s life; before she realizes it, so much time has passed that she finds herself fighting for her son.

Crafted as an offering to the community of Black people living with HIV/AIDS, Donja R. Love’s smart, powerful, and poignant epic explores questions of legacy, family, and healing against the haunting landscape of the AIDS crisis of the 80s and its enduring impact.

Enough to Let the Light In
By Paloma Nozicka
Directed by Kimberly Senior

Girlfriends Marc and Cynthia spend the night celebrating a milestone, but over the course of the evening their lives are irrevocably changed as buried secrets begin to emerge. Enough to Let the Light In is the story of what happens when our haunted pasts meet our promising futures.

This smart, spooky play asks: can love truly conquer all, even while challenging our most deeply-held beliefs?

The Happiest Man on Earth
By Mark St. Germain
Directed by Ron Lagomarsino

This true, triumphant story brings the extraordinary journey of Eddie Jaku to life. He endured innumerable harrowing experiences while navigating and evading multiple Nazi concentration camps. Eddie’s story is one of unimaginable grief and tragic loss, yet it is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the human soul. Defying all odds, he declared himself “The Happiest Man on Earth,” as evidenced by his resilience and determination to find light even in the darkest circumstances.

Based on the memoir of the same name by Eddie Jaku. Commission by and World Premiere presented at Barrington Stage, Pittsfield, MA, May 2023. Alan Paul, Artistic Director, Braden Huldeen, Artistic Producer.

A Mother’s Voice
Presented in Partnership with the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival, featuring Musici Ireland
Sponsored by Culture Ireland

A Mother’s Voice is an immersive, multidisciplinary experience dedicated to the many women affected by the mother and baby homes in Ireland during the 1900s. In honor of these women, this collaboration between artists and living survivors sheds light on this veiled era of Ireland’s recent history. This special event is only offered for a limited time during the Festival.

For more information and the full schedule of special events, visit

Named as one of the top theater festivals in the world by publications such as The New York TimesAmerican Theater, and World Guide, the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) shapes the future of American theater. Each summer, the Festival produces bold, new plays, allowing audiences to experience all of the productions in the season in as little as two days. The plays produced at CATF spotlight daring and diverse stories, in a truly fearless fashion.

Since its founding in 1991, the Festival has produced over 144 new plays, including 66 world premieres and 11 commissions. Plays produced at CATF have gone on to have robust lives including regional productions, Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, and film adaptations.

SEE ALSO: Contemporary American Theater Festival announces summer 2024 season (news of CATF’s season-announcement at National Museum of Women in the Arts by Bob Ashby, April 11, 2024)


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