The 2008 festival, which includes readings, lectures and other events in the picturesque college hamlet billed as "the oldest town in West Virginia," began July 9 and continues to Aug. 3.
Lydia Diamond, Richard Dresser, Greg Kotis, Neil LaBute and J.T. Rogers are the five playwrights who have full productions being staged by CATF.
"In selecting the new work that makes up the 2008 repertory I was looking for plays that attempt to capture a portrait of the contemporary American landscape," founder and producing director Ed Herendeen said in a statement. "I was seeking innovative and risk-taking playwrights whose stories express the strength, and the vision, the beauty, the rage and the hope of our nation."
Richard Dresser returns to Shepherdstown with the final play of his "Pursuit of Happiness" trilogy, A View of the Harbor, set in Maine. "After the blue collar struggles of Dresser's Augusta and the suburban angst of The Pursuit of Happiness, class matters as a scion of Old Money tries to escape its grip," according to CATF production notes. "A View of the Harbor offers a sly perspective on the ghostly pull of America's brass rings: power and money."
Herendeen explained, "I am proud to complete his trilogy with the world premiere of A View of the Harbor, a comedy about class, corruption, and legacy. Dresser explores the awesome power of family and the futility of trying to escape it. Daniel, the patriarch is a force of nature; Nick, the son, has grown up in the enormous shadow that his father has cast; Kathryn, the daughter is crippled by her own attempts to do the right thing; and Paige, the girlfriend has grown up with new money and is unburdened by generations of wealth and expectations. Dresser's characters struggle to achieve happiness on their own terms." Dresser's plays include Below the Belt, Gun-Shy, Something in the Air, Rounding Third, Alone at the Beach, The Downside, Wonderful World and Better Days. His trilogy about happiness in America has each play set in a different social class. He wrote the film "Human Error" and the book for the Beach Boys musical Good Vibrations.
The other plays of the festival include J.T. Rogers' The Overwhelming, Greg Kotis' Pig Farm, Neil LaBute's Wrecks and Lydia Diamond's Stick Fly, billed as a heart-felt new play in which "explosive family secrets come to life."
Of Stick Fly, Herendeen stated, "This is a story about fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, race, class and privilege. I am thrilled to introduce you to this powerful emerging writer."
For the first time in its 18-year history, the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) is offering five plays.
"This is a great step for us," Herendeen stated. "Moving to a five-play season is a testament to our adventurous audiences, our actors who love the challenge of repertory, and to American playwrights who are creating so many plays that reflect our society's interests and passions."
For more information, visit www.catf.org.