SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — The Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown has named their new Producing Artistic Director.
After 15 years working with the ACTF, which runs every July, Peggy McKowen is stepping up to a new role as the Producing Artistic Director. McKowen previously held the role of Associate Producing Director but will now have a hand in artistic and executive decisions like what plays will run at the festival and who will be cast in those productions as well as other artistic decisions that come with the festival.
“Many of the things that I have encountered and worked on been a part of it for the last 15 years have accumulated to be where I am today,” McKowen explained. “So I feel like that’s in a new position but I’m in a new position that feels very comfortable.”
McKowen excitedly explained that she is close to completing her first week on the job and is proud of the work she and her colleagues create for the festival. She believes that the ACTF provides a unique artistic experience that allows for the community, both in the theater and in Shepherdstown, to engage and converse about topics presented during performances. She also explains that the festival also allows artists and performers to interact with their audience members in a way that might not be accessible at other festivals. McKowen described the opportunity as “a kind of magic in Shepherdstown and at Shepherd University.”
“For example, an audience member can see a play that downtown for lunch and see maybe an actor or a playwright or another artist with a company that they just saw on stage or as part of the festival,” McKowen explained. “And they can have conversations and they can talk and they can feel connected to the artist in a way that you don’t have that opportunity in other places.”
She also explained that the yearly festival is a great contributor to the economy and tourism industry not only in Shepherdstown but also across the Mountain State.
“We like to think of ourselves as sort of the cultural leaders of the state, bringing people to West Virginia to see art,” McKowen said. “That’s a little different than coming to West Virginia to experience history or outdoor activities.”
McKowen also explained that the pandemic has presented a new set of challenges to the ACTF, forcing them to find alternative ways to tell stories. She stated that the festival has turned to technology and will likely continue this practice as the hybrid approach has allowed them to reach more audience members.
The American Contemporary Theater Festival will be entering its 32nd year and looks forward to the festival in July. For more information about the ACTF, please visit their website.