SHEPHERDSTOWN —In 2008 an economic research study showed that the Contemporary American Theater Festival contributed $3.2 million to the region’s economy.

It showed how much theater patrons spent in local hotels, restaurants and retail stores in addition to the amount the theater itself spent putting the festival together.

Ten years later, a just-released study has revealed that in the 2018 season, festival audiences spent $4.61 million on lodging, meals and shopping while the theater itself spent $1.25 million locally – for a total of $5.86 million, nearly double the amount reported in 2008.

Details were provided Thursday at Shepherd University at an event hosted by Ed Herendeen, CATF founder and producing director, Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix and Monica Ligenfelter, director of Shepherd University Foundation.

CATF and its partners are “creating and inventing the future,” Herendeen said at the meeting.

In a later interview, Herendeen said the festival supports 87.6 full-time-equivalency jobs, generates $2.6 million in household income and $1.09 million in local and state government taxes. “This festival not only enhances our quality of life, it also invests in the region’s economic well-being,” he said at Thursday’s meeting.

“Art is never necessary, merely indispensable and we are a community that embraces and supports art,” he said. “The arts inspire us, soothe and provoke us, involve and connect us and they create jobs and contribute to the economy.”

The study, part of CATF’s strategic plan, was conducted by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit based in D.C. that’s dedicated to advancing the arts in the United States. The study was managed and executed by Shugoll Research Inc. of Bethesda, Md.

Background material for the study came from audience members who were asked to pick up one of the 1,700 copies of a survey placed randomly on seats in the theaters the six plays were shown. Herendeen said 1,173 were filled out and analyzed.

The results showed patrons spent an “average” of $238.17, Herendeen said.

“Perhaps some local residents didn’t spend anything except for their theater ticket. Others might have spent as much as $2,000 if you consider a couple attending a three-day weekend of plays with lodging, restaurants and shopping.”

The cost of theater tickets was separate and not included in the survey’s findings.

Herendeen knows his audience, their sophistication and education level and selects his plays accordingly. “Our audiences crave plays with literature, not light entertainment,” he said.

“Every aspect of our successful 29-year partnership is dedicated to creating an ideal environment for scholars, thinkers, artists, faculty and students,” he said.

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