Powerhouse Theater, that roiling crucible of new plays in various stages of development, is launching its summer 2014 schedule this weekend on the Vassar College campus with the first of two Readings Festivals. At 8 p.m. on Friday, June 20, you can catch Olympia Dukakis in The Unbuilt City by Keith Bunin, and on Saturday, The Humans by Stephen Karam at 12 noon and Fall by Bernard Weinraub starring Christine Lahti at 8 p.m. On Sunday, the choices are Choice by Winnie Holzman at 2 p.m. and David Rabe’s latest work-in-progress at 5 p.m.: Gilgamesh, the Prince, an adaptation of the nearly-4,000-year-old Babylonian epic. Admission to Readings Festival performances is free, but you must call (845) 437-5599 in advance to reserve a seat.
A collaboration between New York Stage and Film and Vassar College, Powerhouse Theater is celebrating its 30th summer of cultivating new works for theater and film through an eight-week residency involving more than 250 professional artists and 50 apprentices on the Vassar campus. In this workshop atmosphere, audiences get many opportunities to see the stage hits of tomorrow in their early, not-so-polished incarnations, making us privy to the hard work and creative processes that lie behind theatrical magic.
In addition to the Readings Festivals and some free performances by students in the program, a Powerhouse season typically consists of three nearly finished Mainstage productions, two musical workshops and two play workshops, with casts that include name actors from the Broadway, film and television worlds and some topnotch directors as well. The Mainstage schedule kicks off next Thursday, June 26 with Richard Greenberg’s The Babylon Line, directed by Terry Kinney, which will run through July 6. How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor plays a bohemian writer from Greenwich Village who commutes to the blue-collar suburb Levittown on the titular Long Island Railroad line in 1967 to give adult education classes. Leslie Bibb, star of Neil LaBute’s Reasons to be Happy, Tony Award-winners Randy Graff (City of Angels, Les Miserables) and Frank Wood (Clybourne Park, August: Osage County, Side Man), Maddie Corman (Next Fall, Picnic), Julie Halston (Hairspray, The Divine Sister) and Michael Oberholtzer (MCC’s Hand to God) co-star. It will be presented in the Hallie Flanagan-Davis Powerhouse Theater, and tickets cost $40.
The first of the Powerhouse musical workshops this year runs next weekend only, June 27 to 29: SeaWife by Seth Moore, directed by and developed with Liz Carlson. The “immersive” multimedia performance of this eerie tale features projected images, puppetry and original songs by the great punk/folk band the Lobbyists. The shows take place in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater, and tickets cost $30.
The second Mainstage production, running from July 5 to 13, is In Your Arms, a song-and-dance extravaganza featuring a huge cast and consisting of vignettes written by Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Carrie Fisher, David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage and Alfred Uhry. Among the singer/hoofers will be several Broadway veterans, including Robert Morse, the star of the original production of How to Succeed…and more recently a regular Mad Men cast member, plus fellow Tony-winner Debbie Gravitte (Jerome Robbins’ Broadway), Ryan Steele (Newsies, Matilda, West Side Story) and Carole Shelley (Billy Elliot). This world-premiere presentation will be directed and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, with original music by Stephen Flaherty. Performances take place in the Martel Theater at the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, and tickets cost $40.
The first of this season’s two Powerhouse play workshops follows from July 11 to 13: The Light Years, written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, developed and directed by Oliver Butler. The second play workshop, Laugh by the Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart), directed by David Schweizer, will run from July 18 to 20. Both play workshops are presented in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater; tickets for either cost $30.
The Danish Widow, the final Mainstage production, running from July 16 to 27, marks the return of a famous Powerhouse regular: Tony/Pulitzer/Oscar-winner John Patrick Shanley (Doubt, Moonstruck), who compares his latest drama, a mystery, to “a Hitchcock film with a Modernist edge.” Shanley will also direct. No cast had yet been announced as of presstime, but expect some stars and a likely sellout of tickets at $40 each. It will be staged in the Hallie Flanagan-Davis Powerhouse Theater.
This summer’s second musical workshop production will be A Walk on the Moon, Pamela Gray’s adaptation of her screenplay for the 1999 movie of the same name about a frustrated suburban housewife enticed by the Woodstock festival as she’s staying in a nearby bungalow colony in 1969. The music and lyrics were composed by Paul Scott Goodman, and Michael Greif directs. Performances will take place from July 25 to 27 in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film; tickets go for $30.
Powerhouse 2014 wraps up with the second Readings Festival from July 25 to 27, which will feature the first-ever reading of David Lindsay-Abaire’s latest play Ripcord, directed by David Hyde Pierce and starring T. R. Knight of Grey’s Anatomy. Other offerings that same weekend will include Turn Me Loose by Gretchen Law, featuring Joe Morton, lately of ABC’s Scandal but fondly remembered by many as the mute three-toed alien marooned in Harlem in John Sayles’s The Brother from Another Planet. The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar, American Pop by Michael Friedman and Dry Land by Ruby Rae Spiegel will round out Readings Festival II – again, free of charge, but with advance reservations required.
For performance dates and times and to order tickets to any Powerhouse production, call (845) 437-5599 or visit https://powerhouse.vassar.edu. Subscription package prices are also available.
Powerhouse Theater, June 20-July 27, $30/$40, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie; (845) 437-5599, https://powerhouse.vassar.edu.