Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. Who knew, back in the summer of 2013, that the new musical (then known as The Hamilton Mixtapes) that upstart hip-hop composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was workshopping on the Vassar College campus would soon become Broadway’s biggest hit, with ticket prices spiraling into the stratosphere? If you’d known, I’ll bet you would’ve gone.
It’s still impossible to guess what’s going to be the next Hamilton, but Vassar and New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater has a track record as a stage-monster incubator too impressive to discount lightly. Stephen Karam’s 2016 Tony-winner The Humans and two 2017 Pulitzer nominees, Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves and Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, all received early development at Powerhouse. So did John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar and Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer’s American Idiot, among many other plays that went on to highly successful runs on and Off-Broadway.
Suffice it to say that any Powerhouse season is worth a check-in or two. This summer, the most obvious cause for buzz is a new musical inspired by Alice in Wonderland, created by Tony-winners Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater (Spring Awakening). The workshop version of Alice by Heart runs the weekend of July 5 to 7, but you might want to think about getting your tickets right about now.
The 34th Powerhouse season will feature two mainstage productions: Radio Island by Liza Birkenmeier, directed by Jaki Bradley, concerns an expert hostage negotiator who works from home and runs from June 28 to July 8. From July 19 to 29, writer/director Lisa Peterson (An Iliad) revives and tweaks her musical adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves, with music and lyrics by David Bucknam and some new music by Adam Gwon.
Besides the aforementioned Alice by Heart, the 2018 season’s musical workshops include The Connector (July 13-15), by Jason Robert Brown and Jonathan Marc Sherman, directed by Daisy Prince; Little Orphan Danny (July 26-29), by Dan Finnerty and Dan Lipton, directed by Sean Daniels; and Cowboy Bob (July 27-29), by Jeanna Phillips, Molly Beach Murphy and Alex Thrailkill, directed by Annie Tippe. This summer’s Inside Look Workshops are India Pale Ale (July 6-8) by Jaclyn Backhaus, directed by Will Davis, and Our Country (July 13-15) by Annie Saunders and Becca Wolff.
As usual, the Powerhouse Season begins with the first of two weekends’ worth of the annual Readings Festival: June 22-24 and July 20-22. Offerings will include On that Day in Amsterdam by Clarence Coo, The Pain of My Belligerence by Halley Feiffer, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, The North Star by Donja R. Love, The Purists by Dan McCabe, The Dizziness of Freedom by Stephen Nathan, Melissa R. and Dorothy Sue by Geoffrey Nauffts and Jonatha Brooke and more yet to be announced. Students in the Powerhouse Theater Training Program will perform two Shakespeare plays, Measure for Measure and As You Like It; Ovid’s Metamorphoses; Caryl Churchill’s Not, Not, Not, Not, Not Enough Oxygen; and Max Reuben’s I’m Trying to Tell You Something Important.
Tickets to all Powerhouse season events – running through July 29 at various campus venues and at various prices – are now available at https://powerhouse.vassar.edu/season, along with much more detail about the schedule, the artists and the productions. Vassar College is located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie.