What to Catch at Vassar's Powerhouse Theater This Summer

Vassar College and New York Stage and Film have a star-studded schedule of shows.


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Lights. Camera. Action! The Powerhouse Theater is back to deliver a summer of award-winning performers, unforgettable shows, and glimpses at the plots that may one day make it to Broadway. It happened for Lin-Manuel and Hamilton, after all.

The 35th Powerhouse Season opens on June 20 and runs until July 28. During that time, the Hudson Valley community and New York City weekenders flock to Vassar’s campus to watch catchy musicals, dramatic readings, and emotional plays. The lineup of shows is worth a perusal now, since tickets, which go on sale on May 14, often sell out for in-demand performances. Reservations to see the new works by songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and Pulitzer Prize-winner Beth Henley may not be available for long.

Our top picks for the season include a mysterious mountainside tale, a musical twist on a Nicholas Sparks classic, and an otherworldly interpretation of Annie Salem. If the success of recent seasons is any indication (we’re looking at you, Josh Radnor), this year's line-up is one for the books.


Annie Salem: An American Tale

Musical, July 5 – 7

If you only see one play at the Powerhouse this year, this has to be it. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Mac Wellman, the surrealist coming-of-age tale features music and lyrics by Heather Christian of Animal Wisdom and Rachel Chavkin of Hadestown and The Great Comet. As for the story itself, it takes the audience on an otherworldly voyage to post-industrial America in rust-belt Ohio. While the setting is unique (time travel and trips to Mars, anyone?), the timeless tale of young love is one which pulls even the pluckiest of heartstrings.


Lightening (or The Unbuttoning)

Mainstage, July 18 – 28

In an unforgettable mainstage performance, Pulitzer Prize-winner Beth Henley returns to Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater to tell the twisting, turning story of a young woman in the blue mountains. Just as a tempestuous lightning storm crackles into town, the woman, who lives on a secluded cabin in the mountainside, receives a visit from a mysterious traveling salesman. What follows is a tumultuous tale of promise and peril that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats.


The Notebook


Although the exact dates for the Powerhouse’s schedule of readings have yet to be announced, keep an eye out for updates on The Notebook, the tragic, timeless novel by Nicholas Sparks. Now adapted into a musical with music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson, the performance recounts the heartbreaking past-and-present story of one couple as they fight for themselves, each other, and true love. As readings are works in progress, don’t be surprised if actors stop in the middle of a scene or have their scripts in hand throughout the play.

If you don’t want to splurge on a show, never fear! The Powerhouse Training Company hosts free public performances every year. This summer’s shows include Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale, both of which are held at the Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns, and a soundpainting performance inside the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Seating is first come, first served, so be sure to show up well in advance of the opening scene.

For the full schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, visit the Powerhouse Theater website or call 845.437.5907.

Related: Hutton Brickyards Announces Two Epic Summer Concerts

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