New Stage Works By Beth Henley, Tom Kitt Included In 35th Annual Powerhouse Season; Works-In-Progress Fest Gave Start To ‘Hamilton’, ‘The Humans’

Courtesy of Powerhouse

EXCLUSIVE: New plays and musicals by Pulitzer Prize winners Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart) and Tom Kitt (Next To Normal) are among the works-in-progress set for this summer’s 35th edition of the prestigious Powerhouse Season of Vassar and New York Stage and Film.

Presented annually at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Powerhouse has given starts to an impressive roster of work, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton and Stephen Karam’s The Humans. Powerhouse also presented first-look productions of two finalists for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama: Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves and Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. A sampling of other current or recent Broadway and Off Broadway shows that can trace roots to the festival are Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown; the Lynn Nottage/Duncan Sheik/Susan Birkenhead musical The Secret Life of Bees; the Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater/Jessie Nelson musical Alice By Heart and Tim Blake Nelson’s Socrates.

The 35th annual season, running June 20 through July 28, will include fully staged productions, workshop presentations, readings and other works in progress for theater, film and television.

In addition to Henley and Kitt, the author roster for this summer includes Hadestown director Rachel Chavkin, Emmy Award winner Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights); singer/songwriters Ingrid Michaelson and César Alvarez; the Grammy Award-winning La Santa Cecilia; and playwrights Jocelyn Bioh, Harrison David Rivers and Lisa Loomer, among others. Projects include new musical adaptations of the 1992 film Like Water For Chocolate and Nicholas Sparks’ novel The Notebook.

Additional projects will be announced at a later date.

Two main stage productions (summaries provided by Powerhouse) set for staging at the Powerhouse Theater are:

  • the bandaged place (June 27 – July 7) by Harrison David Rivers, directed by David Mendizábal. When a former lover resurfaces, re-opening a painful wound, Jonah is forced to turn to his funny, precocious daughter and tough-love grandmother for support. A brutal and lyrical portrait of the things we hang on to and the price of moving forward, this Relentless Award-winning play tells of one man’s attempt to free himself from the abuses of his past;
  • Lightning (or The Unbuttoning) (July 18-28) by Beth Henley, directed by Mark Brokaw. In a cabin high on a peak surrounded by the blue mountains and a vibrant, swirling sky, a young woman is visited by a traveling salesman as a lightning storm brews. A mysterious, mystical visitor, he awakens in her the promise and the peril of something more. Pulitzer Prize-winner Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart) returns to Powerhouse with this story of resilience and determination in an unforgiving world.

Musical workshop presentations, in the Vogelstein Center for Drama & Film’s Martel Theater will include:

  • Annie Salem: An American Tale (July 5-7), adapted from the novel by Mac Wellman, book by Rachel Chavkin, music by Heather Christian, lyrics by Heather Christian and Rachel Chavkin, directed by Rachel Chavkin. An otherworldly journey into the jagged heart of rust-belt Ohio, where blue monkeys play in the wreckage of post-industrial America, and where high school boy Jack Scan is in love with the prettiest girl in town. This timely adaptation of Mac Wellman’s wry, surrealist coming-of-age story, adapted by Obie Award-winning artists Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown, The Great Comet) and Heather Christian (Animal Wisdom), travels through time and space, to Mars and back again as it tries to make sense of the forces lurking in the American woods;
  • The Elementary Spacetime Show (July 12-14), music and lyrics by César Alvarez, book by César Alvarez with Emily Orling, directed by Sarah Benson. A young girl attempts suicide and wakes up trapped in a cosmic vaudevillian game show that she must win in order to enter the void of death. But the more she wants to die, the harder she has to work. A new musical of why to exist when you no longer want to, with up-tempo genre-bending songs and a healthy dose of the absurd from the creators of Futurity and the frontman of The Lisps;
  • Goddess (July 26-28), conceived by Saheem Ali, music and lyrics by Michael Thurber, book by Jocelyn Bioh additional lyrics by Mkhululi Z. Mabija, directed by Saheem Ali. A young man returns home to the African coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya, to marry his betrothed and step into his family’s political dynasty. But when he visits Moto Moto – a steamy afro-jazz club and the stomping ground of his youth – he finds himself drawn to a beautiful, mysterious new singer. Soon, he must decide whether to fulfill the legacy of his lineage, or give in to his love of music and a newfound attraction. A story of love, destiny, the spirit world, and the power of passion, inspired by the ancient myth of Marimba, the goddess of music.

This summer’s ‘Inside Look’ Workshops to be presented in the Martel Theater and Susan Stein Shiva Theater are:

  • …and the horse you rode in on (June 20-22) by Zach Helm, directed by Kate Whoriskey. The story of Ben, a young hacktivist federally incarcerated for digital civil-disobedience, who attempts to bring the entire US Judiciary to its knees from the inside. While he creates computer code he thinks will combat totalitarianism, his mother attempts to negotiate for his freedom and mental health. The first of a cycle of plays by celebrated theater, film, and television writer Zach Helm set in the world of international cyber-espionage and the human lives it has torn apart;
  • The Best We Could (a family tragedy) (July 25-27) by Emily Feldman, directed by Daniel Aukin. A daughter’s road trip with her father becomes a theatrical journey across more than just state lines.

This summer’s Readings will include free public presentations of works in progress, including:

  • The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson with book by Bekah Brunstetter;
  • The Excavation of Mary Anning by Ian August, directed by Sammi Cannold;
  • Tuvalu or, The Saddest Song by Antoinette Nwandu, directed by Danya Taymor;
  • The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin by Jessica Huang;
  • Delusion by Proxy by Brooke Adams, directed by Ethan Silverman;
  • Sanctuary City by Martyna Majok.

Additional projects and artists in residence include:

  • Williamsburg, book by Jason Katims, with music and lyrics by Tom Kitt (Next To Normal);
  • Like Water For Chocolate, a new musical adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s novel by Lisa Loomer and La Santa Cecilia, directed by Michael Mayer and the Lark Play Development Center.

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