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Pandemic Forces Cancellation of 2020 Powerhouse Season

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of the 2020 season of Powerhouse Theater, Vassar College and New York Stage and Film announced this week.

Each year, the Powerhouse season draws more than 10,000 audience members in June and July and serves more than 400 professional artists, 50 student writers, directors and actors in the training program, and 25 interns. New York Stage and Film will continue to serve artists throughout the course of the full calendar year with workshops, readings and residencies and support artists at every stage of the life cycle of a project.

A scene from A 24-Decade History of Popular Music on the Powerhouse stage.

Since its inception in 1985, which featured the premier of John Patrick Shanley’s Savage in Limbo, Powerhouse has been a major attraction for theatergoers as well as aspiring actors and playwrights and throughout the Hudson Valley. Powerhouse has debuted award-winning plays and musicals such as Doubt (John Patrick Shanley), Bright Star, (Steve Martin and Edie Brickell), Hamilton (Lin Manuel Miranda), A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Taylor Mac) and The Wolves (Sara DeLappe). Doubt and Hamilton both won Tony awards and Pulitzer prizes.

“New York Stage and Film and Vassar College have made the very difficult decision to pause the Powerhouse Season for this summer,” said Chris Burney, Artistic Director at New York Stage and Film. “Our collaboration has been a staple of the Hudson Valley for 35 years and will continue for many more after this unprecedented global crisis recedes. A large part of what makes the summer special is the intensive, residential community on the Vassar campus, and we cannot wait to return next summer.”

Powerhouse Producing Director Ed Cheetham said he too was saddened that Powerhouse would not be able to present its plays, dramatic readings and training programs this year. “We know it was the right decision to make, but it’s still heartbreaking that we won’t be able to gather as a community this season to celebrate the work of hundreds of artists, whether they be established, emerging or just starting out,” Cheetham said. “The art and action of theater is a human art. We are bodies on a stage, in afield, in a theater, sharing the breath of others. I hope we can get back to that space of sharing – shoulder to shoulder, breath to breath.” 

Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley added, “Powerhouse is an annual tradition for many in the Hudson Valley community, and we will dearly miss welcoming them to the Vassar campus.”

The Powerhouse Theater Training Program will also be postponed until the summer of 2021, Powerhouse Producing Director and Education Director Michael Sheehan said. “After receiving so many wonderfully creative and personal applications, it’s disheartening to know that 50 eager writers, directors and actors won’t be able to develop themselves as artists this summer at Powerhouse,” Sheehan said. “We sincerely hope they’ll consider applying for the programs in 2021.”

Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, talks about the show at Powerhouse.