Press Release

Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College Announces Casting of Messy White Gays and Shanghai Sonatas

Jeffery Self, Aaron Jackson, Nico Greetham, Lauren Blackman, Ryan Vona, Amelia Fei, Jason Forbach, Debra Cardona, and more!

Vassar College has announced additional casting for the highly anticipated 38th Powerhouse Theater Season, which continues through Sunday, July 28. Actors joining the annual summer play development festival include Jeffery Self, who is best known for his recurring role on HBO Max’s “Search Party”; the star and writer of A24’s Dicks: The Musical, Aaron Jackson; from “American Horror Story” and “Love, Victor,” Nico Greetham; and Pete Zias (The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade)—all of whom will join Drew Droege (Titanique) on stage in the biting comedy Messy White Gays (July 19-21), directed by Mike Donahue (The Legend of Georgia McBride).

Among the Broadway standouts joining the sweeping musical Shanghai Sonatas (July 26-28) include Lauren Blackman, who most recently appeared in Lempicka; Ryan Vona (Parade, Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour, Once), direct from Broadway’s How to Dance in Ohio, Amelia Fei; Jason Forbach, who most recently appeared in the Broadway revival of Into The Woods; from Funny Girl and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Debra Cardona; known for playing Ron Weasley in Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, David Abeles; Eric Bondoc (Pacific Overtures); and Neal Mayer (Les Misérables). They will be joined onstage by Kelsey Anne Brown, Cáitlín Burke, Regene Odon, Julian Remulla, and Xiaoqing Zhang. From the creative team of Sean Gao, Alan Goodson and Joyce Hill Stoner, with direction from Chongren Fan, Shanghai Sonatas is a new musical based on the memoirs of Jewish refugee musicians who escaped Nazi Germany and found refuge in Shanghai in the 1930s and ’40s.

Messy White Gays is produced by The Fabulous Invalid with casting by Ryan Bernard Tymensky, RBT Casting. Michal V. Mendelson serves as the Production Stage Manager and Mary Garrigan as the Assistant Stage Manager. Shanghai Sonatas is produced by LED Theatrical Productions with casting by Alexandre Bleau, CSA at Jim Carnahan Casting. Aaron A. Watson serves as the Production Stage Manager and Grace Cazzaniga as the Assistant Stage Manager.

As previously announced, the lesbian spy thriller musical Absolute Zero (July 12-14)from writing team Dorie Clark and Marie Incontrera, directed by Ellie Heyman and choreographed by Bo Park, will feature Gabi Carrubba (“American Idol,” Dear Evan Hansen), Jerusha Cavazos (The Prom), Jess Darrow (Disney’s Encanto), Kasper, Maya Lagerstam, Youran Lee, Tony nominee Crystal Lucas-Perry (Ain’t No Mo’, 1776), and Tatum Marshall.

Members of the renowned Powerhouse Theater Training Company will present a slate of free theater throughout the season including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, adapted and directed by Devin Kawaoka (“Chicago Med”), and The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Caley Chase. Both will be performed outside at the Preserve at Vassar. Max Reuben directs the company in the innovative use of Soundpainting, a gestural language, in a completely devised project at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. And theater-making team Hal Cosentino and Ellenor Riley-Condit explore humanity’s capacity to defy our assumed limits in Marathon

Previous productions that have already been presented in the 38th Powerhouse Season include:

A play workshop presentation of Jocelyn Kuritsky’s Webby Award-honored podcast A Simple Herstory (July 5-7) featuring the talents of Florencia Lozano (“One Life To Live”), David Shih (Life of Pi) and Colleen Werthmann (“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”), directed by Artistic Director of The Tank, Meghan Finn.

This Place is Definitely Haunted (June 21), written by Max Reuben, directed by Caley Chase and featuring Fernando Gonzalez, Char Nakashima-Conway, and Carolyn Reuben.

Theatre East’s Extinction (June 23), written by C.J. Baer, directed by Judson Jones, and featuring Emma Chart, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy, Tom Green, Brianna Lucille, Oliver Palmer, and Gabriel Wassif.

The Tank’s Holes in the Shape of My Father (June 27), written and performed by Savon Bartley, directed by Adam Coy.

Possessed (or, “the Crazy African Girl” play) (June 28), written by Gloria Majule, directed by Shariffa Ali, and featuring Ngozi Anyanwu (The Homecoming Queen), Amandla Jahava (Exception to the Rule) and Michael Oloyede (Jaja's African Hair Braiding).

The Leah Ryan Fund’s Ping Pong Play (June 29), written by Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin, directed by Benita de Wit and featuring ChiWen Chang and Maya Jeyam.

3 Graces (June 30) by Alexandra Neil (Rock 'n' Roll), directed by Valentina Fratti and featuring Drama Desk winner Purva Bedi (Dance Nation), Obie winner Yvette Ganier (Breath, Boom) and Zoë Van Tieghem.

For tickets and additional information about the Powerhouse Season, visit



Absolute Zero (July 12-14)
Book and Lyrics by Dorie Clark
Music by Marie Incontrera
Directed by Ellie Heyman
Choreographed by Bo Park
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring Gabi Carrubba, Jerusha Cavazos, Jess Darrow, Kasper, Maya Lagerstam, Youran Lee, Crystal Lucas-Perry and Tatum Marshall

Absolute zero is the lowest temperature known to humanity. It’s just a theoretical construct that’s never actually been reached—until now. By terrorists. But when the CIA’s top agent—sexy lesbian lothario Sam Knight— is called in to investigate, she never expected that in order to save humanity, she’d have to excavate her own past. Fueled by a contemporary pop-rock and jazz score, Absolute Zero is a taut, funny musical thriller written for a cast of female, trans, and gender nonconforming performers.

Shanghai Sonatas (July 26-28)
Music and Concept by Sean Gao
Book by Alan Goodson
Lyrics by Joyce Hill Stoner
Directed by Chongren Fan
Musical Arrangement and Direction by Asher Denburg
Produced by Diane Fisher and LED Theatrical Productions
In the Martel Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film

Featuring David Abeles, Lauren Blackman, Eric Bondoc, Kelsey Anne Brown, Cáitlín Burke, Debra Cardona, Amelia Fei, Jason Forbach, Neal Mayer, Regene Odon, Julian Remulla, Ryan Vona and Xiaoqing Zhang

During WWII, when throngs pushed to escape the horrors of the Nazi regime, cosmopolitan Shanghai was the only place in the world that would accept European refugees without a visa. Forced into a ghetto by Japanese occupiers, a refugee violinist takes on a troubled Chinese teenager as his student, a connection that helps both of them overcome their traumas and survive the war. With an eclectic musical score fusing East and West, a narration in the traditional Chinese style of Kuai-Ban, and a compelling storyline of forbidden love and the struggle for survival, Shanghai Sonatas illustrates how the seeds sown by these fateful events of the past resonate to this day.

All Musical Workshop tickets are $30 and are currently on sale.


A Simple Herstory (July 5-7)
Created by Jocelyn Kuritsky
Written by Jonathan A. Goldberg and Jenny Turner Hall
Directed by Meghan Finn
Series Director and Co-Executive Producer Donya K. Washington
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring Florencia Lozano, David Shih and Colleen Werthmann

A Simple Herstory is a groundbreaking—Telly Award-winning and Webby-honored—multi-platform audio fiction exploration of the 100+ women who have run for President of the United States. The initial season revolved around Victoria Woodhull, arguably the first woman to run in 1872, before women had the right to vote. Sections of Season 2 revolve around the life and times of Margaret Chase Smith who ran for President in 1964. She was a member of the Republican Party and the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. While it is an audio drama, Season 2 borrows from 20th century film styles to create a complex portrait of the Senator from Maine, challenging preconceived notions, historical facts, and our perceptions of American culture. As with Season 1, it takes a lesser known story, presents it, and then works to deconstruct it.

Messy White Gays (July 19-21)
Written by Drew Droege
Directed by Mike Donahue
Developed and Produced by The Fabulous Invalid
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring Drew Droege, Nico Greetham, Aaron Jackson, Jeffery Self and Pete Zias

Sunday morning. Hell’s Kitchen. Brecken and Caden have just murdered their throuple-mate and stuffed him into a Jonathan Adler credenza. Unfortunately, they’ve invited friends over for brunch. Feel bad for them! They’re MESSY WHITE GAYS!

All Play Workshop tickets are $30 and are currently on sale.


This Place Is Definitely Haunted (June 21)
Written by Max Reuben
Directed by Caley Chase
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring Fernando Gonzalez, Char Nakashima-Conway and Carolyn Reuben

Three teenagers gather in a spooky old house to go ghost hunting. A group of theater makers gathers in a spooky old theater to explore the sinister events of that night. A Russian nesting doll of scary stories, This Place is Definitely Haunted blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and imagination, and explores the very human desire to scare the living daylights out of ourselves and each other.

Extinction (June 23)
Written by C.J. Baer
Directed by Judson Jones
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring Emma Chart, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy, Tom Green, Brianna Lucille, Oliver Palmer and Gabriel Wassif

Extinction follows Louis Ebbings (née Wilder), a brilliant and promising PhD student in the early 1980s, interested in the rising field of feminist biology, who discovers, as the singular female in her advisor’s lab, androcentric bias in her very own backyard. Challenging the sexist narrative within Darwinian theory, Louis discovers just how powerful these forces she’s working against are, and unwittingly becomes the subject matter of her own studies.

Holes in the Shape of My Father (June 27)
Written and Performed by Savon Bartley
Directed by Adam Coy
In the Powerhouse Theater

What spirals when an absent father reaches out to his son over Instagram with no apologies, no remorse, and 20 years’ worth of unanswered questions? Savon Bartley unravels the nuances of boys who grew up without a father. Told by the son of a mother who tried, Holes in the Shape of My Father is the myth and miracle of boys becoming men.

Possessed (or, “the Crazy African Girl” play) (June 28)
Written by Gloria Majule
Directed by Shariffa Ali
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring Ngozi Anyanwu, Amandla Jahava and Michael Oloyede

Furaha returns home to Tanzania on a medical leave and is reunited with her brother Angaza. Unfortunately for her, he believes her mental illness is in fact a demon possession. As the siblings road-trip from Dar Es Salaam to Singida, they encounter colorful characters and testing challenges along the way. Possessed is a dramedy that explores the toll it takes to leave home, and the toll it takes to be back.

Ping Pong Play (June 29)
Written by Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin
Directed by Benita de Wit
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring ChiWen Chang and Maya Jeyam

Ping Pong Play is about keeping up with your best friend at the end of the world, non-chronologically following Yining and Anjali over nine decades playing competitive ping pong. This work imagines a speculative future informed by our present, with militarism and climate change shaping how Yining and Anjali can connect.

3 Graces (June 30)
Written by Alexandra Neil
Directed by Valentina Fratti
In the Powerhouse Theater

Featuring Purva Bedi, Yvette Ganier and Zoë Van Tieghem

The original three Graces were Zeus’s daughters, goddesses who represented beauty, elegance, mirth, and youth. They were also associated with creativity, fertility, charm, and joy. 3 Graces explores the cost of those attributes to women today. The play weaves the lives of three women of different ages, each named Grace, who came of age in the ’70s. The piece spirals back and forth in time, as all three Graces examine their past, present, and future together.


Twelfth Night (July 12-14)
Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted and Directed by Devin Kawaoka
At The Preserve

Twelfth Night begins as all good tales do...with a shipwreck. Viola finds herself having lost her dear twin brother and stranded on the coast of Illyria. With no family or means to protect her, she disguises herself as a servant to the ruler of Illyria, Duke Orsino. She soon loses herself in a Bermudian Triangle of love that steals the hearts and minds of those who dare to pass through it. Our question: Will Viola be able to find herself amongst the wreckage—not of her ship, but of her love?

The Taming of the Shrew (July 19-21)
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Caley Chase
At The Preserve

After falling asleep outside a bar, tinker Christopher Sly awakes inside a wild comedy—a play! Sly plays Katherine—sister to the fair Bianca, eldest daughter to Baptista, and betrothed to the fortune-seeking Petruchio. Full of ogling suitors, witty wordplay, and subversive performances of power, gender, and love, this faced-paced adaptation deconstructs The Taming of the Shrew to its bones, seeking—through great humor, absurdity, and role-play—a most intimate connection.

We Are Gathered Together (July 4, 11, 18, 25)
Conceived and Composed by Max Reuben
Developed and performed by members of the Training Company
In the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

INSERT SALUTATION HERE. It is with GREAT JOY/A HEAVY HEART/INCREDIBLE EXCITEMENT that we invite you to INSERT EVENT HERE to CELEBRATE/MOURN/COMMEMORATE our dear INSERT NAME HERE on the occasion of INSERT SPECIFICS HERE. As we gather together to share in this special moment, we kindly ask that you RSVP by INSERT DATE HERE. Your presence would mean a lot to us and to INSERT NAME HERE, and we look forward to sharing this DELIGHTFUL/SOLEMN/MOMENTOUS occasion with you. Thank you.

We Are Gathered Together utilizes the gestural composing language of Soundpainting to create a spontaneous, ensemble-based improvised performance.

Marathon (July 21-22)
Co-created by Hal Cosentino and Ellenor Riley-Condit
Devised by Members of the Training Company
In the Susan Stein Shiva Theater

It is 490 BC. After days of fighting, Pip runs 26 miles without stopping from the Battle of Marathon to the city of Athens to warn his fellow citizens that the approaching Persian navy has no claim to Athenian land. He shouts: “We have won!” before collapsing. Marathon is a devised piece that uses this origin story as an inciting incident, an event that connects feats of human endurance across time to ask: What is that spark that makes us keep going beyond what we think is possible? Together, we’ll run a marathon from 490 BC to today, trying, with our own bodies, to understand humanity’s capacity to defy our assumed limits. When we push past the boundaries of our imaginations, what are we running towards?

New Works Play Festival (July 27)
Written and Directed by members of the Training Company
In the Susan Stein Shiva Theater

This festival of new works is the culminating event for the directors and writers of the Training Company. Along with their coursework, directors and playwrights will have observed the process of bringing a new script to life in a professional rehearsal setting. Each pair of writers and directors will workshop a play that they have developed over the summer. Featuring performances by the actors of the Training Company, these short plays reflect the students’ unique voice and vision for the future of American theater.

All Training Company performances are free, although reservations are required for Marathon and the New Works Play Festival. Reservations can be made by contacting the box office.


Performing Art (July 14)
Conceived and Directed by Liz Dahmen
In the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Featuring Paige Dillon, Penny Dilorio, Emily Dykeman, Rachel Handler, Andrew Karl and Aria Martinelli

Performing Art is a highly collaborative performance project that brings together an ensemble of local creators to explore the relationship between visual and performing art. This production takes inspiration from the works currently on display at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and the final presentation is a site-specific one-of-a-kind performance inside the gallery.

Performing Art is free, although a reservation is required and can be made by contacting the box office.


All Musical Workshop and Play Workshop tickets: $30.00

Readings and Training Program Performances: Free

Box Office hours: Thursday–Sunday, 2:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Box Office: (845) 437-5599,


Now in its 38th season, Powerhouse Theater (Ed Cheetham, Michael Sheehan, Producing Directors) is dedicated to both emerging and established artists in the development and production of new works. For six weeks every summer, the Powerhouse Theater Program comes to life on the Vassar College campus to provide a nurturing environment in which passionate theater lovers from students to professional practitioners and audience members learn from one another. The Powerhouse Theater Training Program provides aspiring theater professionals a chance to immerse themselves in acting, directing, and playwriting. The program’s Training Company also offers free performances throughout the season. The Powerhouse program, along with its partner theater institutions and individual artists, creates a crucial community—one that gives time, space and voice to artists of the American theater.

Recent projects that have premiered in New York City developed by Powerhouse include The Notebook(Broadway), The Connector (MCC Theater), Luna and the Starbodies (Lincoln Center), Sweet Chariot (The Public), Sanctuary City (New York Theatre Workshop), Diana (Broadway), Head Over Heels (Broadway) The Secret Life of Bees (Atlantic Theatre Company), The Great Leap (Atlantic Theatre Company), Alice by Heart (MCC Theater), A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (St. Ann’s Warehouse) and The Wolves (Lincoln Center Theater). Other projects developed at the Powerhouse include the Tony Award-winning Side Man and Tru; the multi-award-winning Doubt by John Patrick Shanley; the groundbreaking Broadway musical Hamilton; and Stephen Karam’s The Humans.

Vassar College, founded in 1861, is a highly selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college. Consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, Vassar is renowned for pioneering achievements in education, for its long history of curricular innovation, and for the beauty of its campus.


The Fabulous Invalid is a theatrical production company founded in 2018 by Jamie DuMont and Rob Russo with the mission to illuminate untold stories and fascinating personalities on air and on stage with a reverence for the past, a bold outlook for the future, and a dash of panache. The company takes its name from the title of a 1938 backstage play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart that has since become a loving nickname for Broadway itself—always deemed on the verge of decline, yet always bouncing back: the fabulous invalid! Projects to date include The Wiz and Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ on Broadway, Call Fosse at the Minskoff, Broadway Barbara Live! Off-Broadway, and Messy White Gays, in addition to four podcasts for the Broadway Podcast Network, and several additional projects in development.

The Hudson Valley Performing Arts Lab provides opportunities to experiment with the performing arts through educational and community-centered programming in the Hudson Valley. They foster collaboration and learning by providing a home base for performing artists of all levels to create and learn together. From engaging with different techniques to performing shows to developing new work, the Lab is committed to making space for local artists to excel and thrive.

Lavender Entertainment helps artists manage, market, and produce their work. They handle business so you can focus on your craft.

The Leah Ryan Fund began giving out its annual prize, The Leah, in 2010 to honor the memory of playwright and “woman of letters” Leah Ryan, and to encourage and support the work of brilliant and unrecognized women, trans, and non-binary playwrights. It is the purpose of the prize to perpetuate the integrity, compassion, and creativity that Leah herself possessed and inspired in others.

LED Theatrical Productions / Diane Fisher is a producer, real estate entrepreneur, founder of LED Theatrical Productions, co-founder of MD Films, and proud mother of twins. As a producer, Diane was humbled by Shanghai Sonatas’ true story of pain and purpose. Exploring the human condition through storytelling is vital to all Diane does. Inspired by reading to a blind professor at The Lighthouse Guild, she wrote the story and produced the film Blind, starring Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore. Other projects in development include the film With Prejudice and the docudrama series Intersex. In addition to her theatrical and film production work, Diane co-founded Fisher Pei and Terrace and Garden Properties. After studying with the visionaries at Pratt Institute, Diane began her career as a stylist in film and television.

Lyre Films and Nina Girvetz Lyre Films is a small NYC-based production company. Nina Girvetz co-produced the Oscar-nominated short film The Silence (dir. Michael Toshiyuki Uno), and produced Siso, a film by Kevin Kerslake. She also produced the music videos for Sonic Youth’s Shadow of a Doubt also directed by Kerslake, and for the American Martyrs song President (dir. Cecilia Miniucchi)

The Tank, celebrating 20 years in 2023, is a nonprofit arts presenter that champions performing artists working across a variety of disciplines engaged in the pursuit of new ideas and forms of expression. Led by Artistic Director Meghan Finn, Director of Artistic Development Johnny G. Lloyd, and Managing Producer Molly FitzMaurice, the company provides a home to artists working and experimenting in theater, comedy, dance, film, music, puppetry, and storytelling by removing the economic and accessibility barriers from the creation of new work.

Artists who have developed their craft at The Tank include Tony Award-winner Alex Timbers, Tony Award Nominee Amy Herzog, Lucy Alibar, Kyle Jarrow, Reggie Watts, Kyle Abraham, Andrew Bujalski, We Are Scientists, and tens of thousands of others. The Tank has been honored with a 2020 OBIE Award for Institutional Recognition celebrating their Extraordinary Support of Emerging Artists, 6 Drama Desk nominations for their co-produced work, and an official New York City Council proclamation. Recent co-produced work includes hit productions of Three Scenes in the Life of a Trotskyist by Andy Boyd (2024), Mahinerator by Jerry Lieblich (2023), New York Times Critics’ Picks Simon and His Shoes (2022), Taxilandia (2021, 2023 OBIE Award), OPEN by Crystal Skillman (2019), Red Emma & The Mad Monk by Alexis Roblan (2018), and The Offending Gesture by Mac Wellman (2016); as well as Drama Desk Award-nominated productions The Hunger Artist (2018), The Paper Hat Game (2017), the ephemera trilogy (2017), Ada/Ava (2016) and youarenowhere (2016). The Tank’s track record of artistic success is not an accident of their model: it is a direct outcome of the culture of creative possibility they have intentionally cultivated.

Theatre East is a nonprofit theater company whose mission is to provide the community with a platform to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world we share through theater. Theatre East stirs the human side of current issues by fostering new plays of social relevance through New York and world premieres. Furthermore, they create access to art makers and storytellers through the space they manage and operate in Long Island City, the Court Square Theater.

Press Contact:  Ed Cheetham, (845) 437-5902,

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HEADSHOTS: Download high-resolution images of artists from the Vassar College Media Relations Flickr site

July 8, 2024
Powerhouse Theater
Person standing on a dark stage holding an old book and reading out loud.
Mimi Quillin in CALL FOSSE AT THE MINSKOFF, Powerhouse Theater Season, 2023