Kate Flexter acts in prestigious Powerhouse Theater program at Vassar

Jayne Caron

By Kate Flexter, ’10, A&E Section Editor

This summer, I participated in a seven-week apprentice program at the Powerhouse Theater in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Powerhouse is a collaboration between New York Stage and Film and Vassar College.  This year, the program celebrated its 25th summer with a gala, in which we performed.

The audition on the second day was daunting to say the least.  Each apprentice auditioned in front of a group of 50 people, which included not only fellow apprentices, but also theater professionals.  From my audition, I was cast as Helen of Troy in the Greek tragedy The Trojan Women by Euripides.  I was thrilled, which is easy to say retrospectively, but it was actually the exact role that I was hoping I would get.  I was not only thrilled with the role, but also with the cast and director Dennis Reid.  Dennis is one of the most bizarre and wonderful directors that I have ever known.  He brought out the best in me and really helped me to grow as an actor. When he has a vision, you have to be willing to go with it.  He is completely insane, which is exactly how you need a director to be.

Powerhouse has the reputation of being a cutting-edge incubator where Pulitzer, Tony, and Obie award winners come to try out their new work.  You never know whom you might encounter on the serene and beautiful Vassar campus.  I met so many people currently involved in professional film and theater like cast members from 30 Rock and Glee, Duncan Sheik (the composer of Spring Awakening), and perhaps most memorably Lewis Black.  This angry comedian was there previewing his new play, which ironically takes place in Cincinnati.  He delivered a unique “introduction” to his play that proved that artistic brilliance is not always accompanied by character.  He asked us to enjoy the show, but not to tell him if we didn’t like it because, as he told us in unprintable language, he frankly didn’t care what we thought.  Luckily, his play was hilarious, so that was not an issue.  The next day, as I was working as an usher, I had the pleasure of escorting his elderly parents to their seats.  It seemed impossible that someone so abrasive, vulgar, and hilarious could have come from such seemingly mild and benevolent people.

I appreciated the opportunity to be a part of an artistic community and be with other writers, directors, and actors who share my passion for the arts.  We worked seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.  With such a grueling schedule, it was difficult to find time for sleep! The summer was exhausting, exhilarating, and life-altering.

Header photo courtesy of Kate Flexter.

Editor’s note: Here is a link to a New York Times article about Powerhouse.