Main Street News

Ancram Center for the Arts Looks Forward to Upcoming Summer Programming and Expansion

By Published On: June 7th, 2024

This spring, the Ancram Center for the Arts released its plans for the 2024 season, illustrating an exciting range of performances, concerts, workshops, and more. To help provide ample space for this organization’s variety of programs and events, the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) recently awarded a pivotal grant of $50,000 to the Center as a part of its efforts to recover the state’s arts. Indeed, according to the NYSCA, they will be awarding $127 million in total to more than 2,000 New York arts groups and artists in the fiscal year 2024. 

With this funding, the Center plans to renovate an adjacent building they recently acquired, which will be called The Annex. In addition to offices and accommodations for theater workers, interns, and visiting artists, The Annex will also have a community room for the Center’s free events, classes, and workshops. The Annex’s meeting and gathering space also will be accessible to other organizations in the community. “The project serves to further the revitalization of the Ancram hamlet, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is a goal in the Town’s comprehensive plan.”

The Ancram Center’s June 1st Open House

The importance of future expansion 

As Ancram Center co-director Jeff Mousseau describes, the Center has had a true impact on the community, making the increase in room integral to not only the organization itself, but the events it produces. He points out that in the past nine years, the Ancram Center “has hosted 224 free workshops, 22 storyteller events with 51 storytellers, and coached more than 900 4th, 5th and 6th graders from Taconic Hills Elementary in storytelling workshops.” These storytelling programs, for both adults and children, are put together by co-director Paul Ricciardi, an award-winning Professor of Theater Arts at City University of New York-Kingsborough Community College. 

Mousseau—who serves as a theater director, producer, and educator—explains that with about 1,700 individuals participating in Ancram Center’s 90 events in 2023, the opportunity for expanded facilities is all the more appreciated: “We’re bursting at the seams in our current space, and this grant is a big step toward helping us expand our existing footprint and fulfill our mission of bringing innovative contemporary theater and vital community programs to the community.” 

About the Ancram Center

According to the history of the Center, their building first served its purpose as Ancram Grange #955, built in 1927 as an offshoot of the National Grange of the

Summer Play Lab: Conversations – Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby, photo by Molly Magnusson

Patrons of Husbandry. It was not until 1972 that the establishment became the Ancram Opera House, which would host a range of “performances, film showings, vaudeville acts, lectures and social gatherings,” with an emphasis on “light operatic fare.” The Center took on new leadership in 2016, hearkening back to pivotal elements from its beginnings: “to produce and present inventive contemporary theatrical performances to be shared by a rural community.” 

As this mission statement on its website underscores, the Center’s primary aim “is to engage, entertain and forge connection in rural Ancram and beyond through the performing arts.” In pursuit of this mission, the Ancram Center prioritizes immediacy, relevance, adventure, and participation as core values. They also clarify the importance of listening to marginalized communities—particularly artists of color—who share their stories, ensuring that the Center is an inclusive and diverse space, and reinforcing the equity of the organization in all respects. Their vision focuses on “individuals and communities being empowered, healthier, and happier when the arts are part of everyday life.” 

This summer at the Center 

Now, with these crucial foundations and the hopeful evolution of their facilities on the horizon, Ancram Center has a ton of performances and events to anticipate this season; this summer alone is packed with exciting programming. 

Summer Play Lab: Centuries

On June 1st, the organization held a spring open house to commence the season’s offerings. “It’s been a tradition at Ancram Center to host an Open House for the community at the end of the season, usually on Thanksgiving weekend. This is the first year we’ve done it before the season starts, and we were delighted with the turnout. Everybody loves to hang out in that gazebo with a glass of wine or something sparkling!” said Ricciardi. A family fun gathering complete with plenty of dogs and croquet matches, the afternoon was a definite success. 

Looking ahead, up first is a range of informative experiential learning workshops on June 8th and 9th, sponsored by the Ancram Center and organized in partnership with The Hillsdale Workshop Alliance, all taking place at Ancram Center, 1330 County Rt. 7, Ancram. On Saturday the 8th from 11am-1pm, there will be a Freeing Your Natural Voice workshop with Paul Ricciardi, and later that day from 2-3:30pm, Aubrey Lynch will be leading a Dance for the Non-Dancer workshop. From 11am-1pm on Sunday the 9th, Playwriting for Everybody with Darrah Cloud will be hosted. 

Additionally, The Center’s Summer Play Lab (SPL) will be providing space, resources, and support for three theater productions this season. The SPL, which is now in its fifth year, helps theater artists launch new works, and this year, these works include a range of compelling productions. The first of these upcoming performances, The Last Day of Dorothy Lillian Phelps, a one-woman play reading by Patricia Van Tassell, will take place on June 16th at 4pm. On Thursday, June 13th from 10am-12pm, “Van Tassell will conduct a free workshop on the theme of the play—’What would you say if it was your last day?’—exploring this ultimate question through a variety of art forms.”

Later in June, at the Roeliff Jansen Park Hilltop Barn, the first of two Real People Real Stories events will take place. On June 29th at 7:30pm, audiences will enjoy learning about and celebrating community connection via stories told by local residents. 

Rizo’s Home

To kick off July, The Center is putting on another SPL production. Held on July 7th at 4pm, Centuries is “a new musical storytelling experience that follows a family over two generations and explores how landscapes and people change with [time].” The Crystal Radio Sessions on July 13th at 7:30pm will feature a vibrant set of short stories, performed by actors and curated by Hudson Valley writer Ashley Mayne. Another can’t-miss event from the Ancram Center is on July 20th at 7:30pm; audiences can look forward to an outdoor summer concert from cabaret superstar Rizo, performing her new piece, Home, at the Circa 1799 Barn in Ancramdale. 

The third SPL presentation on August 4th at 4pm, Conversations, created and performed by Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby in collaboration with The Civilians, “is a music theater project created from interviews with Native Americans from across the country.” Furthermore, The Center’s summer theater production of British playwright Nick Payne’s Constellations will be performed August 16th-18th and August 22nd-25th. 

Photos courtesy of the Ancram Center. You can go to the Center’s website to stay updated about the rest of the 2024 season at the Ancram Center, learn more about the organization, and find out how you can get involved. To register for workshops at the Center, click here. The Ancram Center is located at 1330 County Route 7, Ancram, NY 12502.