Main Street News

The 2024 Season at Chatham’s PS21

By Published On: May 31st, 2024

Stir in a moral dilemma, add oranges and watermelons, and sprinkle in a pinch of Shakespeare in a freshly imagined way, and off we go into the 2024 season at Chatham’s PS21, the handsome theater – or make that two theaters: a state-of-the-art black box and an open air pavilion – tucked away amidst the apple trees of a long-ago farm, where the surroundings are about as charming and low-key as you will find anywhere.

I recently spent part of an afternoon with PS21’s executive and artistic director Elena V. Siyanko and development manager Zack Levine to have a look at what treasures we can expected to see on stage this upcoming summer. These include, Siyanko pointed out, “international premieres you cannot see anywhere else.”   

Up first

At the height of the summer season, on July 4 and 5, comes the United States premiere of Catarina and the Beauty of Killing Fascists, which poses the tricky age-old question: Is it okay to perform an act of violence, let’s say murder, to right a perceived analogous wrong? Following a generational family tradition, Catarina, named by The New York Times Paris theater critic as one of her 2022 favorites, delves into a fictional Portuguese family that hunts down and kills fascists, thereby eliminating a perceived threat to society. In this case, the youngest daughter of the family questions her right to kill, setting off a series of familial conversations. This is a National Theatre of Portugal production, noted Siyanko. 

On July 19 and 20, PS21 presents the New York premiere of a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet by Chela De Ferrari of Teatro La Plaza in Peru, featuring eight performers with Down syndrome who share their lives through a merging of Shakespeare’s text and the actors’ own experiences. “To be or not to be” assumes new meaning as the question gets asked: How can you exist in a world that considers you and others like you, in many cases, invisible? 

Affordability and accessibility

It was significant to Siyanko and Levine to stress that they keep PS21 ticket prices low to expand access to these types of quality productions. “This is our position and mission against the backdrop of the increasing cost of attending high-end performances in the country and this region. It’s important to us not only to offer low-cost tickets, but also to work very actively with community groups to make sure that those low-cost tickets are actually offered to people who would benefit the most, such as young families and students,” said Siyanko.

In 2020, she said, “we introduced a stream of programming called Pathways. Subsequent iterations have resulted in almost free programming and partnerships with local organizations and local communities, so that the cultural and educational experience is steeped in community collaboration. In our view, this creates an enormous sense of cohesion and connection because we not only present programs on our fabulous, state-of-the-art stage where it’s incredibly pleasant to be in the summer, but we also take productions off-site into our communities.” 

Community programming

Siyanko offered as an example taking to the Shiloh Baptist Church and the First Presbyterian Church – both in Hudson – what she deemed a highlight of PS21’s June programming, The Legendary Ingramettes, who will appear on June 16 as part of the Juneteenth celebration. Formed more than six decades ago in Richmond, VA, No Depression has noted, “What the group puts out onstage is fiery, Southern-fried jubilee gospel, served with deep-dish soul.”

With Pathways, she said, “We want to make sure this programming is not just a nod to the community, or here we are, have something from us, but that it’s really something that is done at a very high level. The tickets to community partners are free of charge, and tickets to students and youths are $10. We’re thinking of youths as anyone 35 and under. We want people who live in the community and have lived there year-round for generations to benefit from what PS21 does.”

“Pathways is a real essential piece of the season and the programming and the ethos,” added Levine. “That is sort of emblematic of the PS21 mission, which is centered around access to the arts, around not boxing out anyone based on ticket prices or means or anything like that. We want to actively dismantle the barriers that may exist for someone who may want to check out a performance.”

Siyanko stressed that working collaboratively with a number of local organizations is important to PS21, while at the same time bringing “the highest possible quality of international performance to this region. This is part of our response to where we are in this country. It’s extremely difficult to bring international artists here – the cost of a US visa for performing artists is extremely high. We feel bringing international work is of paramount importance.”

Other PS21 season highlights include:

June 22: Noli Timere, a performance-installation by Rebecca Lazier and Janet Echelman. A soaring aerial work, eight dancers moving, within, on, under, and around Janet Echelman’s voluminous floating, iridescent net sculpture, choreographed by Rebecca Lazier with an original score by Jorene.

July 12–13: Gandini Juggling – Smashed2. Seven women and two men share the stage with 80 oranges and seven watermelons to disrupt the rigid conventions of etiquette, dress, and body language. The company that enchanted audiences in Phillip Glass’s Akhnaten borrows from Pina Bausch’s gestural choreography to reimagine the dark art of juggling and contemporary circus for the 21st Century.

October 5: Half Waif and Elori Saxl. Chatham-based singer, songwriter, and producer Nandi Rose, who records and performs internationally as Half Waif, premieres a brand-new work – a collection of songs focusing on themes of fertility and pregnancy loss, motherhood, mortality, and the role of nature in healing. Ghent-based composer and filmmaker Elori Saxl, whose music is “more serene than Steve Reich, more textured than Philip Glass” (Jayson Greene, Pitchfork) combines the rich resonances of experimental electronics and traditional chamber orchestration. •

To learn more about the PS-21 and its upcoming season, please visit