Hudson Valley Mourns After The Loss of Local Theatre Legend
The Hudson Valley theatre community is in mourning today after the announcement that Kevin Archambault has passed away. Archambault was the Artistic Director at The CENTER for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. Archambault was an accomplished director, choreographer, actor and teacher, among other great accolades. He was a powerhouse in the Hudson Valley theatre community, with an energy that was unmatched. He will be greatly remembered for his contributions both on and off stage. Archambault's passing follows his battle with Stage 4 Colon Cancer, which he was diagnosed with in October of 2020.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, to please make a donation to The CENTER: https://www.centerforperformingarts.org/donate
The CENTER released this video on their Facebook page following his passing.
Speaking personally, I met Kevin back in my days going to FDR High School. He choreographed our musicals. Since then, I have seen a number of phenomenal shows at The CENTER, all of which Kevin had some hand on one way or another. His talent seemed almost limitless, and his charisma was like no one else. To many, he was a great leader, an intuitive instructor, talented artist, and best friend and inspiration.
I reached out to The CENTER, extending my condolences, and asked if they had a statement at this time. Lou Trapani, Managing Director of The CENTER, wrote back with this lovely response:
"What follows is my personal recollection.
I met Kevin when he performed in “Oklahoma” so many years ago, seventeen I think it was. I remember thinking “Who is this carrot top string bean with legs that bend in four directions at once?” I knew then that he was special and the ensuing years made him all the more so.
We worked together as actors in a dozen plays, always he the younger son or friend to my older self. He was especially fine as my boy James in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” but he stole my heart as my dresser in “The Dresser.” In that play, he nurtured and guarded my old Shakespearean actor in decline and he wept real tears each night as I died at the play’s end. Just before that production, he had become my assistant Artistic and Managing Director and right after, he became Artistic Director in his own right. It had always been my intent for him to succeed me and we worked tirelessly together to ensure that he knew everything there was to know.
He was my director countless times as well and I took turns directing him. Those were stellar experiences. Kevin was a consummate pro, always on top of his game and each rehearsal was a master class in acting/directing. Audiences gravitated to him like flowers to the sun, bending to catch his every move, hear his every word. To say that he was a star is an understatement.
But Kevin’s true gift was the love he gave and the love that came back to him. There is not a person here who did not adore him. He entered a room and all was right with the world. He chirruped and tweeted and made everyone feel like the special chick in the nest. He can be replaced as Artistic Director and I suppose there is someone out there, somewhere, who can approximate his abilities as an actor, a director, a singer, and a choreographer; but there is no replacement, no substitute, no just as good as friend, mentor, and confidant.
I am here today answering the office phone and my cell phone and responding to e-mails, texts, and many, many visits from members of The CENTER’s family. This flurry of business is helping somewhat but I catch myself thinking of him as the son my old self never had. Kevin always called me “Daddy Lou” and I shall miss my dear boy. More than I can say."
- Lou Trapani
Many people have taken to social media to express their sorrow towards his passing, and their gratitude towards the impact he had on their lives. Below, I have compiled a number of heartfelt testimonials in Kevin's honor, all of which we have received personal permission to use. No statements or social media posts have been or will be displayed without the proper consent. If you, or someone you know wish to contribute to this list and honor Kevin, please email email@example.com. This article will continue to be updated as more information is released, and more testimonials are sent in.
"Rest In Peace, Kevin Archambault. You were a talented choreographer, wonderful friend, and amazing inspiration to all. We will miss you. Heaven will have the most amazing musicals now that the best choreographer has arrived."
- Carl Defoe
"The year was 2016 and the show was Mary Poppins. This was one of the first rehearsals and a video I always have cherished. I think Kevin belting out the chatterbox and calling someone “blondie” about sums up the whole production.Kevin never knew how much this show meant to me as a dancer and choreographer. I constantly looked up to him and studied his every move. The way he treated a bunch of crazy teenagers speaks volumes to his heart and his love of theatre.I usually hold on to this video for when I need a laugh but I thought it would be better shared today. <3"- Rianna Makow
I didn't know Kevin the best of anyone at the theater, nor did I know him the longest. I met him when I was about 13-ish and I was helping out on a production of Annie. His amazing dog Jake was in the show and I was his wrangler. Kevin didn't work on the show; he would just drop the dog off and then leave. As soon as he entered the room he exuded such an extreme sense of joy and comfort. As the years went on I worked with Kevin frequently, sometimes run crew, sometimes assistant stage managing, and most recently as a temporary staff member working box office on some occasions. Kevin was present for all of my teenage years and many of the years while I was growing up. He treated he with kindness and love, but he also treated me as a peer. He didn't minimize me because I was a child and he truly listened to what I thought, despite the fact that I more than likely had no business being any part of the creative process. I don't consider myself a theater minded person by any means.
I don't know most shows and I never act on stage. But that didn't change the fact that I on more than a few occasions slept on the stairs of that theater for an hour at a time while still attending school and doing homework and I did it because I knew Kevin would do the same for me and put in twice the amount of work anyone else did. I've spent years working alongside Kevin and I absolutely took him for granted. He was absolutely incredible and as far as I'm concerned he is a celebrity within this community. His influence was immense, his work ethic was unmatched and his legacy is untouchable as far as I'm concerned. Kevin will live on in this theater not only now but years after all the rest of us are gone. I feel confident that everyone who came across Kevin whether they knew him well or not felt the love he exuded. Kevin kept that theater alive for years, now its time for everyone else to step in and continue his job for him.
P.S. The center needs donations!"
- Stefan Feibel
"Oh, Kevin Archambault, why did it have to be you?The first time I met Kevin, I was 10. We were in the musical, “Seussical” together where he slayed the role of, The Cat in the Hat. Around this time, I was starting to begin my battles of Lyme, and one day had hives all over my body. However, I was not diagnosed yet with it, so it looked like mosquito bites. Kevin must have noticed me itching them and called me over. He goes, “here let me show you something. Take your nail and press down on where it itches. Make an X on it. This always helps my mosquito bites to stop itching”. Now whenever I get a mosquito bite, that’s exactly what I do. I make an X on it, it stops itching, and every time I do it I always think of Kevin who taught me this small trick.Two years later, I meet Kevin again. Except this time he is the director of the play, “Evita” that he casted me in. In this play, he made sure that I was the spotlight in the small scenes I was in. He gave me a solo to sing, along with people picking me up in the air on their shoulders so the whole audience could see me. Not to mention during this time, I was still battling Lyme, and had an IV in my arm for 28 days. I remember coming into practice one day right after I first got the IV put in my arm. I wasn’t feeling well, and my mom asked Kevin if I could skip practice for that night. Kevin didn’t even hesitate and said “yes, please make sure she feels better”. With this, the IV was going to be in my arm during the play, and Kevin told the costume people to make sure they find a dress that covers my arm, and made sure the people that picked me up were extra careful to not rip the IV out of my arm. I will never forget the small act of kindness Kevin did for me in this play; making sure I was safe and protected.Finally, a few years pass and the next time I see Kevin was in my last few years of high school. He became the choreographer for the dances in the school musicals. Here, Kevin had no trouble of throwing me around in these dances. He used my weightless self as a throwing machine. I was picked up, flipped, walked on backs like stairs, and the most iconic thing of all; putting me in a blanket and a bunch of high school boys throwing me up in the air (as you can see from the one picture I posted). Kevin had such a creative mind and passion for theater. He always wanted our dances to be different, and used what he had. He always made sure I was safe during these dances, and there were even times I was worried with some of the things he wanted me to do. Like the blanket stunt. Hahaha. But even after I did that a few times, it became fun, and one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done in a musicalBesides all of this, Kevin was an amazing human. He loved to joke, laugh, and smile. He always put everyone before him, and my gosh he was so so talented. He was made for the stage and the theater community. We lost such an important person, but I guess it was because he was too good for this world.I’m so sorry for what you have battled in the last year. You didn’t deserve it. Thank you for being such a big contribute to my musical career. I will always love you."- Cassidy Drop
"10 years. Dozens of shows. Not nearly enough time.
'Now they'll walk on my arm through the distant night,
And I won't let them stray from my heart,
Through the wind, through the dark, through the winter light,
I will read all their dreams to the stars,
I'll walk now with them,
I'll call on their names,
And I'll see their thoughts are known,
- Matthew Woolever
For anyone curious, those touching lyrics are from "Those You've Known" from Spring Awakening.
Duane Joseph Olsen
"Dear Kevin,The last moment we shared was when I painted you.I painted you because I could tell you needed it. You were absolutely POURING yourself into everything you did, even more than you usually do.This is what I said to you then;“I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Center lately - more than I have in a long time. And what I can't help but notice is the amount of love, time, and energy you've put into that place lately - its radiating everywhere. On everything and everyone, and at a time when we really need it. And I'm sure it's tough to remember that some days. So I'm letting you know from an outside perspective. You're doing it right.”And you told me that it meant more than I knew.So I wanted to do more than tell you; I wanted to show you. So I did the only thing I really know how - I made something.Reflected in the water, is you. More specifically, your iconic Facebook profile picture. Which, for the uninitiated, is an interpretation and depiction of Kevin himself, made for him by one of his favorite artists. Kevin - soaring though a swirling starry sky.I asked myself what might lay under that sky. I decided on water.The droplet in the water is you.The ripples are your legacy.A legacy that expands outward in all directions. Not once, not twice, but over and over and over. In every way. That even the slightest of your choices, your words, your actions, your effects, had an everlasting impact.Every lesson you taught, every note you gave, every piece of advice you shared. Every song. Every step. Everywhere, forever. And that’s what I said when I gave it to you.Again, you told me it meant more than I knew.You began to weep, you kissed and held me, and we stayed like that for a long time. When I finally went to pull away, your sudden grasp informed me that the hug was very much not over.And in many ways, that hug is still not over. I, along with countless others, will continue to hold you. And your legacy.Ten years, I’ve known you. I’ve known your laugh. Your tears. Your wisdom. Your phone calls. The words you passed on when I first began directing. Your praise when you were there to witness my successes. One very late night at the Center, just the two of us, until the wee hours of the morning, painting the floor together and talking about life.Not enough. Not nearly enough.But still, enough to last. And I’ll make it last. Forever.“It means more than you know.”So did you, Kevin. So did you.Goodbye for now, my dear friend, whose kindness goes on forever.With love,Duane"-Duane Joseph Olsen
“EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it... every, every minute?"STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.” [Thornton Wilder]I'm neither a saint nor a poet, but thank God I had the wits, in real time, to realize that every moment near Kevin Archambault was something to savor, to treasure, to suck the marrow out of.I saw him bring radiance, possibility, and creative zing to high school students when my son and his friends were in multiple shows at F. D. Roosevelt high school. He transformed the HS musical into something to take your breath away with his bold, life-giving choreography. When the ensemble started tossing the boy playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson around on their shoulders during "Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat", (Guys and Dolls, 2011) my life was never the same! Kevin directed me at the CENTER in Rhinebeck in the most important shows of my life: Ragtime, 2018 and Les Mis, 2014. Since 2014, I was on production team for multiple shows he directed and shows in which he acted.He was a radiant, free, exceptionally gifted man — who poured out his talent and love lavishly until his last few days. Whoever he was talking to at any given moment believed they were the most special person in the room. His influence made me a better teacher and a freer, more joyful person. The fact that he opened up the stage for me, a middle-aged mom - and he so easily could have just ignored that audition for Les Mis - has meant more to me than can ever be quantified. It has changed my life ever since.Made of stardust and love and creative rocket-fuel, may he breathe with us every day.- Wendy Urban-Mead
"There are so many people in the Hudson Valley who learned a love of theater, an enthusiastic joy in theater, and an ambition in theater from Kevin Archambault. I am so lucky to have been one of them."- Charlie Urban-Mean
"I’ve spent all day crying, screaming, asking why. I’ve spent the day hugging my friends, laughing, and crying some more. Reading everyones words and looking at photos and videos and crying more. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the words I’m supposed to say to properly encapsulate how much you mean to me. How big of a loss this is. How incredibly broken I am and will be for the rest of my life. But I will try because you deserve itI met Kevin in college. The fall semester. I went into DCC as a music major who hadn’t done a musical in almost 2 years. I never saw it as much more than a hobby. I just wanted to be a singer. And then an audition notice went up- we were doing “RENT”. I just had to audition. In true Cheyenne fashion, I was sick the day of auditions. I wanted nothing more than to be Maureen and was devastated that I had to show a table of people who didn’t know me, my voice at 50%. I walked on the stage to biggest smiling face and a head full of blond curls greeting me and a jolly man on the piano with a just as welcoming smile. I sang “Mama Who Bore Me” and some scales and left the stage in absolute tears because I felt I had failed. A week later the cast list went up…and I was “Maureen”. I still to this day don’t know what Kevin saw in me that day. I didn’t get a callback. He just cast me. Auditioning despite being sick was the absolute best decision I have ever made in my life. His trust, his patience, his guidance, and his pure and absolutely immeasurable JOY for making theater hooked me immediately. A week after rehearsals began, I changed my major to “Musical Theater Performance”.I tell you this to show you (although so many of you already know) that he just had a way of making you believe you could conquer the world. His confidence in me forced me to believe in myself because I just could never let him down. He made sure that any story we told had depth and meaning. He made sure we felt every word, every piece of blocking, every note. He had a gift as a director that I’ve looked up to since 2013- he could pull ANYTHING out of you and it was always with such charisma and care. He made theater feel like a superpower. He was and is my hero.Kevin,My dear director, my mentor, my boss, my friend. I have dreaded this moment from the time you told me. And even then you held me and told me not to cry. You comforted me in the worst time of your life. How did you always do that so perfectly? How did you always find time to GIVE and GIVE even in your darkest moments. I’m so sorry that every time you asked me how I was, I rarely had positivity for you. I’ve told people for years you’re the only person I couldn’t lie to when asked that question. I was always waiting for the days I could respond with “AMAZING”- it feels like that day will never come now that you’re gone. Thank you for AWAYS knowing what to say. How many times I have come to you struggling and you’ve held me and somehow made it better…who will make this better? This last year and a half with you has been a morbid blessing. So much tragedy. So much heartbreak. But the pause on the world allowed me to have so many more moments with you. I’d like to think you were making sure we had as much time together as possible- organizing and cleaning the costume shop, the scene shop, painting the lobby, costuming “Gaslight”. I hope that you held every “post it” I left you on your desk or car that said “I love you” close. I hope you truly understood how many times I praised you. How many times I thanked you for changing my life. I once told you “Your story is my survival guide.” You were our leader. I turned to you with every creative decision because you WERE theater. There was nothing you couldn’t do. Oh how I’d brag about the brilliance you brought to the pieces you directed and acted in. No one could hear me talk about you without hearing me say “BUT A KEVIN SHOW THOUGH!”. I’m devastated that so many will never know that excellence. I’m devastated that I never got to stand on stage with you. It was my wish for so long. Thank you for bringing me the greatest gifts- THE CENTER and damn near every friend I have. I have met such incredible, passionate, loving people and every single one of those people were better BECAUSE THEY HAD YOU. I beg that you continue to guide us through this. I beg that you are okay and dancing and singing and smiling over us. I beg that you saw Tori and hugged each other so hard. I will miss you and love you for the rest of my life. I always said I wished I could put you in my pocket and bring you to auditions. You were the only thing that could keep me calm. I beg that somehow, someway you will be now. I will walk on every single stage with you behind me, hearing your voice and knowing you’d kick my damn ass if I ever gave up.To my friends- or as Kevin said in his words, my chosen family,I love you. No matter how long it’s been. No matter if we’ve spoken once or have known each other for years. We are all so lucky to have had someone like this to guide us, to brighten every day, to love us through our flaws and shortcomings. He never saw failure in anything we ever did, he just saw potential.To Randy and his family, �I hope the outpouring of love for Kevin is bringing you comfort. Thank you for sharing him with us. He talked of you all with such joy and genuine care. He was so special because you nurtured that in him. I’m so incredibly sorry you are enduring this pain. Know we are all with you.In the last few months I was having a hard time with my mental health. Kevin held me and told me to breathe. He told me to spend every day being grateful for 3 things. No matter how small it was. We would randomly text each other now and then our “3 grateful things”. The last one I sent him:�“1. Grateful for music 2. Grateful for deep friendship 3. Grateful for laughter”I could go on forever with memories and talk at length about how many times he’s handed me checks to make sure I could pursue my passion, or written me absolutely undeserving recommendation letters that brought me to tears, or made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe. We would be here for pages. So I’ll just finish with this;Kevin you have allowed me to play so so many dream roles in the short 9 years I have had the pleasure of knowing you. But my absolute favorite dream role was being your friend.I’m so thankful. I’m so honored. I’m so proud of you and all you have done for so many people. You have left such a mark on this world, but a massive gaping hole in my heart. I will love and miss you for the rest of my life. Rest easy, my love. I will see you again."-Cheyenne See