Remembering Kevin Archambault (1977-2022) | Theater | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
click to enlarge Remembering Kevin Archambault (1977-2022)
Local actor and director Kevin Archambault passes away at 45.

Encapsulating my friend Kevin Archambault, who passed away on January 10, at the age of 44, into a handful of column inches is, quite frankly, impossible. This fact was brought into sharp relief while talking to his friends, family, and colleagues at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck—where he served as artistic director—and gathering their thoughts on a person with whom they felt a deep connection. “Quintuple threat” was a term that came up more than once to describe him, referencing not only Kevin’s singing, acting, and dancing abilities (a “triple threat” in showbiz terms), but his directorial and choreography prowess, too, having helmed nearly 50 shows on the Rhinebeck stage. “He was a beam of light,” was another phrase I heard more than once. “There is not a person [at the Center] who did not love him,” said others. While the words describing Kevin varied slightly between those who knew him, the sentiment was the same: Kevin was a rarity, and the feeling of loss is profound.

Kevin Patrick Archambault was born in 1977 in Colorado. He graduated from the Denver School of Arts in 1995 and went on to attend St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, where he majored in theater and drama and graduated cum laude in 1999. After spending a number of years performing and teaching in Austin, Kevin relocated to New York City in 2001 and eventually made his way to the Hudson Valley.

Kevin’s first production at the Center was “Oklahoma” in 2005, playing the role of Curly, according to the Center’s managing director Lou Trapani. “I remember thinking,” recalls Trapani, whom Kevin affectionately referred to as ‘Daddy Lou,’ “‘Who is this carrot top string bean with legs that bend in four directions at once?’” The two went on to work together on dozens of productions, both as each other’s directors, and as actors in each other’s productions. “He stole my heart as my dresser in “The Dresser,”Trapani says. “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 prior to the production, Trapani had made Kevin his assistant artistic and managing director. “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. I shall miss my dear boy. More than I can say.”

“The biggest honor I’ve experienced in my career,” says songwriter/composer Cheryl B. Engelhardt, “was when Kevin presented me with a blank journal and asked me to write a musical with him.” Over the next four years, the pair penned “Boiler Room Girls,” based on Robert Kennedy’s six advisors during his 1968 presidential run. “Kevin was the type of collaborator who required complete vulnerability,” explains Engelhardt, “which meant our writing sessions were wrought with tears, laughter—and giving each other the utmost trust. He was my safe space.”

Thomas Netter, who first worked with Kevin when he was cast in the Center’s 2010 production of “Falsettos” at the age of 11, felt a particular bond with him, seeing him as a mentor over the past decade. “He was the best role model, all around—and I always wanted to be just like him. Still do!”

Kevin loved a challenge. His directorial choices were often met with wide-eyed amazement and utterances of “Impossible.” Nothing was impossible in Kevin’s world, though, even getting me to the point where I could dance and sing for 10 minutes straight without breaking a sweat by the time opening night rolled around. Paul Schubert, who often music-directed Kevin’s shows, knew all about Kevin’s love for a challenge and, during the Center’s 2007 production of “Company,” told Kevin, “we can’t do that,” when presented with Kevin’s idea for an opening number involving various cast members entering through five separate doors. “Never tell Kevin he can’t do something.”

“Kevin had the gift of really seeing people,” says Randolph Loder, Kevin’s husband since 2019. “He was always present and gave you 100 percent of himself in every conversation and in his art. Kevin cared more for other people than anyone I have ever known.” Loder encourages everyone to make a donation to the theater in Kevin’s honor in lieu of sending flowers.

Kevin and I played the Baker and the Baker’s Wife during the Center’s 2005 production of the musical “Into the Woods” and I would go on to do three more shows that Kevin directed. I will always remember him as the most empathetic and considerate of scene partners I’ve ever had the pleasure of acting with, as well as an insightful director who taught me to dance even though I have two left feet, and a devoted friend who brought out the best in absolutely anyone who encountered him. Thank you, Kevin. Now, kiss the day good-bye, and point us toward tomorrow.

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