A Brief History of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival began in 1987 with an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed under the stars at Manitoga, industrial designer Russel Wright's home in Garrison, New York. Melissa Stern, a professional actor and Garrison resident, had been approached by a Manitoga board member to create an outdoor theater project as a fundraiser for Manitoga.

Stern contacted her former American Conservatory Theatre colleague, Terrence O'Brien, a member of the Twenty-Ninth Street Project, a group of professional theater artists in New York. The show was produced in cooperation with the Twenty-Ninth Street Project, which provided most of the actors, rehearsal space, and a non-profit umbrella. Stern produced Midsummer and O'Brien directed. The following year the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival was officially born.

Boscobel, a Hudson River estate in Garrison, became the Festival's new site. Once in its new home and under the big tent, the Festival grew dramatically, from its first audience of 230 to over 39,000 in 2012.

Twenty-seven years later, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is a critically-acclaimed regional theater, attracting audiences from the tri-state area and beyond. The Festival sponsors year-round education programs, including Access-Shakespeare, a fully-staged touring production; Shakespeare Students on Stage; and Free Will, an artists-in-residence program. Other programs include the summer Apprentice Program and the Teaching Shakespeare Summer Institute.