History & Future

A Brief History

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival was founded by Melissa Stern and Terry O’Brien in September 1987 with an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Manitoga, home of industrial designer Russell Wright, in Garrison, NY. The following year, Boscobel House and Gardens agreed to host HVSF’s mainstage season on the estate’s expansive grounds, and that summer’s production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It was performed under a tent overlooking the Hudson River.

Under O’Brien’s leadership, and with the enthusiastic support of our Board of Directors and community of patrons, HVSF grew dramatically. In 1994, we added a second show to our season. That same year, HVSF deepened its impact on the region by offering hands-on, performance-driven education programs to area schools. In 2004, we began to tour innovative Shakespeare productions to middle and high schools. In 2006, HVSF acquired a spectacular, custom-designed, open-air theatre tent with seating for 540, establishing a performance venue unlike anything else in American theater.

HVSF has served more than 500,000 patrons since our first season in 1987. Terry O’Brien led the theater for 27 years, directing more than 30 productions. O’Brien stepped down as Artistic Director in December 2013. After a nationwide search for his successor, HVSF’s Board appointed Davis McCallum as Artistic Director in May 2014. 

Our Future: The Circle of HVSF (2017 - 2021)

In developing a Strategic Plan for HVSF, we see Shakespeare as both our inspiration and our touchstone. This plan represents an ambitious yet responsible vision for the evolution of the Festival, focused on deepening our engagement with the community in the Mid-Hudson Valley while at the same time repositioning our Company as a destination theater in the unique context of the New York City metropolitan area. 

Read the Strategic Plan Summary >

At the core of our planning process is the commitment to retaining the nimbleness and pragmatism that have long characterized Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. This plan does not reinvent HVSF, it strives to build on the Festival's current strengths and make them sustainable, artistically and financially. To that end, over the next five years, we will focuse on seven strategic priorities: 

  • A secure foundation
  • Building artistic quality
  • Building community
  • Building the brand and audience
  • Building the funding base
  • Building organizational capacity

To learn more about The Circle of HVSF and to request a copy of the complete 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, please contact Kate Liberman, Managing Director at kliberman@hvshakespeare.org.