OUR STORY

Owen Lipstein Owen Lipstein — founder of Shakespeare on the Hudson — says that the next phase of Shakespeare on the Hudson has been "the biggest project of [his] lifetime." Call it, if you will, unfinished business. After purchasing the disparate properties that now make up the grounds of Shakespeare on the Hudson nearly 15 years ago, Owen has steadily been working towards turning it into a fully functioning, self-subsidizing cultural center. Shakespeare on the Hudson not only provides space for private events (such as weddings, parties, and romantic getaways for two), but cultural events, such as readings with authors and live, "Inside the Actor's Studio"-style interviews with important figures who make the Hudson Valley their home. He also hopes to host adventure weekends for kayaking and rock climbing, organize bird watching retreats, and have storytelling conferences that feature first-time authors to New York Times bestsellers.

Shakespeare on the Hudson originally started as a space to stage critically acclaimed productions of Shakespeare's plays. After several seasons of packed houses and positive press, Owen saw the potential for Shakespeare on the Hudson to morph into something more. With the intention of SOTH one day becoming a self-sustaining space for a variety of events, he began developing the three houses on the property. The covered bridge made out of Oak and Pine trees harvested from the property and the in-ground heated pool with a light-house and an Oak beam porch are just some of the innovative additions Owen has made over the years that reflect his love of natural, locally-sourced elements.

After some years of planned incubation, Shakespeare on the Hudson is now reaching fruition. Beginning in the summer of 2013, SOTH will be unveiled in its totality, available for rental as a full package. This remarkable event space now features three beautifully romantic cabins ideal for both large groups and private weekends. The grounds are crisscrossed with hiking and biking trails, and the expansive beach is only minutes from the doorstep of each house. Event spaces, inluding a music and dancing pavilion, can accommodate up to 500 people.

What sets SOTH apart from other destinations up and down the Hudson is its setting. The natural elements that began drawing artists to the Hudson Valley in the 19th century are all part of this remarkable parcel of land: the great river to which this valley owes its appeal, the breathtaking Catskill Mountains, the enchanting forests, the inviting streams and the peaceful meadows. Search as you may along the Hudson River Valley, you will never find another property that boasts the same impressive size, nor the same unparalleled river views. Train tracks run up and down both sides of the river, and usually no more than 20 feet from the water. Not so at SOTH: there are no train tracks, no power lines, and no buildings between you and the Hudson. It is no wonder that the founders of the Hudson River School of art, Thomas Cole and Frederick Church, chose to make their homes only miles from this exact location.

Those who know Owen and his inherent sense of drama will tell you that he has been uncharacteristically close-lipped about this project. He has been quiet, and once you visit the property, you'll know why. There is nothing that can do this space justice, not even the most stunning photograph. It must be seen to be believed. The experience is unlike any other. Said one recent guest: "It is the most spectacular location in the Mid-Hudson. Period."

 

 

Owen's background is in publishing: at the age of 30, he launched American Health magazine which won the National Magazine Award for Excellence, and later was owner and editor of several other magazines including Psychology Today, Mother Earth News and Spy. The Wall Street Journal called him the "Wunderkind of the '80s." Upon moving to the Hudson Valley, he became managing partner and editor-in-chief of InsideOut magazine. (View Owen's past work and achievements.)  
 

 

His focus now is on Shakespeare on the Hudson, as well as the on-going restoration of the Stewart House at THE ATHENS HOTEL, which he purchased in 2004 and has been revitalizing ever since. Unfortunately, the Stewart House was badly damaged when tropical storm Irene made landfall last August. Work to restore it is steadily picking up pace and the hotel/restaurant should be open in the spring of 2013.

A LETTER FROM OWEN LIPSTEIN

Dear Friends,

It has been just over 15 years since, one day in early May 1997, I built a stage and laid the groundwork for what eventually became Shakespeare on the Hudson, a home-grown outdoor theater company. The idea seemed deceptively simple at first: create a bare-bones venue along the banks of the beautiful Hudson River and produce original, cutting-edge versions of Shakespeare's plays. Dreams are made of such stuff.

Those who appreciate the greatest dramatic works ever written will come, I reasoned. They will come from around the corner, as well as from farther away. Strategically located along the border of Greene and Columbia counties, my place lay only minutes from either the NY Thruway or the Amtrak station across the river in the town of Hudson. New York City was a mere couple of hours away. I attributed this happy geographic confluence to plain good luck and, perhaps, divine intervention.

The first set of performances, billed as "Six Nights of Twelfth Night," hit the stage two months later in July. I'd sited the stage (the scene of the crime, if you will) on my front lawn for both practical and aesthetic reasons. It was close to my house and (not so close) to a potential audience, and it sat at the base of a lovely, natural amphitheater that faced the river. To the surprise of supporters and doubters alike, reviews for the show proved uniformly positive, even enthusiastic.

I emerged from those nights just plain stoked, enough so that I immediately set about preparing for the next season. As season one became season two, three, four and five, the project became organically more deliberate, focused, expansive and irresistible. There was no turning back.

As the seasons passed, I installed permanent seating, enlarged the stage and erected theater-grade light poles, among other upgrades. Also, needing accommodations for the actors, I acquired the house and property next door. In order to build trails and bridges connecting these now consolidated properties, I learned to operate a bulldozer and excavator, a thrilling skill in itself. My move from civilized city life to a scenic but otherwise culturally barren locale seemed misguided at first. But, as Shakespeare on the Hudson evolved, I started to hear intriguing compliments—"maverick," "refreshing," and "original," among others—paid to the productions we staged.

Encouraged as a director, I continued to have my way with Shakespeare. That is, I tried to get to the heart of each play that confronted me by aggressively interpreting his language. I took liberties, to be sure—cutting scenes here, adding touches there, shifting time and place, even editorializing on occasion. But, to my mind, I always remained faithful to the essence of the plays. By July 2000, more than a few of us bore witness to the fact that "something" within the Shakespeare on the Hudson brew was working in a notably creative way. Our Macbeth played to several sold-out houses, some of them standing-room only.

Many of you know me, or of me, but some not. For those who do not, I thank you for allowing me to intrude and for taking the time to read this. My hope is that you will gain an appreciation for the Hudson River Shakespeare adventure that I have the privilege of being a part of.

My own experience as a (largely) successful magazine entrepreneur (starting, running and selling creative businesses — American Health in 1982; Mother Earth News in 1987; Spy and Psychology Today in 1993 and 1995, respectively) reaffirmed the old rule that one should allow as few cooks in the kitchen as possible during the incubation period of any new project. (Having become the proprietor of the Stewart House at THE ATHENS HOTEL and restaurant in Athens, New York, I have found this rule to be quite literally true!) The point is, one wants to set a proper table before inviting such important guests to the table. I am happy to announce that, as far as Shakespeare on the Hudson is concerned, the table is now properly set. Welcome. You are invited to partake.

Please think of us as a resource for live Shakespeare, outdoor recreation, cordial friendship, and warm hospitality. Here's to the Bard!

Hope to see you soon,

Owen J. Lipstein
Founder, CEO and Artistic Director  
 

 

What our friends have been saying...

"I have watched with growing admiration and more than a little awe as Owen, over a 15 year period, has incrementally, with patience and what now can only be described as a kind of stubborn vigilance, has transformed his unique 100 acre property on the Hudson. That property has become something that now inarguably must be called one of the outstanding locations, one of best refuges, one of the most contained sanctuaries on the Hudson River. His convictions, not always evident while in process, are now fully apparent; the vision, not always clear, is now clearly manifest.

To wit: The 3 huge and unique houses (29 rooms total) with effortless Adirondack style, with the heated pools on the 100 acres, mesh neatly, effortlessly with the exquisitely restored Stewart House at THE ATHENS HOTEL (9 rooms total). The land occupies a variety of elevations and is bisected by the Corlear Creek. The hardwood trees, a perfect metaphor, have become homes for a huge number of bald eagles that float magically through the property. The River itself is visible everywhere. Locations with breathtaking views abound, paths make everything accessible. In a larger sense, with respect to where this place is located—the very birthplace of the Hudson River School—the property works as a kind of large scale landscape painting, majestically spanning 100 acres and over a mile of non-railroad Hudson River frontage. It is alive. So will be the events that are soon to occur there starting next year, whether they be the most unique weddings, corporate retreats that actually change things, story conferences that should inevitably serve as a standard for how stories are told and yes, a reborn Shakespeare on the Hudson, will, I think, set a new standard for what can happen in the twin counties. Frankly, the enterprise viewed in its totality will... astonish and inspire. Watch. Today, the new location with the prospect the location now elicits, astonishes me."

- Bruno Smith, Aug 2012