"The Tempest" at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Source: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

Putnam County Raises the Curtain on 2023's Summer Shakespeare Festival


The curtain rises on one of New York's most exciting summer traditions this month with the premiere of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's "Henry V." It's one of three productions enticing theater lovers to Putnam County, the scenic destination a short train ride north from Grand Central Terminal.

The summer festival has been a beloved annual event since 1987. And while each play through the decades has brought incredible talent to the stage, the 2023 season promises to be especially thrilling thanks to its trio of plays, and the festival's new permanent location in Garrison, located in the town of Philipstown.

We asked Emily Casey, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's director of marketing and communications, about the new location, the season ahead (hint: it's not just Shakespeare), and hot tips for visitors keen to enjoy some of the region's best open-air theater – including June 16's "Out at the Tent" LGBTQIA+ special event.

"As You Like It" at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival
Source: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

What's most exciting for this summer's Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival stage?

The 2023 season is a standout year, with several highlights. Among them is the highly anticipated production of "Henry V," featuring Emily Ota as King Henry. It will be performed in the round, an intimate setting that draws in audiences with a unique and immersive experience, bringing them closer to the action on stage.

Also this season, Love's Labor's Lost will finally make its way to The Tent this summer, after being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed by Amanda Dehnert, who also directed Kate Hamill's Pride and Prejudice in 2017, audiences and our whole festival team have eagerly awaited this production for three years now.

And we will stage the world premiere of "Penelope," a beautiful reimagining of "The Odyssey" from the point of view of a character often relegated to the margins of the story. It's an honor for our festival to be the first to showcase this stunning work, and we can't wait for audiences to experience it.

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival has a new home
Source: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival has moved from its longtime site at Boscobel House and Gardens to a 98-acre property in Garrison. What are the top couple of features of the new space that audiences will appreciate?

All of our summer 2023 performances will take place on the grounds of our new home using our familiar theater tent, while construction plans are underway for our permanent open-air theater venue.

The new space offers stunning grounds, with on-site facilities, like a restaurant and concession stand, that really elevate the overall experience. There's an absolutely breathtaking view of the Hudson River that's perfect for our signature pre-theater picnics. Everyone who was fond of the stunning view from Boscobel will be glad to know that a picnic with a view remains as a mainstay of the HVSF experience! And it's just a beautiful place to come and enjoy the outdoors.

Claudia Logan, Nance Williamson, and Cyndii Johnson in HVSF's 2021 production of "The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington"
Source: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

What's the backstory of the new venue?

In 1999, philanthropist Chris Davis bought the property when it was on the verge of being developed into a suburban-style residential development. He operated it as a golf course while seeking another use for the land that aligned with his conservation values. He offered HVSF a home on the land as a way to realize his original goal of permanent protection and conservation of the land, while maintaining its role as a community resource and an important economic engine for Philipstown.

After more than three decades of short-term rental agreements at Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, our non-profit arts organization is proud to become the steward of 98 acres of river-view land. And it's even more exciting for our festival to invest in our long-term future with our first permanent home.

Our vision for this home invests in climate-smart green design with care for local ecology. It will give our organization long-term stability and serve as a vibrant, year-round cultural anchor for the Hudson Highlands, and a model for environmental sustainability in the performing arts. Chris Davis's generosity to HVSF also will achieve permanent protection of the land from residential or commercial subdivision and development.

"Into the Woods" at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival
Source: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

What's your advice to visitors from New York City and beyond to attend the festival?

For visitors traveling from NYC, we offer a free round-trip shuttle from the Garrison Train Station to the theater Tent every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We also have tickets as low as $10 every night, and our new section 400 seating for Henry V, which puts you in the round, is a great ticket deal with an up-close-and-personal experience.

Are there any special nights EDGE readers should know about?

On Friday, June 16 at 6 pm, the festival will host "Out at the Tent," where visitors can get to know local LGBTQIA+ organizations, shop at a pop-up market curated by River Valley Guild, and enjoy a complimentary reception with drinks and snacks before the evening performance of Henry V.

That sounds great! Tell us more about the festival's commitment to the broader queer community?

At HVSF, inclusiveness is one of our core values. Our work is based on the idea that this theater and Shakespeare belong to everyone. We strive to create a welcoming environment for all of our patrons, including those of the LGBTQ+ community, and we are committed to presenting productions that are reflective of our diverse world.

"Into the Woods" at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival
Source: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

Why do you think Shakespeare's works still resonate?

We believe that Shakespeare's plays speak powerfully to our world today, and our work empowers audience members to find aspects of their own lived experience reflected back to them in Shakespeare's language, stories, and characters. As we continue to navigate a world that is often challenging and complex, Shakespeare's works provide a unique opportunity for reflection and growth.

In addition, we want to make Shakespeare affordable, so our festival offers a reasonable price range for tickets, and several discounts including family nights. We're glad to offer 20 percent off ticket orders when you purchase all three titles together.

Does the festival offer specials with local businesses?

We believe that picnicking is an essential part of the overall experience – a time to slow down, appreciate your surroundings, and get ready for an unforgettable evening of theater. You can bring your own picnic from one of the amazing local restaurants; or pre-order or plan for a prix-fixe dinner prepared by the Valley Restaurant. Food and drink from outside vendors (including alcoholic beverages) is permitted. So you can come with your picnic blankets, folding chairs, coolers, and other personal items that can be stowed safely near The Tent during the performance, and retrieved at the close of the night.

"Much Ado About Nothing" at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival
Source: Richard Termine

Sounds like a great 2023 season awaits, with lots of support from the Putnam County community.

Yes, and our unique outdoor theater experience is the perfect place to spend a summer night – Shakespeare lover or not. We want your readers to know that HVSF is committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our patrons, and we're waiting for them with open arms!

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival runs May 31-September 17, with performances and special events taking place almost every night of the week.

Single-ticket prices range from $10 to $100, with several discounts available for families, students, veterans, and seniors, including 20 percent off with your bundle purchase of three mainstage shows. Book your tickets today: hvshakespeare.org/tickets-events

Theater Address: 2015 Route 9; Garrison, NY 10524


by Kelsy Chauvin

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBTQ interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.

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