Village Explores Community Live Theater Proposal

The potential theater would put on about five performances per year, according to Harry Lipstein. Photo courtesy of Harry Lipstein.

Architect and thespian Harry Lipstein perceived the idea for the existence of a live theater in the Village of New Paltz as the perfect storm: he’s willing to make a $100,000 investment into the village’s culture, the village’s proximity to New York City allows for tapping into actors and directors in the area and a hip, fresh and cool vibe the college emanates to the rest of the village. 

Lipstein is looking to give the gift of theater to the village with a 50-70 seat live theater. His choice to create a small live theater is not simply contingent on a small amount of potential square footage. After reading Empty Space by iconic author Peter Brooks, Lipstein lives by the idea that the most important character of any play is the audience. For that reason, having a small theater where the players are on the same level as the audience allows for each group to feed off one another’s energy. 

The theater would look to hire and incorporate actors and actresses for its performances — giving students an opportunity to get paid for their passion. Additionally, Lipstein wants to offer internships to high school students interested in pursuing a career on the stage. 

Lipstein, who 20 years ago thought up, sketched out and built what is now Water Street Market, also uses his five-year professional architecture degree to support performing arts. He does so by building venues for these arts to thrive. After setting up the successful Urbanite Theater in Sarasota, Florida, Lipstein has been afforded the opportunity to exercise and practice his two great loves: architecture and theater. 

Lipstein now has the help of professional and well-known New York City actor Ben Williamson, who grew up in Binghamton, New York and would become an artistic director for the potential theater.

“When you put people in an intimate space rather than in the old coliseum type seating, there is an interactive feeling in the theater,” Lipstein said. “Emotion is infectious in theater; when you can see another person react to something happening in the performance, it may affect your response too.” 

The theater would be of “minimal impact” to the community as Lipstein and Williamson are only looking to put on about five professional performances a year. Each production will come to fruition as a “living organism”: costume designers, scene creators, auditions, writers and directors alike will create an ever-changing artistic hub. 

The Oracle will contiue to follow this project.