The Early Years 1984-1989

In the 1980’s, work began to transform the 18th century ‘Dutch’ barn into a state-of-the-art theater for music and theatrical productions. Modernization involved raising it high about the ground and then lowering it to five feet above where it started, over a newly dug basement.

The space was designed by a young John Storyk, the gifted architect who focused on acoustic spaces. In 1968, one of his first projects was the creation of the famed Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village, NYC for Jimi Hendrix. With that underway, in 1969, John met Albert Grossman through a mutual friend, and a life-changing career started to take shape.

He began designing a recording studio for Albert and accompanied him to the Woodstock Festival. Bearsville Studios opened in 1970. In 1984 he began work on the Bearsville Theater, finishing it five years later – not for Albert but for his widow Sally.

From the original structure, three levels were created:

  • The Basement, build to contain dressing rooms, bathrooms, a green room and an enormous space reserved for Albert’s perfect kitchen (which never came to fruition).
  • The adjacent Lounge and Auditorium spaces, with a slight drop from one to the other and the Stage, which sits five feet above the floor of the Auditorium.
  • The bijoux Balcony, with intimate seating for only 53 people.

The acoustically sublime space opened in 1989, under the guidance of Sally Grossman. After a concert by the Woodstock Mountains Revue, there followed performances by River Arts Repertory, an Equity company created by Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning playwright and actor Michael Cristofer. Three decades of legendary performances ensued, ranging from Roger McGuinn, Dr. John and Odetta, to theater acts by such luminaries as Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.