New York has its Shakespeare in the Park, and Woodstock has its Shakespeare Festival at the Comeau Property – Woodstock’s Central Park – where there’s always free admission, plenty of room, gorgeous scenery, and professional artistic entertainment for the entire family.
Since the 1920’s, when enthusiastic audiences welcomed productions at the Maverick Festival, the Byrdcliffe Theatre, and the Woodstock Playhouse, the small hamlet of Woodstock, New York has enjoyed a rich tradition of theatrical excitement. Hundreds of illustrious actors, including Helen Hayes, Edward G. Robinson, Lee Marvin, Viveca Lindfors and Joanne Woodward have trod the boards in this historic Colony of the Arts.
In 1990, following in the footsteps of many distinguished Woodstock based theatre companies from the Villetta Players (the Genesis of Circle In The Square Theatre in New York) to River Arts Repertory, Bird-On-A-Cliff Theatre Company was founded by Elli Michaels and David Aston-Reese. It began with another name – Byrdcliffe Theatre Festival – and in its premiere season produced the first all female staging of Waiting For Godot. Memorable productions followed at the venerable Byrdcliffe Theatre: Andre Gregory’s Alice In Wonderland, Christopher Martin’s versions of Frankenstein and Jekyll & Hyde, Orson Welles’s Moby Dick Rehearsed, Israel Horowitz’s Spared (staring William Hickey) and Moss Hart’s Light Up The Sky, among others.
In 1995, the Byrdcliffe Festival Theatre left Byrdcliffe, and transformed itself into Bird-On-A-Cliff Theatre Co – and thus the Woodstock Shakespeare Festival was born, with a spirited production of Much Ado About Nothing on the Woodstock Playhouse property.
In 1996, Bird-On-A-Cliff Theatre Co. was incorporated as a not-for profit organization and moved to its’s present home in its own Elizabethan Theatre on the gloriously bucolic setting of the Comeau Property next to the Town Offices in the heart of Woodstock. Audiences applauded and critics threw bouquets at the production of the 1996 season, The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet.