WOODSTOCK, NY (CelebrityAccess) — The Bearsville Theater music complex has officially opened its doors after undergoing a major renovation at the behest of its new owner, British entrepreneur, Lizzie Vann, M.B.E.
Located on 15 acres in the Catskills, the newly restored concert space features fully modernized light and sound systems, along with in-house live streaming capabilities and an in-house recording studio.
The revamped Bearsville Theater features two performance spaces – a 400-capacity auditorium, inclusive of adjacent lounge seating, and the smaller lounge, which can accommodate up to 75 fans.
Other amenities include a fully finished green room, which the old Bearsville Theater never had, an adjoining laundry, a full kitchen area, and a large dining facility which can also be used for VIP events such as meet & greets.
Utopia Soundstage and Studios, also part of Bearsville, were built by Grossman for Todd Rundgren’s video productions. Today they house the production soundstage and offer rehearsal and recording facilities plus a private recording studio and creative offices.
The historic complex, which was originally the vision of music industry legend Albert Grossman, who managed artists such as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Todd Rundgren, and The Band, was created as an artistic refuge for performers.
Linked to Grossman’s famed Bearsville Studio, the theater was conceived as an acoustically perfect, intimate performance space for Grossman’s clients and friends.
Work on the theater, which was converted from an old barn, started in the early 1980s and was based on a design by the noted architect John Storyk, whose previous projects included the iconic Electric Ladyland Studios in Greenwich Village.
When the theater was finally opened in 1989 by Grossman’s wife Sally – he died three years earlier after suffering a heart attack on a transatlantic flight – it debuted with a concert by Woodstock Mountains Revue.
When it launched, the Bearsville Theatre featured three performance spaces, the main auditorium with a large stage, a side lounge with a smaller stage, and the bijoux balcony, with room for just 53 guests.
Over the next three decades, Bearsville hosted performances by artists such as Leon Redbone, Roger McGuinn, Dr. John, Odetta, and Dar Williams, who recorded her album “Live at Bearsville Theater” there in 2001.
However, the theater was never completely finished and over the years suffered from a lack of maintenance, resulting in a leaky roof, water damaged interiors and a lack of electricity and running water.
In 2019, the building was acquired by Lizzie Vann, a British businesswoman who made her first fortune selling organic baby food, who purchased the Bearsville Complex sight-unseen.
Vann describes her first visit to the venue:
“I will never forget the first time I walked into the Theater. It was the Friday of Labor Day weekend in 2019. The rain was pouring down. At 3pm we walked into the lounge. The electricity had been turned off during the previous winter. There were holes in the roof, water pouring down the walls. The floorboards were buckled from long-standing puddles. The pipes had frozen, and nothing was working. There was a bad smell everywhere.
“But it happened instantly. I fell in love with my new baby. I’d always loved the theater – had spent many evenings in the lounge, or listening to concerts, or enjoying the crackle of logs in the firepit on the bluestone patio outside. But this was different. There was work to do.
“It was in need of a massive overhaul. The bones were good – everyone loves the shape of the ceilings, the feel of the stage, the sense of history and significance in the dressing rooms and the lounge. But the rest of it needed some TLC.
“That was the first day of a long journey to pull up each damp and rusty fixture, and take a close inspection of each ceiling, floor, wall, drape, and piece of furniture. It was the start of mold remediation, of demolition, of hand sanding floors, and repairing the treasured acoustic panels in the ceiling.
“We reinstated the damp, rotting velvet drapes with gorgeous new ones in black and peacock blue. We replaced the sad and lonely hard seating with something more comfortable. We literally dried out, remediated, scrubbed, polished, painted and in many cases replaced every inch of surface in the 8,000 sq. ft building.”