New black box theatre taking shape in New Paltz


Denizen, the new live black box theatre at Water Street Market is currently under construction. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Right now it’s just a big, gray box, but by year’s end, it’s due to become a black box theater. Slipped into a space between Water Street Market and a house on lower Main Street in New Paltz, the Denizen Theater is taking shape.

The mastermind behind the nonprofit live theater is Harry Lipstein, developer and owner of Water Street Market. Lipstein’s stewardship of that space is what made the theater possible at all. A number of project supporters spoke about the Water Street Market atmosphere when testifying on behalf of a theater being built adjacent. In addition, Planning Board members approved the project with the understanding that patrons would be using the market’s parking for their cars.


Lipstein has characterized the Denizen as a gift to the community, and it’s clear that he has a passion for the art form: this is the second theater he’s founded. He will serve as producing artistic director for the Denizen. Joining Lipstein as the founding artistic team will be Brittany Proia and Ben Williamson, each of whom “are bringing their experience and passion for actor-driven, intimate, live theater” to the project as co-artistic directors, according to a statement released to announce the launch. The team members are aiming to share “the transformative magic of storytelling within the New Paltz community.”

During the planning process, a number of residents of New Paltz and surrounding communities spoke at Planning Board meetings about their excitement to have a live theater in the village. The Denizen will seat anywhere from 50 to 70, depending on how it’s configured for a given show, and performances will usually take place when most of the shops in Water Street Market are closed. Productions will be selected for “great writing” and “great acting,” according to Williamson.

Some nearby neighbors are concerned about how this new venue might impact parking, and Planning Board members wrangled with Lipstein and architect Richard Miller over how to ensure there’s sufficient parking at Water Street Market to support this new operation. In the end, it was approved last November 21 on a three-to-two vote.

It’s not visible from Main Street at all, but ground was broken April 3 for the theater, and the concrete walls which were put in place April 14 are quite visible from below, along the walkway of Water Street Market.

Weather makes any construction-related dates uncertain, but it’s hoped that the first shows at the Denizen might occur in late autumn. Tickets will be $20, $5 for students.

There are 7 comments

  1. Grant Ryder

    What New Paltz needs, and has always needed, is a good porno house. Pornography is defined, from the Greek, as the “writing of whores”. It would fit right in.

    1. Villager 33

      The same group of people spouting “smart growth” are the only ones who can walk to it. Good for the owner-occupied parcels of land cause that be where they live.

    2. King George

      The first movie goers will be a busload of voters from Wetlands Ponds. What’s the senior discount??

  2. Hudson

    This will be an extremely cool venue. I recently attended a performance at Va Tech
    in ‘The Cube’ which is a completely immersive black box space larger than, but similar to the theatre being built in New Paltz.

    It is absoluteyl amazing – when you go you are fully immersed in a performance space that completely surrounds, can use all sorts of video, sound, light, digital, and human
    performance, it basically takes you out of the real world and into all kinds of

    It is a relatively new concept, so I get that people want to make fun of it, or question it,
    but the reality ($) is that once this opens, New Paltz continues its progress into being a unique destination that benefits locals and visitors alike.

    1. Village Taxpayer

      Village Board meetings are inaudible, with a broadcast camera shoved in the ceiling above and no public address system for those in attendance. Who cares about a “black box” when village of new paltz government is a blackhole?

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