On May 23, 2020, the Hangar Theatre Company, in partnership with its Partner In The Arts, Ithaca College, successfully executed their first virtual Mainstage production, The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder. New to the Hangar Theatre Company team, Assistant Professor Chrissy Guest and alumna Griffin Schultz of Ithaca College served as video producers to make this project and the summer season a success.
The Hangar began exploring virtual alternatives in March, when in-person gatherings seemed less likely due to safety precautions surrounding COVID-19. Hangar Production Manager Adam Zonder is celebrating his 25th summer season with the Hangar, but virtual productions were new to him. Zonder reached out to Chrissy Guest for advice on running an entirely virtual production, and a collaborative partnership quickly formed. Chrissy brought on Griffin Schultz to assist her with livestream implementation and planning in this exciting virtual transition of live theatre.
Chrissy stated, “This is an innovative collaboration using remote access livestream and zoom to produce a unique theatrical experience…As this is a difficult time for everyone, it is more important than ever for the academy to support our local community with our shared expertise. It has been a joy working with Adam and Griffin on this project and I’m looking forward to continuing this work. It is an amazing community endeavor! This is something few other theatres are doing or even attempting.”
The cast of The Skin of our Teeth consisted of 25 Hangar alumni and Ithaca area artists, all interacting separately from remote locations. Stage Manager Victoria Whooper was responsible for technical duties such as turning the artist’s cameras off and on and cueing them for each scene. The production was livestreamed from Zoom to YouTube so that it could be enjoyed on any kind of device. Audiences were able to interact in a pre-show chat with celebrity host, Mayor of Ithaca Svante Myrick, and a post-show talkback with the director and stars of the production ended the evening.
Over 400 patrons tuned in live. Subscribers got the chance to watch the production for the next three days following the live production, and the total number of views was over 1700 households, estimated at 3000 individuals. Audiences gave rave reviews to the virtual performance of Wilder’s absurdist masterpiece The Skin of Our Teeth, directed by Hangar Artistic Director Michael Barakiva. While many were initially skeptical of the transition to a virtual performance space, the audience ultimately loved and embraced the new format. Season subscriber Cynthia stated, “Congratulations and thank you to…the entire team and cast for a wonderful show! I am so happy and proud…and applaud your achievements. You have brought us a new way to connect, and the promise for new beginnings.”
Another long-time subscriber stated “Thank you so much for the amazing The Skin Of Our Teeth. I loved it. I really need theatre! I could not imagine a summer without the Hangar, and now I don’t need to.”
This production is the first of five unique artistic virtual experiences the Hangar Theatre is presenting as its 2020 Mainstage season, in partnership with Ithaca College. These new, virtual productions were chosen for these times of change and transformation. Artistic Director Michael Barakiva states, “these virtual offerings are all live, streaming events created collaboratively by individual artists interacting virtually from their homes. Until we can safely and responsibly host live theatre events again, we are excited to see how we can take advantage of this new form artistically, and expand our audiences to all over the country and the world!”
The Hangar will also be offering four free virtual KIDDSTUFF shows for young people (new adaptations from local playwrights of Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Magic Paintbrush, and The Emperor’s New Clothes), a virtual Lab Company, and a virtual Next Generation School of Theatre.
Remaining SUMMER 2020 HANGAR VIRTUAL MAINSTAGE PRODUCTIONS
Uncommon Excerpts and Others: The Wendy Chronicles
Virtual streaming event, Saturday June 20th at 7:30 p.m.
Scenes and essays by Wendy Wasserstein
Compiled by Michael Barakiva; Directed by Shirley Serotsky
Scenes and excerpts from the life and work of Tony- and Pulitzer-Award-winning Wendy Wasserstein, ranging from her well-known comedies (The Heidi Chronicles, The Sisters Rosensweig) to her insightful lesser-known essays. Compiled by Hangar Artistic Director Michael Barakiva, who worked for Wendy for the last five years of her life.Performed with special permission from the Wasserstein Estate.
Queens Girl In The World
Virtual streaming event, Saturday July 11 at 7:30 PM EST
By Caleen Sinnette Jennings
Directed by Godfrey Simmons, Jr.
A reading of a play the Hangar hopes to produce live in the summer of 2021! Queens Girl In The World is the Motown-infused story of Jacqueline Marie Butler, an African-American teenager coming of age in the 1960s. Her joys, challenges, and heartbreak act as a unique lens on the civil rights movement as she journeys from her all-black neighborhood in Queens to an exclusive private school in Greenwich Village. Performed with special permission from Caleen Sinnette Jennings.
Honk Your Horn: Celebrate! Musical! Theatre!
Saturday July 25. 7:30 PM EST
Directed by Michael Barakiva
A celebration of musical theatre with stars and songs from recent Hangar history. Featuring Austin Scott, who played Bennie in the Hangar’s 2016production of In The Heights, and most recently starred in Hamilton on Broadway!
Sense and Sensibility
Saturday August 8. 7:30 PM EST
By Kate Hamill, based on the novel by Jane Austen.
Directed by Shirley Serotsky.
A bold, boisterous, and timely take on Jane Austen’s classic novel by Lansing native and Ithaca College alum Kate Hamill. Hamill is one of the top three most-produced playwrights in the country, and Hangar audiences will recognize her writing from past productions Pride & Prejudice (2018) and Little Women (2019).
Four-pack subscriptions ($149) and virtual tickets ($20 each) are available at 607.273.ARTS and hangartheatre.org.