Ithaca College Partners with the Hangar Theatre to Produce Its Online Debut

By Sherrie Negrea, June 16, 2020
Faculty and alumni collaborate on first production.

When New York State went into lockdown in March, the Hangar Theatre Company faced an unprecedented dilemma: how could the theatre produce its summer season in the midst of a pandemic?

The theatre considered offering a series of online shows, but no one on the staff had experience with virtual production. After collaborating with Ithaca College Associate Professor Chrissy Guest and alumnus Griffin Schultz ’17, however, the Hangar was able to present its first virtual play, “The Skin of Our Teeth,” to more than 400 patrons on May 23.

“When we decided to move into this virtual format, there were so many questions and so many variables and things we didn’t know. Chrissy and Griffin’s contributions were invaluable because they are experts in this field.”

Michael Barakiva, the Hangar’s artistic director.

“When we decided to move into this virtual format, there were so many questions and so many variables and things we didn’t know,” said Michael Barakiva, the Hangar’s artistic director. “Chrissy and Griffin’s contributions were invaluable because they are experts in this field.”

With about two weeks to develop the online production, Guest, who teaches in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies, suggested using a platform called Livestream Studio, which allowed the theatre to mix together multiple elements, including web-cameras, graphics, videos and music. While the audience watched the play on YouTube, the 25 actors in the show performed live from their remote locations.

During the live performance, Guest supervised the livestream on YouTube while Schultz, a freelance technical director in New York City, remotely accessed the computer of the Hangar’s production manager, Adam Zonder, to run the Livestream Studio software.

“For the first play, with the limited amount of time that we had, it came out quite well,” said Guest, who will work with Schultz on four more productions for the Hangar’s summer season. “Now we can really experiment with more visual options because we have the time.”

The compressed production time was the result of the theatre’s decision to replace four of the five plays it had originally scheduled for its 46th season because of the transition to a virtual format. Barakiva chose Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Skin of Our Teeth,” to open the season because it was relevant to the upheaval the pandemic has created.

“It was really about finding plays that we felt were talking to the moment we were living in as well as material that royalty holders would allow us to present in a virtual format,” he said.

The “Skin of Our Teeth,” which opened in 1942 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is a three-act allegory that recounts the world’s major calamities through the perspective of a family in the fictional town of Excelsior, New Jersey: the Ice Age, the Great Flood and a devastating war.

Beyond the technical production, the virtual play had another connection to Ithaca College: five faculty members, one retired professor, and three alumni volunteered in the cast. They included: Susannah Berryman, associate professor of theatre arts; Cynthia Henderson, professor of theatre arts; Austin Jones, assistant professor of theatre arts; Jennifer Herzog ’00, lecturer of theatre arts; Bob Moss, lecturer of theatre arts; Greg Bostwick, professor emeritus of theatre arts; Chantelle Danielle ’99; Erica Steinhagen ’99; and Joshua Sedelmeyer ’12.

Berryman said she first performed in the play in 1969 when she was a junior in high school and later directed it at IC in the mid-1980s. “It’s wonderful that they chose to do this play because it’s beautifully written and very timely,” said Berryman, who was the Fortune Teller in the Hangar’s production. “Because of the cast size, very few theatres can afford to produce it these days. It really deserves to be seen.”

While the cast wasn’t together on stage, Herzog, said she found the production exciting because she could view the entire play on Zoom. “I didn’t expect to have the same type of adrenaline that you would have during a live performance when you’re walking on stage,” she said. “But it was unusual and a thrill to be able to be watching what the audience was watching in real time and to be sitting in a corner of my house.”

Upcoming Shows

  • June 20 - Uncommon Excerpts and Others: The Wendy Chronicles
  • July 11 - Queens Girl in the World
  • July 25 - Honk Your Horn
  • Aug. 8 - Sense and Sensibility

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