1995-2004: Transitions and Trailblazing

The Third Decade


In 1995 the Hangar launched Project 4, a program that brings teaching artists into local fourth-grade classrooms. What began in a single Cayuga Heights Elementary classroom grew into a program that at one time served every fourth-grade class inTompkins County, thanks in part to Empire State Partnership Project funding. Fourth-grade teachers welcome Hangar teaching artists into their classrooms for quarterly residencies during which classroom teachers and teaching artists focus on a topic based on the fourth-grade curriculum; students then have the opportunity to become playwrights and songwriters. Through the process of producing plays inspired by the selected topic, students also learn history, English, social-emotional learning skills, and even math and science! These plays are performed in the schools and on the Hangar stage. Project 4 continues bringing teaching artists into Ithaca classrooms today–and superstar Teaching Artist Holly Adams continues to lead classroom residencies almost three decades after she started with the program. Holly was recently given the Hangar‘s Camilla Schade Teaching Artist Award, an honor well deserved!

In 1997, Bob Moss ended his 15-year tenure as Artistic Director, and director/educator Mark Ramont took the reins. Ramont’s vision focused on allocating resources in a way that ensured the highest level of professionalism with smaller, more intimate productions. Some highlights from this period include The Importance of Being EarnestThe Glass MenagerieThe Fantasticks, and Dames at Sea

In 2000, when Ramont moved on from the Hangar, Lisa Bushlow stepped into a new position as Executive Director, and the Hangar hired former Hangar Directing Fellow Kevin Moriarty as its new Artistic Director. Lisa and Kevin made a concerted effort to revive the energy of previous seasons. As leaders, they worked to nurture relationships with artists over time, bringing people back to the Hangar through various programs over the years.


During this period of time, the Hangar emphasized producing both world premieres of new plays as part of the Mainstage season (including The Legacy Codes by Cherlyene Lee and Bach at Leipzig by Itamar Moses), and regional premieres of recent plays from New York. In 2003, the Hangar produced the first regional production of Topdog/Underdog, a Pulitzer prize-winning play by Suzan-Lori Parks which explores race, class, and power in America, starring Sterling K. Brown (whose recent TV and film credits include This Is UsBlack Panther, and American Crime Story). The Hangar’s 30th season included its 150th Mainstage production: the world premiere of Indoor/Outdoor by Kenny Finkle–a comedy about a cat and the journey that leads her to discover what having a home and being loved truly mean.

A Conversation with Kevin Moriarty

Kevin Moriarty first came to the Hangar Theatre as a Drama League Director in 1994. After that summer, he moved to New York City to begin his career as a freelance director. Over the next six years he returned to Ithaca periodically to direct Hangar School Tours and to see the work being done by his friends and colleagues on the Mainstage. In 2000, he was hired as the Hangar’s Artistic Director, beginning a seven-year period of leading the theatre’s mission and vision.

Hangar Management Associate Bethany Schiller recently connected with Kevin–now the Executive Director at the Dallas Theatre Center–to discuss his time at the Hangar. Below is an excerpt from their conversation.

Bethany: I know that you were here in 1994 as a Drama League Director; what brought you back to the Hangar when you started as Artistic Director?

Kevin: In 1994, I was a Drama League director, one of the four directors, co-leading a season of small plays in what was then The Wedge … That was my first professional opportunity as an emerging director … I can’t think of the summer of 1994 without thinking of it as a hinge point in my own personal and professional life. After that summer I moved to New York … I stayed in touch with Lisa, who was both a friend and, as Education Director in those years, she hired me to come back to direct school tours during the winters … Lisa Bushlow seemed to know everyone in Ithaca, and had an equally authentic relationship with people of all ages and experiences. I got to see Ithaca through her eyes. She always thought about how the Hangar was connected to the individual people of the community. This was an inspiration to me … In 2000 Mark Ramont decided to leave the Hangar … the Hangar board called and asked if I would be interested in applying. Ultimately, the answer to that was yes. Primarily because of the opportunity to think about community in a bigger, deeper way: community between the theater and the audience, but also strengthening community between artists, and between students and artists. The opportunity to nurture and develop artists throughout different points in their careers, and to connect the theater with the community, felt like a dream come true. At the time, I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. It was such a joy.

Bethany: Of the productions you directed at the Hangar, which really stands out as a favorite, or especially meaningful, and what makes that production stand out from the others?

Kevin: Oh my goodness, of course there are a few where I didn’t get it right as a director, and I certainly remember all of those as well, but there are several that are deeply meaningful to me. The first piece I directed as an Artistic Director, in that first summer of 2001, was a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. That was deeply meaningful to me because it had kids on stage, it had Ithaca community members, it had an incredible group of New York actors combined with Ithaca College students, and an energy and a joy around it that felt uniquely right for the Hangar and its relationship to the community.

The flip side of that, at the end of my tenure, I directed a production of Hair that was very meaningful to me because in some ways it felt like a love letter to Ithaca, in its spirit and its collaborators. Rachel Lampert was the choreographer, which was meaningful to me because in the summer of 1994, when I was a Drama League Director, I served as the assistant director for a Mainstage production of Damn Yankees, which Bob directed and Rachel Lampert choreographed. It was the first time I met Rachel. In the years that followed, she became the Artistic Director of the Kitchen, where she had a huge impact on the Ithaca artistic community. By the time I returned to the Hangar as Artistic Director, Rachel was a leading artist in the community–and also very busy and had an identity very connected to the Kitchen–so we didn’t have occasion to actually collaborate. And then, in my last summer as we were preparing to do Hair, I approached her and asked her to help create this production, celebrating the Summer of Love and many of the core values of Ithaca in a production that was daring and joyful, without irony, and with earnest hope.

So those are two special productions of musicals. But there are many others I’m deeply proud of, including the world premieres of new plays, the expansion of the Lab Company into one of the best summer training programs in the nation, and the classical work we did.

Bethany: I’m wondering, what are some of the changes or transitions that happened during this ten-year period, or new programs that started during your time at the Hangar?

Kevin: One was the conscious effort to do big, bold musicals in very surprising interpretations. For instance, Sound of Music comes to mind. Beowulf Boritt designed it; the character of Max was killed near the end; the play was performed amidst rubble, in a bombed-out post-war European town square with a big smoldering church. Not the normal way of doing Sound of Music, but that one turned out to be thrilling … Another big one, was the commitment to new plays which came in three parts. First, we had a program where the Lab Company brought in emerging playwrights … Secondly, we made a commitment to produce world premieres every year as part of our Mainstage season. This kept the work on our stage contemporary and connected to the world in which we lived and celebrated new artistic voices. Third, we wanted as many people to write as possible. So we expanded the education programming for kids that was occurring year round to embed playwriting in all of the work, engaging kids of all ages to write their own plays.

Educational Programming: Young Playwrights

Next Stage, an annual playwriting competition for local young people, was part of the Hangar’s effort to embed playwriting into the education program. This contest was open to every school in the county; kids of all ages could submit their plays for consideration. Winners were chosen from several different age groups. Then, during the summer, the Hangar hosted the Next Stage Showcase, a community event featuring staged readings of the winning plays. One year they set up a “playwrights desk” from which the young playwrights could watch what they had written being performed. The audience was able to watch both the play and the writer’s response to the performance.

Local Actor Spotlight: Susannah Berryman

Photography by Rachel Philipson

Susannah Berryman moved to Ithaca in 1980 to join the Ithaca College BFA Performance faculty where she was privileged to teach for forty years. Throughout that time, she has also worked as a freelance actor, director, and acting/voice coach, with primary artistic homes at the Hangar, the Kitchen Theatre, and the Cherry Artspace. Most recent credits include Le Dernier Sorcier (director, Ithaca College), Billy Elliot (Hangar Theatre, Grandma), Do You Feel Anger (Kitchen Theatre, Janie/Sofia’s Mother) And What Happens If I Don’t (Cherry Arts, Director), and Opera Ithaca (The Turn of the Screw, Stage Director). Additional credits: the Signature Theatre, Homecoming Players, Redhouse Theatre, Tampa Playmakers, American Stage Company, the Cider Mill Playhouse, Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble, the University of Illinois, and West Virginia’s Greenbrier Theatre. Most recent forays into film include Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Losing (John Scott, dir.) and Paper Spiders (Inon Shampanier, dir.). Susannah is deeply grateful to all of the people–makers and audiences–who sustain Ithaca as such a rich and varied live theatre community.

Of the roles you’ve played at the Hangar, can you tell me a little bit about your favorite and what made it special? 

Sorry, you said one, but I really have to mention three:

The Rainmaker (1981): I had loved the play since high school and felt incredibly lucky to be doing it at the Hangar with such great people. It was Bob Moss’s first project at the Hangar and longtime Hangar favorite Greg Bostwick played File, the deputy. I was also the envy of Ithaca because I got to play a romantic scene with the wonderful Jimmy Smits, who was in grad school at the time.

The Trip to Bountiful (2012): Horton Foote is one of my favorite playwrights, and I love the character of Carrie Watts. The whole team was a dream and I love the story of the play—an older woman reclaiming her personal agency and fighting for the honoring of her needs and values. Doing this play warmed my soul.

Billy Elliot (2023): What a delight it was to be a part of this production! I loved the whole team and ​had the privilege to do two things uncommon to my usual experiences: first, I’ve done very few musicals, and I love this one; and second, I don’t get to spend much time with younger folks, and the youth cast of Billy Elliot was terrific! Such a joy!​ Thank you, Hangar, for all these experiences and more!

If you could sum up what the Hangar Theatre means to you in just a few sentences, what would you say? 

The Hangar has been providing great professional theatre experiences to Ithaca audiences for decades. The productions are varied and use a lovely combination of local theatre makers with new artists from out of town. They provide theatre training experiences for young people, thus helping to raise a new generation of theatre artists and enthusiasts; and they produce family-friendly shows with younger audiences in mind. It’s a multi-generational theatre!

Is there anything else you wish to add?

Yes—I’d like to encourage people who may have lost the theatregoing habit during the Covid lockdown to come back to live theatre and rediscover the joy of witnessing stories told by actors who are living the play with you, in an audience sharing the communal experience of the story. It’s a beautiful thing!