2005-2014: A Hangar for All Seasons

The Fourth Decade

In 2006, the Hangar reshaped the Next Generation School of Theatre into three distinct levels. The summer KIDDSTUFF series featured Next Generation students in both two showcases: KIDDPLAY (a production of short plays featuring Lab Company actors and written by young people in the Next Gen playwriting classes) and KIDDSTARS! (a variety show performed by Next Gen students), and the Next Gen musical. During this decade Next Gen musical productions included Les Miserables School Edition, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Willy Wonka Jr., and Seussical Jr.

This decade saw several transitions in artistic leadership. Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty moved on from the Hangar at the end of the 2007 season and Bob Moss returned as Interim Artistic Director for the 2008 season. Following that, Peter Flynn served as Artistic Director from 2009-2012, followed by Jen Waldman from 2013-2015. In between Flynn and Waldman, Stephanie Yankwitt was the Interim Artistic Director and oversaw the 2012 season. Highlights from the Mainstage seasons include I am My Own Wife, Sammy & Me, Hedwig and the Angry Itch, Rent, Ragtime, Lend Me a Tenor, and Little Shop of Horrors.

Up to this point in its history, the Hangar wasn’t winterized, which meant there could only be programming in the summer – the building literally had no heat. In June of 2008, the Hangar announced “A Hangar for All Seasons” – a capitol campaign with the goal of raising $4.6 million to fund a major renovation and winterize the building.  MaryBeth Bunge (who would later return to the Hangar as Managing Director) ran the campaign, and the Hangar reached its goal by the following year. The renovation began immediately following the completion of the 2009 season. Adam Zonder (the Hangar’s Production Manager for over 25 years) recalls that all of the equipment had to be moved out of theatre, stored in the scene shop for the duration of the renovation, and then moved back in time for the opening of the 2010 season. The fully renovated theatre could now be used year-round, which opened up opportunities for more educational programming (for example the popular Break-a-Leg week long school break programs; the first spring Break-a-Leg program was offered in 2013), as well as other theatrically-based programs and performances throughout the year.

For the first three years after the renovation, the Hangar produced CabarETC, a series of cabaret-style performances running from September through December. Performers included Broadway artists such as Andrea Martin and Andréa Burns, as well as local artists like Erica Steinhagen. The Hangar also produced a version of CabarETC for young people, called Page to Stage, which featured small scripts developed by Education Director Jesse Bush and performed by local actors. The Hangar also began working with other area arts organizations to provide a space for event rentals. Some of the earliest organizations to present in residence at the theatre were Opera Ithaca and Ithaca Ballet (organizations that still perform at the Hangar today). Dan Smalls Presents (DSP) also started producing concerts at the Hangar, and by the end of the decade, this relationship developed into a co-producing partnership. These shows ultimately took the place of the CabarETC series.

A Conversation with Wendy Dann, former Hangar Associate Artistic Director

Wendy Dann first came to Ithaca as a student, studying acting at Ithaca College. She was the Hangar Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director from 2003-2009. Hangar Management Associate Bethany Schiller recently talked with Wendy about her time at the Hangar. Below is an excerpt from their conversation.

Bethany: Can you tell me about your first interaction with the Hangar and what brought you back in 2003?

Wendy: Yes, it feels to me like the Hangar is this mythical place in my life, it’s so meaningful to me. While I was in college over the summer, I went to see Michael Mayer’s production of M Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, and I don’t think I could get out of my seat at the end of it – it was so utterly moving. While I was there (getting an MFA in directing at Syracuse University) Kevin Moriarty came through and directed a production of Wit by Margaret Edson at Syracuse Stage. I assisted him on that production, and then we stayed in touch via email. Kevin and I would email back and forth about all the plays we were reading. And then, he got the position as the director of the MFA program at Brown University, it was like how is he going to do both of these things, right? And he called me, and he said, “Hey, would you be my Assistant Artistic Director at The Hangar…I need someone there on the ground.” And I said, “But you and I disagree about everything.” And he said, “Yeah, right, that’s perfect!”

Wendy: There’s one story I have to make sure I tell. Which is that my friend Eric Jordan Young–who’s an amazing actor, singer, dancer–Eric and I went to Ithaca College together, and he had a long Broadway career after school. He had been cast in a show about Sammy Davis, Jr., so he had learned all the songs that Sammy Davis, Jr. made famous, and then the show never happened. He came to me because he saw my production of I Am My Own Wife at the Hangar, which is a one person play, and he said, “I wish I could make something like that…would you work with me to take all these songs and the story of Sammy’s life and make it into a play – a one person play?”  So, I went to Kevin and asked, “Hey, could I have a couple weeks off? I’m going go to New York and work with Eric for a couple weeks on this project.” And this is so typical of Kevin Moriarty, he looked at me and he went, “What are you working on?” I said, “Well, it’s this project…” he said, “Why isn’t it in our season?” And I was like, “…because we don’t have a script?” He said, “Well, what do you need?” That was so typical Kevin, that all of a sudden, we had everything we needed here at the Hangar. All of the artistic support. And then that became a play that we did five times, and it ended up at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta,Georgia. And that’s just typical Kevin, so I just wanted to share that, that’s who he was every step of the way. And still is, it’s just that he is that person at a different theatre.

Bethany: Of the productions that you directed, can you tell me which one was your favorite or was the most meaningful, and what made that one really stand out from everything else?

Wendy: You know, I think Sammy and Me, which is the piece that I spoke about earlier that was created at the Hangar, with the Hangar’s support. That experience was so special because Eric and I wrote it together. Kevin was so instrumental in that process as a dramaturg and as an artistic leader. That’s probably the most important artistic journey I’ve ever been on, and it lasted for a decade after that – that production just kept going and going, and having more life.

But also there were productions at the Hangar that I never expected to be so joyful, like that production of CatsI think because I wasn’t so precious about it. You know how you have a project, and it gets very precious to you, you think it has to be perfect. Because Cats was really sprung on me, I didn’t feel that way. It was so delightful to have a team that you trusted so much. So, at the top of play, when you hear that flute, you hear the piano, that sort of tinkly music coming in, we had cats crawling in from everywhere in the theatre, they were crawling down from the cat walk, down the chimneys, they were arriving under people’s feet, in the audience, and crawling out. And I remember sitting at opening night. I sat next to a little kid and her mom, and I looked at her and I said, “Where do you think the cats are going to come from?” And she looked at me, her eyes were so wide, she was like, “I don’t know!” It was so joyful that I felt oh, I need to remember this, don’t grab on so hard to a play, it has a life outside of you and it was a very joyful experience.

Bethany: The partnership you and Kevin had…you said he had the vision, and you were enacting it. What did that look like during those years that you were both here?


Wendy: Kevin would say something like, “We need to be supporting new writers. Why aren’t we doing new work? We should do a new play every summer, every Drama League director should be paired with a new playwright, and we should support a new play in the Wedge every summer.” Okay, how are we gonna make that happen? So I would do research, I would figure out: how are other theaters doing this? I would talk to the Business Director and the Managing Director about what sort of budget do we need to build. Kevin used to say “Season planning is only two things: calendar and budget, calendar and budget, calendar and budget.” And so that was really what I would end up doing. Once a week we would have artistic meetings, it would be me and the Education Director, and Kevin, and Adam, who was the Production Manager, and we would talk about all of the W questions: who, where, what, how. And it would be after the season was over, maybe in the fall, that we were talking about the why. We would be talking about: what is the mission of the theater, what sort of plays are we doing and why? And what sort of programs are we doing? So, he was often involved in those initial meetings, and then Adam and I were following up with calendar, budget, hiring, casting and a lot of communications.

A Conversation with Adam Zonder, former Hangar Production Manager

Adam Zonder started at the Hangar in 1996, first as the Technical Director and then as the Production Manager from 1997-2022. Below is an excerpt from a recent conversation between Adam and Hangar Management Associate Bethany.

Bethany: When did you start at the Hangar?

Adam: Summer of 1996 was my first season, I was hired to be the Technical Director that summer and it was fun. I liked Ithaca, I had never been here before and you know, obviously I’d never been to the Hangar before either. But it was a fun summer, we did The Diary of Anne FrankI Hate HamletRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are DeadCamelotAngels in America, and Fences. I just thought the shows were good. I thought the people were fun. So then the following year, in ‘97, I had a conversation with Mark (Ramont) and Jerry Smith, who was the Managing Director at the time. I’d never been a Production Manager, I thought it might be fun, and they agreed because I’d been there before, so I did it. I became the Production Manager. And then I essentially never left. The first couple of years it just happened to be that I had my summers free based on jobs that I had, and then I started trying to plan my jobs to have my summers free so I could come back.

Bethany: Of the productions you worked on at the Hangar, which is your favorite or the most memorable, and what made it stand out? 

Adam: Musical or not musical?

Bethany: How about one of each?

Adam: Well you’re actually probably going to get two of each. So, musically my two favorite shows that we worked on were Hair, which Kevin directed and Rachel Lampert choreographed in 2007, and then Kinky Boots. Hair, Kevin had this wild idea of creating a very immersive space, so we literally removed seats from the theater and we put seating on stage. And so the actors were really interactive with the audience. There was a local rock band that was the band for the show. The show started with a pre show, when the audience was entering, some of the actors were already on stage doing things – sort of like a 1960s happening. And so it was very interactive and immersive. And then at the end of the show, part of the deal with the rock band was they played the show, but then they got to play like, 20 minutes of their own music as a dance party after the show. The show worked, and the audience really seemed to enjoy it.

And Kinky Boots, was very upbeat, and it was telling a great story.  And it had characters that at that time, you were not typically seeing on stage.  You were not seeing people in drag on stage as main characters, you were not seeing a tremendous amount of leading characters that were Black.  So that was fantastic and it’s just a good show, and again, I think we did it really well.

And then, for non musicals, Jen Waldman’s production of Red in 2015, about Rothko the painter, was fantastic, absolutely fantastic. It’s a two-hander, and David Studwell was Rothko and he was really good. And then the other non musical that I really enjoyed was A Moon for the Misbegotten, which Mark Ramont did. It’s just really good.


Local Actor Spotlight: Erica Steinhagen

Erica Steinhagen* (she/her) has performed in eight MainStage shows, both musicals and plays at the Hangar Theatre, plus her one-woman Cabaret that she developed expressly for the CabarETC Series in 2012. At the KTC: most recently, Heidi in What the Constitution Means to Me (an historic first-ever co-production with the Hangar Theatre), Natalie in The Ding Dongs, Carol in Hurricane Diane, Adrienne in Cry It Out, Margery in Hand to God. At the Hangar: Heidi in What the Constitution Means to Me, the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, Trish in Kinky Boots, Dana in Ever So Humble, The Sound of Music, Cats, Beauty and the Beast, My Fair Lady, and her one-woman cabaret Imagine My Surprise. With The Cherry (founding member): White Rabbit Red Rabbit, George Kaplan, title role in The Snow Queen and What Happens Next. Selected regional: Natalie in The Ding Dongs at Gloucester Stage, Antigone, The Drowsy Chaperone, and the one-woman play The Unfortunates. Erica is currently working on a collection of memoir essays, and did a group reading of this developing work at the Ithaca Spring Writes Festival earlier this month. ericasteinhagen.com

*Member of the Actor’s Equity Association

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

I have a few. I had the immense privilege of playing Dana in the world premiere cast of Ever So Humble by Tim Pinckney in 2011. The entire cast was unbelievable, and we truly had the most incredible time together. It was fun, it was good work, and it’s a gorgeous play. Plus, sharing a dressing room with the always hilarious Andréa Burns was an absolute delight. Then in 2019, the Baker’s Wife (in Into the Woods) was a dream role of mine so that one really stands out. I hope it’s not the last time I play her. And it is really mind-blowing that I got to do What the Constitution Means to Me. So difficult and so important and so joyful.

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

It has been a mainstay of my career, and it has been such a privilege.