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Hangar Theatre Promotes Shirley Serotsky to Artistic Director

Serotsky was selected through a national search to be the Associate Artistic Director/Education Director at the Hangar in fall 2019.

Hangar Theatre Promotes Shirley Serotsky to Artistic Director

The Hangar Theatre has announced that Shirley Serotsky (she/her/hers) has been named Artistic Director. Serotsky served as the Hangar Theatre Associate Artistic Director and Education Director from September 2019 to October 2020, and as Interim Artistic Director from October 2020 to the present. Her transition from Interim to Artistic Director is effective immediately.

A native of Rochester, NY, Serotsky holds an MFA in directing from Catholic University, and a BFA in directing from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She also studied musical theatre at the University of Michigan. She participated as an actor in the Hangar Theatre Lab Company during college, an experience she calls "life- and career-shifting, in many wonderful ways." She states that her experience as a Lab Company member "truly opened my eyes to the kind of artistry, thought, innovation, and political and social relevance that is possible when creating theatre. It shifted my path from acting, and soon I was pursuing directing myself."

After college, Serotsky spent almost two decades in the Washington, DC area learning, growing, and honing her craft as a theatre director, artistic producer, dramaturg, and educator. She held leadership and educational positions while conducting an active freelance directing career. She most recently served as staff dramaturg and public programmer for Mosaic Theater Company, and as a co-director of the Director's Intensive for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Between 2008 and 2016 she served in a series of leadership positions, including Interim Artistic Director for the 2015-2016 season at Theater J, a professional theatre company committed to producing timely and often politically-charged new plays and revivals. During her time at Theater J, Shirley was an integral part of season planning, public programming, casting, artistic oversight, future visioning, budgeting, and producing for eight seasons. Previous to that, she served as Theater J's Director of Literary and Public Programs for four years, as New Works Coordinator for Catalyst Theatre Company, and was a founding member and producer for Bouncing Ball Theatrical Productions.

Serotsky was selected through a national search to be the Associate Artistic Director/Education Director at the Hangar in fall 2019, and she moved to central NY with husband Colin Smith and five-year-old son Duncan that year. She says, "Washington, DC was a wonderful home for me, a place where I was able to grow as an artist and as a human being, but I'm thrilled to have now made Ithaca my artistic homebase. I'm pleased to tap into my skills and experiences in order to connect Hangar audiences with relevant, riveting, and joyful theatrical experiences while helping emerging artists discover their own unique voices. Working with young people as they discover how the arts will be part of their lives is inspiring to me."

Serotsky has taught and mentored students from the age of six to eighty-six in the fields of directing, acting, improvisation, dramaturgy, play analysis, theatre appreciation, new play development and auditioning techniques in both a classroom setting and for resident theatre education programs. "I appreciate the practice of modeling a process for young people; helping students develop essential life skills; advocating for compassion and patience; and fostering a sense of joy and wonder through theatre education. I believe that introducing young people to artistic expression is the most important work we can do, not only to help develop the next generation of artists, but also to nurture the next generation of well-rounded, empathic, curious, and thoughtful human beings."

When the pandemic began last March, the Hangar was able to shift all of its artistic and educational programming to a virtual platform. As Associate Artistic Director/Education Director, Shirley worked quickly to transform the 2020 Hangar Lab Company, the Next Generation School of Theatre classes, and KIDDSTUFF and Wedge productions into interactive virtual programs. Shirley also introduced a new roster of virtual classes in early spring, to provide children at home access to theatre education. "While we longed to be gathering in person, as the communal experience of live theatre is an aspect we value and relish deeply, it was incredibly fulfilling to witness how connecting in an online space still allowed for relationship building, meaningful learning, and the thoughtful investigation of ideas and stories," she states.

Serotsky is very passionate about expanding the range of stories and voices represented on stage at the Hangar, for both adult and young audiences.This fall, she helped create an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Committee comprised of staff, board and affiliate artists, with a majority BIPoC membership, to work towards creating a long-term plan of actionable items dedicated to how the Hangar can dismantle notions and practices of white supremacy culture within the organization.This committee subsequently published the Hangar Theatre's Commitment to Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppressive Practices.

Serotsky succeeds Michael Barakiva, who served as Artistic Director from September 2016 to October 2020. Newly appointed Hangar Board President Kristen Burt was a key decision maker on Serotsky's promotion. "After our former Managing Director and former Artistic Director stepped down the same year, especially in a year with so much uncertainty, we felt that this was the right decision for the Hangar," Burt states. "During her time as Associate Artistic Director and Education Director, Shirley proved to be an amazing educator and brought artistic achievement and thoughtful education programming to the community. She then absolutely excelled as the Interim Artistic Director this fall, and her institutional experience and knowledge of the Hangar combined with her abundance of artistic experience made her the perfect candidate. The dynamic between her and our new Managing Director R.J. Lavine is inspiring and exciting, and I cannot wait to see what they are able to accomplish together."

R.J. Lavine was recently appointed as the Hangar Theatre Managing Director. Lavine and Serotsky will co-lead the Hangar. "Shirley has tremendous artistic vision that will continue to serve the Hangar's community of artists and audiences." Lavine states. "With the Hangar's 50th anniversary right around the corner, I am thrilled to be working with her on a long-term plan that centers the role of the Theatre in community building and prioritizes exciting, surprising, and inspiring art."

As the Interim Artistic Director, Shirley directed the 2020 virtual production Sense And Sensibility by Kate Hamill and co-directed Uncommon Excerpts and Others: The Wendy Chronicles with Michael Barakiva, featuring scenes and essays by Wendy Wasserstein. Shirley also curated and directed the Hangar's virtual Seasonal Story Jam & Hootenanny featuring the Burns Sisters in December of 2020. Outside of the Hangar, Serotsky's selected directing credits include: Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World (Mosaic Theater Company); The How and the Why, Another Way Home, The Call, Yentl, The Argument, The Hampton Years, The History of Invulnerability, The Moscows of Nantucket, Mikveh (which received two Helen Hayes Nominations for Best Actress), and The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall (which received a 2009 Helen Hayes Nomination for Best New Play) (Theater J); Rapture, Blister, Burn (which received a Helen Hayes Award for Best Supporting Actress) (Round House Theatre); Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book (Adventure Theatre); a 21/24 Signature Lab Workshop presentation of The Break (Signature Theatre); Other Life Forms, God of Carnage and Working: The Musical (Keegan Theatre); Blood Wedding (Constellation Theatre); A Man, His Wife, and His Hat and Birds of a Feather (which won the 2012 Charles MacArthur Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play) (The Hub Theatre); Juno and the Paycock (Washington Shakespeare Company); Reals, Five Flights and Two Rooms (Theater Alliance); Crumble and We Are Not These Hands (Catalyst Theater); References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (Rorschach Theater, for which she received a 2007 Helen Hayes nomination for outstanding direction); and Sovereignty (The Humana Festival of New Plays).

The Hangar Theatre is currently planning a full summer Mainstage season with five live outdoor productions; titles will be announced soon. Patrons can help support the Hangar with a 2021 subscription at www.hangartheatre.org/subscriptions.


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