Hangar Theater frontman promotes diverse cast
The Creative Spirit is a regular Democrat and Chronicle article exploring what drives upstate New York artists of all types.
For Shirley Serotsky, working at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca is almost like coming home.
The native of Greece spent her college years and most of her filmmaking career in places like New York and Washington, DC, but a few months before the pandemic hit, she became Associate Artistic Director and Director of the education of the Hangar and moved closer to where his love of the theater all started.
“I think I probably started to love acting around first grade,” Serotsky said, adding that she and her twin brother were always comfortable being in front of people and being entertained. “I think they thought it was kinda cute having the two of us singing a duet.”
And she stayed on stage throughout high school.
“It has become my life and my social structure,” said Greece graduate Athena. “It was a way for me to find a community.”
Make theater casting more inclusive
Today, as the new Artistic Director of The Hangar, Serotsky strives to welcome more people into this community, people who have historically been left behind due to their financial situation, race or other reasons.
“In the theater, we often see a lack of diversity in the stories we tell and in the storytellers. ”
The pandemic, with its forced online casting, has actually created more opportunities for actors interested in one of Hanger’s summer shows, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
“Because the cast was not in person, people weren’t spending money on travel,” Serotsky said, which made the auditions more accessible. “This cast reflects what this world is like.”
“The pandemic has certainly changed my perspective”
While she hopes the online cast will stick around long after the pandemic, Serotsky is grateful that she and others can return to acting and performing in person.
“Some art forms are easier to do solo, and people want to spend time alone to practice them,” she said. “But directing and acting are hard to do on your own.”
When people have spent their entire careers – and staked their livelihoods – in the theater, it’s hard to bounce back after more than a year of waiting. So, Serotsky was happy to draw back the curtain on a summer season that seemed almost normal.
“The pandemic has definitely changed my perspective,” she said. “Now I realize it’s a gift to be in the room together.”
And when she’s in the room with her cast and staff, she reminds them to cherish her too.
“Let’s include joy. Let’s be generous. Let us be grateful.
Greek actor Athena performed at the Hanger Theater
Shirley Serotsky isn’t the only Greek Athena graduate involved in the Hangar Theater. In last summer’s performances of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Broadway actress Donna Lynne Champlin played Ms. Lovett.
“She was a few years ahead of me and I idolized her. A lot of us have done it, ”Serotsky said, still smiling at the idea of adding him to the cast.
Besides theater, Champlain also has film and television credits, most notably in the role of Paula Proctor in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (Her husband, Andrew Arrow, joined her in Sweeney Todd. He played Pirell.)
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