Hello from Sunny Ithaca!
Our Fellowship has started off with a bang. We got to Ithaca and were immediately off to the races with two weeks to design, cast, and present our approaches to eight radically different shows. We're lucky to have a dream team of designers who are able to effortlesly switch gears between Charlotte's Web, The Infernal Machine, Trojan Women, and more. While models are built and costumes are rendered, the Drama League Directors have been in the studio with the Lab Company, teaching a week-long bootcamp to create a fertile environment for experimentation and collaboration. We finished out last week with site-specific performances in truly magnificent settings:
On Sunday I was ready for a change of pace, a chance to take in our surroundings and reflect. Lucky for me, I had been put in touch with Laurel Southard, the Treasurer of the Board for the Hangar and one of its longest serving members. As part of our Hangar Fellowship, we are immersed in the ins and outs of what it takes to run a regional theater. (Quick sidebar: I spell it "Theater," as opposed to the British "Theatre," which is a topic for a whole other blog post.) As part of the mentoring process, each of us are partnered with a "Board Buddy," someone who serves on the theater's Board of Trustees. Laurel suggested we all get together on her pontoon boat to get to know each other, relax, and recharge, and we couldn't have picked a nicer day.
I'm the Fellow who forgot his sunglasses. We met Laurel (back right) and her partner Gwen (back left) at the marina, and were soon cruising across Cayuga Lake on our way to an amazing day of Ithaca appreciation and excellent conversation. Ithaca is filled with breathtaking sights of natural beauty. Of course there are the eponymous gorges referenced on many a T-shirt, but I hadn't counted on quite so much water. The Finger Lakes stretch far into the distance in our view from Ithaca College, and the city is dotted with waterfalls at seemingly every turn. Laurel and Gwen were determined to help us get to know Ithaca aquatic side. Paul hasn't been on many boats, but with a drink in one hand and a dog in the other, he was won over pretty quickly...
We set out on an afternoon cruise, peacefully drifitng down the canal that runs next to the Hangar Theatre on our way to the Farmer's Market, which has abundant boat parking (docking, that is). Along the way, we talked about Laurel's experience on the board. A lot of people don't know this, but a nonprofit organization needs to have a Board of Trustees in order to incorporate with nonprofit (i.e. tax exempt) status. As Josh Friedman, the Executive Director, says, it's perhaps more useful to think of the Hangar as For Impact, rather than Not-For-Profit. It's the board's job to make sure that the organization is focused on its impact, its mission, and they work with the Artistic Director to make sure that the theater is able to make that happen.
Laurel started out as one of the youngest members of the board, but had good mentorship from veterans who knew that the Hangar needs vocal advocates in order to do what it does best: bring vibrant and thought-provoking theater to the community. It's because of the board's commitment to the mission of the theater and continued support that it is able to offer such a diverse mix of shows, from God of Carnage to Kidstuff to the late-night experimental Wedge programming. It was inspiring to hear first-hand how the Hangar had come to mean something more than four shows a summer to Laurel, and how she had come to mean so much more to the Hangar.