- By Thena Lindhorst
- Arts and Entertainment
From Saturday, December 18 through Sunday, December 27, the Hangar Theatre Company will host a virtual experience, Seasonal Story Jam & Hootenanny. This family-friendly event features holiday music from The Burns Sisters streamed from the Hangar Theatre, and Hangar artists performing a variety of both classic and contemporary short stories and poems by writers from Ithaca and beyond, that represent the wide range of cultures, traditions, experiences, and beliefs observed during the holiday season.
Stories include: "What are you Waiting For?" by Rebecca Barry; "Christmas Eve Falls on a Friday" by Peggy Billings; "A Letter from Santa Claus" by Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain); "The Sermon in the Cradle" by W.E.B. DuBois; "T'was the Fight Before Christmas" by Firoozah Dumas; "Food Shopping in Quarantine" by Sarah Jefferis; "Mother Made Me an Actor" by Sankofa McLaurin; "How to Spell the Name of God" by Ellen Orleans; "El Coquí Siempre Canta" by Sally Ramirez; "On Track" by Suzanne Snedeker; and "A Christmas Story" by Carrie Jane Thomas. Poems include: "Black Branches, White Moon" by Katharyn Howd Machan; and "Night" and "Snowflake" by Jamie Wolff. The evening will also showcase a brand new version of "Snow Phobia," with lyrics by Rachel Lampert, music by Vivaldi, and video by Lesley Greene.
Director/Curator and Hangar Interim Artistic Director Shirley Serotsky recalls, "I read version after version of the two most iconic seasonal tales, and found that I so longed to experience the holidays through the perspective of someone other than Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey! Those are great stories, but there are new stories to be told."
Hoping to create a stunningly diverse and virtual holiday show with a local focus, Serotsky reached out to CAP (Community Arts Partnership). CAP Program Director Robin Schwartz helped Serotsky recruit Ithaca-area writers to submit their stories.
"We received such a beautiful outpouring that narrowing them down was a delightful challenge. We ended up with pieces about the winter solstice, finding the right bracha for a childhood ritual during Hanukkah, the Feast of the Seven Fishes, seeking holiday joy during Covid-19, and more."
"T'was the Fight Before Christmas" by Firoozeh Dumas details a humorous experience of her own, when her French-Catholic husband insisted that they invite her secular Muslim immigrant parents over to enjoy a traditional French Christmas celebration, and it doesn't go quite as planned.
Dumas says, "As a kid, I never saw a 'humorous Middle Eastern' in the library. As an adult, I wrote books for that non-existent section. It now exists!"
Dumas, a New York Times bestselling author, is originally from Abadam, Iran. Her proudest achievement is having her books on reading lists throughout the country for educators and students of all backgrounds to enjoy. With the inspiration that we can learn as much from joy and laughter as we can from melancholy, she uses humor to highlight our shared humanity.Sarah Jefferis' "Food Shopping in Quarantine" comically shares the thoughts of Ithaca locals while navigating places like Wegmans and GreenStar during the pandemic. Jefferis holds an MFA in poetry from Cornell University and a PhD in creative writing from SUNY Binghamton. She is currently working on a collection of essays about cross-cultural relationships, and another about the challenge of single motherhood in a pandemic. Jefferis says her story is about "the ways I look for food to feed my daughters while simultaneously wanting a husband, but perhaps more than that, it's a musing on what it is like to talk to my father again, to get to know him, after thirty years of silence." She says that her most important calling "is to raise two powerful feminist girls who love themselves, and who are willing to speak out against injustice." Her daughters are both students of the Hangar's Next Generation School of Theatre.
Actors will bring these and more short stories and poems to life through lightly staged readings streamed from the Hangar Theatre. Cast members include a mix of Hangar favorites and Ithaca community members: Marissa Accordino, Najva Akbari, Adara Alston, Susannah Berryman, K. Foula Dimopoulos, Robert Denzel Edwards, Christian Henry, Jennifer Herzog, Erin Lockett, Kayla M. Lyon, Craig MacDonald, Katharyn Howd Machan, Gregg Miller, Jahmar Ortiz, Sally Ramírez, Colin Smith, and Sylvie Yntema.
Jennifer Herzog's Hangar debut was in The Big Play Festival! in 2019 as Karen in August: Osage County. She previously served as founding associate artistic director for Civic Ensemble and The Cherry Arts, and has taught acting at Ithaca College since 2010. She recently appeared in the Hangar's first-ever virtual Mainstage production, The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder, along with cast members Alston, Berryman, Edwards, and Smith. Herzog will perform "How To Spell The Name Of God", by Ellen Orleans.
"The piece I'm performing resonates deeply with my spirit." says Herzog. "I'm overjoyed by the opportunity to interpret this profoundly Jewish and yet heartwarmingly universal story."
This event also features local community members new to the Hangar. K. Foula Dimopoulos (Ze/Hir) is excited to make hir Hangar debut. Dimopoulos states, "Theatre is one of the places where we can cultivate hope, foster community, and provide respite for ourselves and others...The Seasonal Story Jam & Hootenanny offers us laughter, reflection, and an opportunity for us to connect to ourselves and to those around us in a year abundant in pain for so many." Tompkins County native Kayla M. Lyon is a financial advisor with Tompkins Trust Company with a rich background in theatre. She stays active in the arts community through her volunteer work as a director of local middle school productions, and serves on local nonprofit boards. She is excited to be a part of a Hangar Theatre event, and says she "is grateful for the opportunity to be creative in a world that so desperately needs artistic release right now."
Throughout the evening, beautiful holiday music from Ithaca's celebrated band The Burns Sisters will be live streamed from the Hangar Theatre. Band members include Eric Aceto, Harry Aceto, Dave Borisoff, Annie Burns, Marie Burns, London McDaniel, and Doug Robinson. The Hangar production team includes Director/Curator Shirley Serotsky, Lighting Designer Steve TenEyck, Video Designer/Editor Kaede Kai Kogo, Sound Engineer Todd Hutchinson, Videographer Rachel Philipson, Production Coordinator/Stage Manager Kat Taylor, and Assistant Director/Director of "Snowflake" Hollyann Bucci.