Creative Catalyst Fellow transitions from health education to full-time theater work at Hangar Theater

Carley Robinson had been in the process of transitioning from her work in health education to theater when she discovered a Creative Catalyst Scholarship in Education and Engagement at Hangar Theater in Ithaca, NY The scholarship, supported in partnership with the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at UNC School of the Arts, proved to be the perfect springboard: her fellowship evolved into a full-time position at Hangar as a learning and engagement associate.

Robinson had worked with Hangar the previous summer as a teaching assistant and was excited about the opportunity to combine her interests to bring together the things she is passionate about. “Combining my interests in theater and working with young people was a dream, and to be able to do it in a community that has given me so much was a great satisfaction,” she says.

His fellowship began last June and Robinson hit the ground running, working closely with the theater’s summer youth programs, in particular, the Next Generation Theater School, which is offered to children in first through 10th grade. Additional projects included engaging the community around Hangar’s production of “An Odyssey” and working to re-imagine and oversee Project 4, the drama school’s residency arts education program.

carley robinson

carley robinson

For Shirley Serotsky, artistic director of Hangar Theater (and a 1999 graduate of the UNCSA School of Drama), the fellowship was an opportunity for the organization to begin developing its approach to educational programming as a whole. “The education and engagement fellowship position allowed us to reimagine, refocus, and redefine our approach to in-person educational programming in the summer of 2021, after a full year of exclusively virtual programming,” says Serotsky. “Carley brought a sense of compassion, enthusiasm and incredible creativity to this role. The youth and parents were glad to have her kindness and care on the job as we welcomed them to explore improvisation, playmaking, musical theater skills and more in theater. Your supervision and care, especially in the time of COVID, was invaluable.”

That consideration and ability to start conversations is what led Hangar to offer Robinson the full-time position. “Working with Carley has really opened up the conversation about how we bring learning into every aspect of what we do, from our mainstage productions to our Young Audience Theater shows to shows we have historically labeled ‘educational programming.’ . We are excited to continue working with her to discover ways that learning can be exciting, delightful, expansive and, of course, creative.”

Below, Robinson reflects on his time as a Creative Catalyst Fellow and the opportunity to continue his work with theater and education.

How did Creative Catalyst Fellowship help you reach your career goals?

The fellowship introduced me to arts education on a larger scale than just being a freelance teaching artist, and really gave me the opportunity to explore what my place could be within an institution.

carley robinson

The biggest push has been getting an offer back to work at the Hangar full time. The fellowship introduced me to arts education on a larger scale than just being a freelance teaching artist, and really gave me the opportunity to explore what my place could be within an institution. Now, I have a different perspective on how all of our educational programs work together and how they fit into our overall theater season. As I continue my journey into the Hangar and beyond, I am excited to explore how theaters can better integrate educational programming and production.

Can you describe some of the work you did as an intern? What was the most exciting? What challenges did you find?

I definitely jumped straight to the bottom at the start of this fellowship. In June, we were gearing up for our Next Generation Theater School summer programming, and our first outdoor theater season was kicking off. I was tasked with creating a training program for new teaching artists and supporting them once classes started. All of our classes were on the theater grounds, so students were able to watch rehearsals and professional productions in real time. They got to see how everyone in the theater battled the weather as we created a full season of outdoor programming. In the midst of a pandemic, the children challenged me to deepen my creativity and joy to overcome difficulties.

Can you tell me about any other recent art, work or project you’ve been involved with?

I will be performing in a new job with the Civic Ensemble. I have been working with Cornell’s Media and Performing Arts Department, and have consulted for Clockmaker Arts. I’m really trying to understand the landscape of the Ithaca theater scene and continue to foster a relationship with the community as a whole.