Company Leadership

Stephen Ponton

Stephen Ponton, the ISC's Artistic Director, has acted as the group's general artistic and administrative leader since arriving in Ithaca in 2001. He directed several indoor productions for the company, followed by the first six outdoor productions at Cornell Plantations. He continues to direct some of the group's shows while supervising and producing others.

In addition to his directing, Stephen has presented scholarly research on Renaissance, Medieval, and modern theatre at academic conferences; placed as a finalist in national screenwriting competitions; and taught extensively in the areas of Shakespeare, theatre, and film studies.

Prior to re-entering the theatrical and academic worlds, Stephen was a Navy medic and lived in Europe for several years. He has maintained a lifelong interest in health and fitness and is certified as a strength and conditioning specialist and a personal trainer.


Michael Pinnisi

Michael Pinnisi serves as President of the Ithaca Shakespeare Company's Board of Directors. Through the law firm of Pinnisi & Anderson based in Ithaca, New York, he provides corporate governance, contract, dispute resolution, intellectual property, and other legal services for businesses across the country. Mr. Pinnisi's three decades of legal practice includes experience as an Honor Program Trial Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York City and Washington, D.C., as litigation counsel for major international law firms based in New York City, and as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. He also has served as the CEO, CIPO, Vice President, and General Counsel of various startup ventures. He is an honor graduate of Cornell University and of Cornell Law School, and a recipient of awards for excellent client service and for upholding high ethical standards in the practice of law.


Melanie Uhlir

Melanie Uhlir Melanie Uhlir began her local acting career after a friend suggested that she should audition for Much Ado About Nothing (Black Umbrella, 2002). That experience led her to audition for, and perform in 24 stage roles in many venues with many companies, 5 film roles, and 2 voice roles over the next 8 years. Melanie loves voice acting and is always looking for opportunities to do more of it. Favorite stage roles include Caliban in The Tempest (Red Bull Players, 2002), Mistress Quickly in Sir John Falstaff and the Merry Wives of Windsor, Queen Margaret in Richard III (Red Bull Players, 2005), Fool in King Lear (Red Bull Players, 2008) and most recently, Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Ithaca Shakespeare Company, 2009), which finally gave her the long-awaited opportunity to release her inner hobgoblin!

Melanie has been performing with Red Bull Players/ISC and assisting in its administration since their indoor production of The Tempest in 2002. It was her idea to start an outdoor Shakespeare program at Cornell Plantations. In addition to acting, Melanie has also been responsible for most of the company's graphic design work over the years.

Offstage, Melanie is a certified personal trainer, has earned a second-degree brown-belt in Shaolin-Do kung fu, and enjoys singing and playing rock and blues on bass and six-string electric guitar. She lives near Ithaca with her husband and their dog-like cat, Squeak.


Dave Dietrich

Dave Dietrich is an émigré from Baltimore, Md. to Ithaca. He received his first experience with acting while getting his bachelor's degree from Towson University, taking two introductory courses. He now lives in the rural Town of Enfield, near Ithaca, in an old farmhouse. Dave loves animals, singing, reading, daydreaming about great square-rigged sailing ships, wondering if he shouldn't have been born in 1604, but, more than anything, his wife, Joan. He is an owner and cook at Moosewood Restaurant.

Dave did not perform on stage until the age of 49, when he got to play the part of Corin in Black Umbrella's production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. Last summer, nine years later, he performed in his 17th play, portraying Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Most of his work has been in free, outdoor, summer Shakespeare, a form he loves and is devoted to. He was lucky enough to have performed in Ithaca's old Firehouse Theater in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and as the ghost of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol. He has performed on the main stage of Cornell University's Schwartz Center, playing several small roles in Inherit the Wind. He has performed in original pieces by local playwrights Kathy Kramer and Judith Pratt. In the hurly-burly of grass roots theater, Dave has built sets and props, painted, decorated, and made costumes. He joined the Red Bull Players, now the Ithaca Shakespeare Company, during the early planning for Antony and Cleopatra in 2003.


Lauren Cowdery

Lauren Cowdery came to costuming as a second career after being an English professor and editor for over two decades, and now does dressmaking and alterations in her home. She began costuming for the Red Bull Players'/Ithaca Shakespeare Company's first out-of-doors production, Antony and Cleopatra in 2003, and has done every one since (so just about every costume on this website is her design). Since 1997 she has designed productions for the Ithaca City School District including Titanic and Beauty and the Beast. She has costumed two short films and many plays and operas with such groups as NYS Baroque, Women's Works, Music's Recreation, the Cornell Savoyards, and Theatre Incognita. She is most proud of her work with Artists in the Schools, bringing Baroque costumes into regional high school classrooms, and with Family Reading Partnership, bringing book characters like Rainbow Fish to life for small children.


Judith Andrew

Judith Andrew is a native of Pittsburgh, PA and has been living in Ithaca since 1974. After acting throughout her college years, she came to Ithaca to work with the Crystal Theatre, which performed in a renovated barn on Bostwick Road. A few years later, she joined Central Casting Theatre, which produced contemporary American plays on Old Taughannock Boulevard. There, until 1985, she acted (The Art of Dining, The Woolgatherer, 5th of July, and others), directed, and produced, with, among others, her husband since 1975, Robert Andrew. In 1988, Robert and Judith's son Benjamin was born and their theatre life gave way to happy years of parenting a fascinating young boy.

Fourteen years later, Judith returned to acting. Her first role after this long hiatus was Lady Macbeth in Black Umbrella's production of Macbeth. The following year, she acted in Fifth Floor Production's The Dodgson Girls, by Natalie de Combray, and in 2005, she was cast for the first time in a Red Bull Players production, playing Elizabeth in Richard III. Her other roles with the Red Bull Players, now known as the Ithaca Shakespeare Company, have been as a player in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged; Gertrude in Hamlet; Goneril in King Lear; and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In addition to acting with the company, she has been a member of the core production staff. Judith also acts with Ithaca's Wolf's Mouth Theatre Collective and Theatre Incognita.

In "real life," she works in the music department of Ithaca College Library, continues to love being a wife and mother, and will most likely never live anywhere else other than her beloved Ithaca.