New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
Map Africa

Written by Emily Bucker, Fall 2016 Communications Apprentice
Mother Africa: My Home takes place in the South African township of Khayelitsha. In the Xhosa language, Khayelitsha literally means "new home," inspiring the show's title. South Africa is often referred to as the "rainbow nation," a term coined by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe the country's multicultural diversity. The performers in Mother Africa come from five different African countries, so, in a way, they represent their own version of a "rainbow nation." 

In this show these different countries, languages and cultural backgrounds come together to create a beautiful, engaging piece of theatrical magic. In honor of the Mother Africa: My Home cast, we're highlighting their five, diverse home countries. Follow along on our geographical journey with the map to the right!


Mt. KilimanjaroSimilar to the United States, Tanzania prides itself on being a cultural melting pot. Its population consists of over 120 different ethnic groups; yet there's very little friction between people of different groups or religions. Tanzanians are known to be very peaceful, tolerant and respectful. Children are taught to greet their elders with the phrase "shikamoo," which means "I hold your feet." Adults even address strangers as "dada," meaning sister, or "kaka," meaning brother.

It’s also home to one of the most famous landmarks in the world! Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest point in Africa, stands at a staggering 19,341 feet. That's like stacking 13 Empire State Buildings on top of each other!

Dominant Languages: Swahili, English (126 languages total)
Learn Swahili: ngoma | in•go•mah — dance


Coffee Production in EthiopiaFor many people in the United States and around the world, coffee is a morning staple. However, many people don't know that the coffee plant was first discovered in Ethiopia! In the 9th century, an Ethiopian goat-herder named Kaldi noticed his goats "dancing" after eating the berries from a certain plant. That plant later became known as coffee after the Kaffa region of Ethiopia where Kaldi lived. Coffee is still one of Ethiopia's top exports today!

Dominant Language: Amharic (90 languages total)
Learn Amharic: ሙዚቃ | moo•zeek•uh — music


The ability to read and write is a joy that most of us take for granted. Unfortunately, only about 63% of people in Africa have this ability. The Zimbabwean government has recently made reading and writing the country's top priority. Their literacy rate has grown by leaps and bounds since 1980 when public schools in their country became both free and mandatory. Now, Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa: Almost 90%!

Dominant Languages: English, Ndebele, Shona (21 languages total)
Learn Shona: kusiyana | koo•see•yah•nuh — diversity

Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast Fashion Week
Paris, France isn't the only place where fashion thrives! The capital of Ivory Coast, Abidjan, is a fashion hotspot. All of the latest styles are showcased in trendy boutiques lining its busy streets. Abidjan also hosts various fashion trade shows including Ivory Coast Fashion Week, which attracts young African designers who consider it the prime location to present their work to the public. The international attention garnered by these events has made Ivory Coast the fashion capital of Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Dominant Language: French (83 languages total)
Learn French: célébrer | ceh•leh•brair — celebrate

South Africa 

Sports are a way of life in South Africa. Rugby, cricket and football (or soccer) are among the most popular. In fact, South Africa's the only country other than England to have hosted the world championships for all three of these sports. You might remember that South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010. It was, in fact, the first African country to have that honor!

South Africans at their World Cup!

Khayelitsha, the township from which this show derives its name, is the largest and fastest growing township in South Africa. Sadly, it was established as an "apartheid dumping ground" in the 1980s. The town is overpopulated and suffers from extreme poverty, poor community infrastructure and high crime rates. Still, the cast of Mother Africa: My Home has risen above these hardships to create a piece of theater that celebrates their culture and humanity. 

Dominant Languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu (34 languages total)
Learn Xhosa: inkcubeko | een•ku•beko — culture
Emily Buckner Emily Buckner is an apprentice in the communications department at The New 42nd Street where she has spent the fall learning how to bring her #LoveOfTheater to the masses through social media, marketing and PR. She is majoring in Dramatic Arts and English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in her home state of NC. She loves musical theatre, sunshine, netflix, mexican food and her cat "Cookie Dough."

New Victory Thumb Experience the excitement of Mother Africa: My Home and see this "rainbow nation" come together to create a circus spectacular.  Get your tickets here!

Posted by Beth Henderson

This blog was contributed by New Vic Teaching Artist WT McRae. 


WT and a student!
WT teaching one of his Family Acro classes!
Preparing for the upcoming Family Acro Family Workshop, designed around Mother Africa: My Home, I flashback to the last time I taught a similar class at the New Vic. My students and I are seated in a circle in one of the beautiful New 42nd Street Studios overlooking the hustle and bustle of Times Square. I've just finished teaching the workshop, which includes some juggling, clowning and partner acrobatics, and the room is full of smiles. I pose the question: "Did you learn anything new about yourself or someone with you during today's workshop?"

"I had no idea my dad could be so fun!" says a young girl with braids in her hair. "We've never seen our son work so hard or achieve so much," agrees a pair of parents grinning and nodding as they hold the shoulder of their rambunctious eight-year-old. "When we started, I thought I couldn't juggle, but now I'm really good!" says a young man. We close the workshop with a balancing exercise to thank each other for our work.

In my years teaching circus, I have seen students gain work ethic and self esteem while becoming caring, committed community members who help each other learn. I love teaching circus for many reasons, but there are three that stand out. First, there is very little illusion in circus skills. Balancing on one foot and spinning rings on the other, while juggling fire is exactly what it looks like. Watching people do incredible things makes us feel connected to our sense of possibility and human achievement. Learning to do those things can build a great deal of self esteem and self worth. 

Second, circus skills are difficult and leveled. There is a basic concept to every skill, but if you can achieve that, you can make it more challenging. If you can learn to juggle three balls, you can teach yourself to juggle five and eventually you can even light them on fire. If you can learn to stand on one foot, you can do it on a tight wire; if you can learn to stand on one foot on a tight wire, you can learn to spin a ring on the other foot. There is no end to the possibility of advancement. The reality is that the circus teaches us much more than just a skill itself. Learning circus skills helps us develop our appreciation of practice and our ability to break a complex skill into pieces until we have mastered the whole. That ability can take people far in life whether they pursue circus or any other profession!

WT with a student!Third, the circus is a collaborative art form that makes space for people of all shapes, sizes and talents. In fact, it thrives on diversity. In many areas of our life, being tiny and light, big and sturdy, silly and irreverent, or even meticulous and mathematical can create feelings of being left out. In the circus, we need tiny, light people to fly at the top of acrobatic wonders as much as we need big sturdy people to hold up the team as bases. The silly folks make great clowns and the meticulous are perfect for rigging or juggling. It's fun to offer students an artform that asks them what they CAN do, while also requiring a diverse set of skilled specialists. 

In our education programs, we teach a range of artistic workshops related to the shows that come across the stages here. I am lucky to be a part of the Teaching Artist ensemble, and have the joy of facilitating circus workshops in the studios, as well as in many of our partner schools throughout New York City. The TA Ensemble offers kids and families an opportunity to try their hand at circus skills including clowning, juggling, partner acrobatics and tumbling.

Circus education is alive and thriving in the United States. The American Youth Circus Organization estimates between 8,000 to 10,000 youth circuses are practicing in the U.S. alone. These programs represent everything from introductory experiences like those we provide at the New Victory to full scale touring shows with teen performers. But these programs are not just here in the U.S. This season's first circus, Mother Africa: My Home is performed by Circus Der Sinne, a company comprised entirely of graduates of the Hakuna Matata School of Acrobatics, a training program in Tanzania. Set in South Africa, this show will take the stage with an exciting blend of circus feats and South African culture. 

Seeing Mother Africa this week—and being enthralled by their work—brings me to my favorite reason to be involved with circus. It connects me to a global community with one thing in common: the desire to do something incredible.
WT McRae WT McRae has lived in NYC since 2001 creating theatrical and visual works, and contributing to the field of arts education. He is an actor, clown, dancer, director, designer, writer, and devised theater collaborator. Working with fellow clown Christina Gelsone he spent 5 years running Fool's Academy and touring shows in schools that teach curriculum using slapstick and circus. As an educator, he works with The New Victory Theater, where he has taught, built curriculum and conducted research. WT is the director of theater for Alaska Arts Southeast, and the Head of the Movement Department for PPAS. Additionally, he is a guest lecturer for NYU, LIU Post, and Circle in The Square Theater School. His research has been presented at The National Guild for Community Arts Education Conference,  the NY Arts in Education Roundtable. Watch for the off broadway premiere of his show Babel this winter at the 14th Street Y.

New Victory Thumb Experience the excitement of Mother Africa: My Home and see this circus spectacular for yourself.  Get your tickets here!

Posted by Beth Henderson
December 15, 2016

Family Activity: Oh Boy!

Act out scenes, track your responsibilities and compare them, and discover more about your history in this Family Activity! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past Family Activities on our blog and at  

Parents Only Toggle

Certain topics can be difficult to broach with your kid. Whether you have already seen Oh Boy! or are planning to come, here are some tips to start, extend and deepen those conversations.
Roll Call

In Oh Boy!, the main character Balthazar learns news that directly affects his daily responsibilities. In this family activity, track your responsibilities and have a conversation as a family about how the lists compare and have evolved as you’ve gotten older. 

Step One: Individually write a list of your daily responsibilities. Think of it like a To Do list! What do you have to do: at home, at school, at work, on the train? 

Step Two: Once everyone has written their lists, have a conversation about the similarities and differences among them. 

Step Three: Have a family conversation about responsibility using these prompts: 
  • Why do you think your lists differ?
  • Do you like having responsibility? Why or why not?
  • Discuss a time in your life where you didn’t do something you were responsible for. What happened?
  • Have you ever had a responsibility that helped you to mature? How did you change as a person because of that responsibility?
Act the Part

When an actor rehearses a scene, they have to know who they are, and what their relationship is with their scene partner (this is called “given circumstances”). Changing the relationships between two actors can change the scene entirely! Let’s see how many ways you can interpret the following scene between character A and character B:

Family Activity Script
Find a scene partner and pick who will play A and B. Pick one of the relationships from below and try to act out the scene with those given circumstances. After rehearsing the scene a couple of times, try switching roles!
  • Siblings
  • Guardian/Child
  • Spouses
  • Teacher/Student
  • Judge/Defendant
  • Doctor/Patient
  • Employer/Employee
Where does your story begin?

Every family is a web of relationships, filled with stories and histories that make up YOU. Get to know your roots and plant your own version of a family tree!

Step One: Make a list of as much of your family as you already know. It’s good to start with your immediate family, and then “branch out!” to aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, stepparents or your chosen family. How many family members can you name on your own? 

Step Two: Talk to an adult and ask them to help you expand your list!
  • How many generations can you trace back to together?
  • How many family members did you identify?
  • What’s something new you learned about your family that you didn’t know before?
Step Three: The traditional family is usually represented in a tree shape. In Oh Boy! the show uses all sorts of objects to represent people. Take all of your collected information and choose an object that best represents your family. Maybe it’s a flower, a car, an apartment building or something completely different. Design and decorate your object with your family names and then show it to your family! 
Family Activity Umbrella Tree

Family Activities
We invite you to share a giggle, try some new moves and deepen your understanding of the performing arts with our Public Engagement Activites, Arts Express, TXT Marks the Spot and Talk-Backs! 
Twitter   How did your responsibility list turn out?
Share a photo of them with us on Instagram or Twitter, #OhBoyNewVic.
Facebook   What was it like to try out different relationships in that scene?
Like us on Facebook and tell us what you think!
Posted by Beth Henderson
December 21, 2016

At Home with Mother Africa

At the New Vic, we help parents introduce the performing arts to kids of all ages and build anticipation for the shows with specially-designed Family Activities. To get ready for Mother Africa:  My Home, two New Victory staff members did the Mother Africa Family Activity themselves with their kids. These super-moms shared their experiences below.

Partner Acro

Katherine's Kids!1. Tell us about what happened when you did the activity?
We tried to clear some space on a carpeted area of our apartment. This was its own challenge in NYC! Then, the kids paired off and agreed on which moves they wanted to try first. Each pair agreed on a similar sequence, but they couldn't resist adding some enhancements like a life-sized stuffed penguin.

2. What did you learn about each other when doing the activity? What surprised you while doing the activity? 
We learned that the moves work best when the bigger kid is the base. We tried the other way around, but it was very wobbly. We were surprised to learn that the most basic form was not so easy, but once everyone felt comfortable in a stack, the rest of the moves came pretty easily. Both people need to focus—giggling does NOT help!

3. Why is it important to introduce your kids to the arts? What is your favorite part about bringing your kids to a show or circus?
Our favorite part about going to shows together is that we all see the same performance, yet each of us brings a different perspective and comes away with his or her own interpretation. We have very lively discussions after every show. Much more so than watching sports or playing a game together—which are also bonding experiences, but tend not to spark the same kinds of questions, conversations and (sometimes) disagreements!
— Katherine Freedman, Director of Institutional Giving at The New Victory

Foot Juggling
Lauren and her Family1. Tell us about what happened when you did the activity?
Our family has seen many circus performances at the New Victory, and ever since my son turned one we have practiced partner balancing together. He's seven now, and his sister is five, so after warming up with some balancing and acrobatics, we decided to try foot juggling to prepare for Mother Africa. Finding the right object for my five- and seven-year-olds to balance took some effort. We tried pillows and some foam shapes, but found that books were the right size and weight for them. We took turns balancing on each foot, and trying to switch the book from one foot to another. It was really challenging for them! They had just as much fun watching each other try as by trying it themselves. We didn't quite get to juggling, as balancing was challenging enough for the first day. After we saw the show they wanted to try again and to get even better! 
2. What did you learn about each other when doing the activity? What surprised you while doing the activity? 
We had so much fun balancing objects and each other. We talked about whether we liked to be bases on the bottom, or flyers up on top and played around with balancing each other in different ways. The kids felt confident with acrobatics and partner balances, so it was great to try foot juggling as an additional challenge. They really could see that this is a skill they would have to practice more than once to get really good at. When we saw the foot juggling act in the show the kids were blown away. They aren't quite ready to put a table up on their feet yet, but they are excited to keep practicing! 

3. What is your favorite part about bringing your kids to a show or circus?
Seeing different kinds of performances is one of our favorite family activities. It is so important to me for my kids to see that theater is not just acting, but also dancing, juggling, feats of amazing acrobatics and millions of other ways that artists express themselves. At the New Victory they get to see some of the best performers from all over the world, artists who have dedicated their lives to amazing, delighting and inspiring young audiences. Even after seeing dozens of shows over the years, my kids' faces still light up with joy and amazement at each show, and that sense of wonder is something I want them to preserve forever.
— Lauren Jost, New Vic Teaching Artist

New Victory Thumb Experience the excitement of Mother Africa: My Home during this holiday season.  Get your tickets here!

Posted by Beth Henderson
Tags: 2016-17, Staff

Written by Elizabeth Turner, Fall 2016 Operations Apprentice. 
The Tik Tok Drum

Every year the New Vic throws a Family Benefit to raise funds for the Give a Kid a Seat program, which helps over 40,000 New York City students see our shows. This year, Tony award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry joined our 300 guests as the Honorary Chair! Apprentices and Ushers transformed the entire lobby into a Bizarre Bazaar, full of games, food, circus acts, storytelling, face painting, music making and crafts inspired by Mother Africa: My Home. From preparing the decorations, to leading activities such as instrument making, I loved the opportunity to showcase my creativity in a fun and engaging hands-on experience. My favorite part of the Family Benefit was helping New Vic kids make their very own musical instruments! The kids enthusiastically jumped at the chance to make Tik-Tok Drums, a wooden drum with a hollow front and back and a string tied with a bead on each side. This instrument is very common among the children of Khayelitsha, the township that inspired Mother Africa: My Home

The New Victory Theater has been ringing with the lively sounds and rhythms of African countries this December. With eight live band members performing on stage during this production, the music of Mother Africa: My Home from Circus der Sinne instantly makes you want to dance! Circus er Sinne creates unique musical accompaniment for each act with a wide range of percussion instruments, soulful guitars, electrifying horns and often encourages the audience to join in the music making. 

There are over 2,000 languages spoken in the 54 countries that make up Africa. With a wide range of dialects and different writing systems, music plays an essential role in communication. Through music, people are able to come together and convey ideas and feelings, despite any language barriers. Some common African instruments are used in Mother Africa: My Home including the kora, the calabash gourd, the kalimba, the balafon, the djembe, the bass drum, the talking drum, the steel drum, the congas...and of course my favorite, rainsticks. Are you interested in learning more? There are still a few performances left to experience Mother Africa: My Home, so don't miss this truly captivating show!

Elizabeth Turner Elizabeth Turner is performer, writer and educator currently serving as New Victory Theater Operations Apprentice. She has a M.M and B.M from the Berklee College of Music and a certificate of Arts Administration from NYU. Elizabeth is passionate about bringing high quality children's entertainment to audiences around the world. She has performed with Disney and Nickelodeon in Europe and also served as a musical theater teaching artist in NYC for grades K-12 with Inside Broadway and the Brooklyn Council for the Arts. Busy starting her own production company for family audiences, her original musical Ciao Bambino just premiered at the Midtown International Theater Festival.

New Victory Thumb Experience the excitement of Mother Africa: My Home and hear the sounds of this circus spectacular.  Get your tickets here!

Posted by Beth Henderson

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how the young people in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from our Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory Blog. Today we're talking to third-year usher John Deloach from East New York, Brooklyn. 

John DeloatchWhat has been your favorite show at the New Vic?
Cuba Vibra! It helped me connect with Cuban and Latino culture by giving me the opportunity to learn rhumba and mambo. I finally gained some rhythm!

The thing I like most about being an usher is…
The community that the managers and ushers have cultivated over the past few years. It's a very supportive space where I can grow both as an individual and an employee.

My dream job would be...
I want to manage my own urban farm for the queer, black and Latino community called "A Sanctuary for Wild Colors," which would also double as an art exhibition site. I believe in order to become more independent as a people both culturally and economically we need a space where we can recreate our image in a positive light while providing resources. "A Sanctuary for Wild Colors" would serve as a space for healing, learning and connection.

My love of theater started…
When I saw a video of Into the Woods in the first grade.

Who inspires you?
The Dalai Lama and Tupac Shakur. The Dalai Lama inspires me to be compassionate to everyone and to remember that all people are connected. Tupac showed me the importance of speaking my truth and honoring my roots.

What was your favorite story as a kid?
My favorite story was Poppy: A Tale from Dimwood Forest. The hero of the story's a valiant mouse who helped out his friends. When I was a kid, all of my favorite stories had animals in them. 

What’s your favorite subject in school?
My favorites are Urban Farming, Poetry and Art. I like these subjects because they allow for freedom of expression and healing from the toxicity of life in modern society.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
I like having night picnics with my friends, hiking and being in green spaces.

What’s your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
Brooklyn Bridge Pier, Gantry Plaza, Prospect Park and Brooklyn Botanical Garden are my top picks. These places are special to me because I love being out in green open spaces. They give me a place to decompress and have fun with my friends.

Describe your dream vacation
Going on a retreat with my friends.

New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

Posted by Beth Henderson

So far this year, our shows have included everything from undersea adventure in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to eye-popping African circus tricks in Mother Africa: My Home, but we've yet to see a show quite like Oh Boy! Based on the French book of the same name, Oh Boy! tells the story of Balthazar as he tries to give up his party boy ways to care for his half-brother and half-sisters.

We sat down to talk to Olivier Letellier, the director of this one-man play, about adapting the story, his initial inspiration and ping pong balls!

1. Do you remember the first time you read the book Oh Boy!? What did you think of it?
I was stuck by the rhythm of the story, the sensitivity of the characters, the audacity of the themes and the humor of the author, Marie-Aude Murail.

Balthazar2. Why does this book make such a great play?
The story is bright and full of hope, helping readers to grow and look at the world with enthusiasm. Also, the character of Balthazar is so singular, positive and touching that he becomes an endearing hero. 

3. Why is it important for kids to see shows with mature themes, like Oh Boy!
It’s about emotions that cross their minds and make them question things every day. They may face obstacles so it’s important they realize others share their emotions. It helps them better understand what they're feeling.

4. Why did you decide to make this a one-man show instead of a play with many actors?
Balthazar is a great young man. He can be funny and touching, sensitive and blundering all at the same time. He becomes the audience's ideal big brother while telling us his story.

When the storyteller is alone on stage, addressing each of us, he sparks our own imaginations and the story becomes our own. I find that the audience becomes more active when they visualize the story for themselves.

5. What sight are you most looking forward to seeing while you’re in NYC?
Central Park in the snow!

6. Why did you choose those specific objects to represent the kids?
Each object describes a personality trait of a character. Audiences can understand the spirit of the character, without needing words. The dictionary represents the gifted Siméon, the duck represents the fragile Morgan (by referring to the "ugly duckling") and the book with the heart and glitter instantly tells us about the pretty Venice. These objects have an evocative and emotional power that connects us all because they’re present in our daily life. We all know these symbols since they’re common cultural references.
The Ping Pong Ball Drop7. Do you have a favorite audience reaction to the show?
In 2010, when we created the show, a teacher told us she had hesitated to take one of her students to see it: his personal story was very close to the one told in the show. He had lost his mother and had never known his father... Back in class, she talked with her students about their respective impressions. She was trying to see if he had any particular reaction. Nothing. After a long while, when her class’s exchange became very animated, he raised his hand to ask a simple question: "So, does that mean I also have the right to be happy?"
8. If you had to use one word to describe Oh Boy! what would it be?

9. How many ping pong balls have you gone through since opening the show?
About 64,000. If you lined them all up, they would almost reach a mile and a half long!
Olivier Letellier Trained at the French school Jacques Lecoq, Olivier Letellier acted in his first show, L’Homme de fer, a play for young audiences based on a Grimm fairy-tale, with his company, Théâtre du Phare, in 2004. Three years later he created and interpreted La Mort du roi Tsongor, based on the novel by Laurent Gaudé. In 2009, he staged Oh Boy!, based on the novel by Marie-Aude Murail, for which he received a Young Audiences Molière award in 2010. In 2014, he initiated the Playwriting for Young Audiences project, in collaboration with the authors Sylvain Levey, Magali Mougel and Catherine Verlaguet, which gave birth to three plays in the 2015-2016 season: Maintenant que je sais, Je ne veux plus, Me taire (Now That I Know, I No Longer Want To, Be Silent).
In July 2016, he directed the opera Kalila wa Dimna by Moneim Adwan, commissioned by the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. His latest creation, La nuit où le jour s'est levé (The Night Where the Day Rises), was co-written by Sylvain Levey, Magali Mougel and Catherine Verlaguet, and presented by the National Theater of Chaillot at the Théâtre des Abbesses in November 2016. In January 2017, he adapted his show Oh Boy! (still on tour in France) for the creation of an English version in New York. Olivier Letellier is currently the associate artist at the Théâtre National de Chaillot. 

New Victory Thumb Experience this audacious and moving story for yourself here!

Posted by Beth Henderson