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.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
The cast of Mr. Popper's Penguins. Photo: Helen Murray


Penguins may take center stage in Mr. Popper's Penguins, but how much do you really know about them? These little flightless birds have stolen the hearts of millions with their funny behavior and waddley-walk, but there's more to them besides an adorable exterior. For instance, do you know why they're a striking combination of black and white? Hint: It's NOT because they like formalwear.

Here are nine fun facts about penguins to help you get acquainted with the stars of Mr. Popper's Penguins! 


The Anthropornis Nordenskjoeldi
Imagine this Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi towering above you!
Are You Shorter Than a Penguin?

Quick. Say Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi five times fast! This giant penguin lived over 37 million years ago and stood 5'7", weighing a whopping 200 pounds. To put it in perspective, the average man is 5'6" and weighs about 140 pounds! Don't worry, penguins today range from the four-foot-tall Emperor Penguin to the sixteen-inch Little Blue (or Fairy) Penguin. 

Fruity Pebbles... Hold the Fruit

Many penguins add something odd to their diet. They swallow pebbles in addition to their food! No one is exactly sure why they do this, but most scientists think it helps them digest food by grinding it up. Others think the added pebble-weight helps them dive deeper into the water. 

Pebbles are a Penguin's Best Friend

There's another pebble practice that's quite a bit more romantic! Instead of jewelry, flowers or candy, Gentoo Penguins gift pebbles to woo their potential mates. Male Gentoo Penguins search high and low for the smoothest, most perfect rock, often fighting other males for the most desireable stones! If the female accepts the pebble from her aquatic admirer, she places it in her nest and the two become a couple. Fun fact: The penguins of Mr. Popper's Penguins were based on this species!

Penguins or Geese?

When penguins were first caught in 1520, the explorer Antonio Pigafetta called them geese! Pigafetta was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's ship—the first to circumnavigate the globe—and spotted the penguins in Argentina.

It Takes Two

In nature, it's common for a male bird to go off on his own after an egg is laid, but that's not the case for penguins! Both male and female penguins raise their chicks for several months until they're strong enough to survive on their own. 

Seawater? No Problem

Penguins consume a lot of fish from the ocean, so they also consume a lot of seawater. To get rid of all of this extra sodium, they have a gland behind their eyes—called the spuraorbital gland—to filter out the saltwater. They simply sneeze to expel it, so the next time you see a penguin sneeze at a zoo, hold on the tissue—it's not sick!

Now You See Them, Now You Don't
The Adelie Penguin
One of the two species of penguins to live in a polar climate, the Adelie Penguin's black and white coloring is striking!

Their striking color combo isn't about fashion, it's about evolution! A penguin's black back blends into the dark ocean from above and their white bellies hide them against the bright surface from below!

Penguins Down Under

Stop reading. Think of a penguin's habitat! Did you think of snow? Only the Adélie and the Emperor Penguin live in the frozen Antarctic. The other 16 species live in warmer climates like in New Zealand or along the South African coast.

It's Time to Save the Day​

There's no time to waste. Of the eighteen recognized penguin species, fifteen are considered under threat. Even the largest penguin species, the Emperor Penguin, is listed as "near threatened." A few of the problems facing penguins are climate change, oil spills and overfishing. Read more here to learn about these problems and what you can do to help!
New Victory Thumb Come and get tickets to meet Mr. Popper and his penguins in person! This toe-tapping musical is playing October 14 – 30, so do you best penguin waddle over to the New Vic today. 
Posted by Beth Henderson

The New Victory Theater's 2016-17 Season starts off with a splash with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea​! You may not know this, but this show has elements of the Jules Verne classic plus more. It tells the story of our hero, Jules, as he enacts his favorite book, Twenty Thousand Leagues. Suddenly he's transported into the story and must help save the day!

Though this is a purely fictional tale, co-writer Craig Francis passionately connects Twenty Thousand Leauges to a true danger facing the world: water pollution. We spoke to him about what initially inspired him, what water pollution is and how we, as New Yorkers, can help stop this dangerous threat to our planet.

1. When people think of water pollution, their first thought isn't a Jules Verne novel. How did you make a connection between the two?

Craig Francis
Craig Francis getting in touch with his inner Captain Nemo!

I found it interesting in the original novel when Jules Verne writes about Captain Nemo leaving land for the ocean. No one had been able to travel undersea before this time and Verne was speculating on oxygen tanks and submarines...and many of his visions came true! He also saw the oceans as a pure, unexplored frontier. Now, in 2016, there are all sorts of things underwater, from submersibles to oil rigs to robots. We've discovered so much, but we've also polluted so much.

In this version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, we can connect what we've done to the oceans to the things we had already done on land that upset Nemo. When you see the show, you can also see how our character Jules's presence pollutes his favorite story and also think about how negativity pollutes the human spirit.

2. What exactly is water pollution? 

Water pollution happens when foreign substances are released into water bodies: lakes, rivers and oceans. It's not only garbage thrown on beaches or into water, but also things washed into wastewater from homes and businesses or runoff from land. 

3. Where does water pollution come from? If humans are to blame, what specific actions cause it?

Water pollution can come from natural sources such as animal manure or mudslides, but we humans are to blame in a massive way: imagine how everything you throw down your sinks, showers and toilets goes into wastewater systems. Industrial and agricultural waste drains into wastewater as well. Water filtration catches large solids, but things like cleaning fluids can all end up in your local water body. 


Water Cycle Summary
Get familiar with the water cycle!
4. How does water pollution affect our earth? What are the different ways we can see it? 

Water exists in a cycle so putting human waste and sewage into the same water we drink from spreads diseases, like cholera. This has encouraged human inventions such as water pipes and filtration to stop diseases. Waste also fertilizes bacteria, which can make lakes unswimmable or toxic to drink. Even worse, decomposing algae can use all the oxygen in the water, causing ocean "dead zones" like the one where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico, in which no fish or animals can live.

5. What is the garbage patch and how did it first develop?

The Garbage Patch that Professor talks about in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a real thing: it's a huge, slow whirlpool of plastic particles. Plastic breaks down very slowly into particles, and plastic that is in the ocean gets caught in currents like the North Pacific Gyre. This garbage patch in the Pacific is about the size of Texas. Some plastics are eaten by fish, and some plastics even absorb poisons which are passed into the fish. Some animals get caught in larger pieces: birds get caught in the plastic rings from soda cans and dolphins can get tangled in plastic nets. Check out what the North Pacific Gyre looks like in the graphic below!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

6. Is there a way to reverse the damage done to the ocean? 

There are many ways we can help. For example, most of the world's nations have banned whale-hunting and that stopped whales from going extinct. Also, we protect marine areas from development by turning them into marine sanctuaries, and this allows coral and fish to recover. There are also many choices you can make in your own life to reduce the harm we do to oceans and all water systems. 

7. What can kids and their families do to stop pollution? Are there NYC organizations that are trying to help?

So you want to become a New Atlantean and work for solutions? Excellent! Before you decide on your missions for Captain Nemo, you can be inspired by the scientists we've interviewed at the Science Lab on the Nautilus. What can you do right now? Follow these three steps!

  • Only flush waste and toilet paper down the toilet. 
  • Learn about sustainable seafood and what to buy.
  • Try your hardest to use less plastic and use biodegradable products and packaging.

Oyster FactsFor organizations protecting oceans and other waters, The Waterkeeper Alliance has chapters all over American and Canada focusing on keeping local rivers and lakes clean. It was founded in 1966 right here in New York to protect the fish in the Hudson River from going extinct from pollution. If you want to be specific, you can help restore lost species. Did you know that the keystone species of New York Harbor was the oyster? With The Billion Oyster Project, New York students are working to re-populate the harbor with 1 billion new oysters! Or, if you want to go big picture, you can check out Earth Day and the major issues of our blue planet.

Craig Francis Craig Francis is the co-writer and producer of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He is a writer, illustrator and actor whose works have been enjoyed by millions of children worldwide. He is the creator of the Kidoons web series Jerry Muskrat's Greatest Lakes Adventures and director of Kidoons content and character development. He has designed campaigns for Performing Arts Centers and hundreds of shows from Plácido Domingo to BOWFIRE to Cineplex Big Screen Events. He has collaborated with Rick Miller’s WYRD Productions on creative direction for the branding and marketing for hit shows from MacHomer to BOOM. Craig co-founded two improvisation troupes in Montreal, touring nationally and performing in five Just For Laughs Festivals, including as its spokesman. Craig has illustrated several books, including in the Complete Idiot's Guide series, and Hire Power by Karen Schaffer. He has appeared as a guest on CBC, CTV and Global, and his voice is heard in several animated series and games. Photo: Jeff Lord

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Do you want to become a New Atlantean? Join us for Twenty Thousand Leauges Under the Sea—the inventive retelling of Jules Verne's classic novel!
Posted by Beth Henderson
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