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.


Set Sail by Andrew Bannecker
This season, we're thrilled to introduce Andrew Bannecker—our new visual artist in residence—to New Victory audiences. Andrew creates the title treatments and key art for New Victory shows that form the basis of our season marketing and advertising campaigns—starting with the season brochure, due to land in member mailboxes any moment now!

At The New Vic, we've always strived for the brochure to be a piece of art itself—something that families can sit down and enjoy together—almost like a bedtime story, but one that gets you excited to go to the theater. Andrew's style captures feelings of anticipation and imagination, and it's very joyful. His art makes you smile, as does collaborating with him. Enjoy getting to know him a little better in this interview. 
– Lauren Fitzgerald, Director of Marketing & Communications
"If something doesn't creep into a drawing that you're not prepared for, you might as well not have drawn it." – Edward Gorey
How do you go about creating a piece of art? Can you tell me more about your process?
It depends on the project. To start on New Vic art, I read briefs [created by the New Victory Marketing Department] that tell me what the show is about and what they're trying to convey. They send over reviews and videos and I get to know the world of the show with all these resources.


Andrew's Textures
A look at the textures Andrew creates with paint before scanning them into his computer.

Then I just sit down in front of the computer and start drawing. An hour or two later my initial idea might be completely different. In my world, the work evolves fairly quickly. If nothing's happening, I go outside with some coffee, take a second outside to recharge, and usually when I come back things take off.

How has it been working with us so far?
Working at home in a studio is an isolated world so I don't really see a lot of my work get developed. So it's really nice to collaborate on a process. It's not "Here's your work, thank you, bye." With the New Vic, it's a collaboration and a partnership.

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I've been been a full time illustrator for about nine years now. I was an art director at an ad agency, just bopping around. Then one day I talked to an illustrator working on a campaign with me and I realized that THAT was what I wanted to do... only I couldn't draw. So I taught myself to draw. I worked as an art director during the day and was self taught at night. When I had enough work, I searched for an agency to take me. After a lot of rejection I found my current agency. Everything kinda took off with a bang. My first client was Starbucks in the UK right off the bat.


A piece of art in progress.
A look at one of Olivia's works in progress. You can follow Andrew on Instagram here!
Can you tell me about your kids? I hear your daughter has a desk next to yours.
Having a little person there working with you, it's enjoyable. It's always nice to have kids in the studio. Olivia's five and Noah's two and a half. I try to squeeze in some work when they're painting and glittering. Olivia's my tiny muse and my little art director... or critic. She loves to watch me work especially when I'm doing the New Vic stuff. When I'm working, I'll show her the screen and ask for feedback. Nine times out of ten she'll say, "Dad, I need you to print that out." Then she'll take out all of her glitter and her feathers and her markers and get to work. Then she'll come back to my computer and instruct me: "Daddy, I think this should be pink," or "This needs to sparkle."

She knows all of my clients, so once I make her changes, she asks, "Daddy, can you send these over to Lauren and Alexis [the New Victory's Marketing and Design Managers]?" I'll put it into the printer, pretend to send it, and after about five minutes she usually asks, "Do they like them? What do they want now?" I try to let her run with any creative impulses she might have. Some may call that bending over backwards, but I can't stifle something like that, right?
Andrew's Style
A few of the nautical items that heavily inspire Andrew's art alongside an initial sketch!

What's the biggest influence on your style [besides Olivia]?
I'm pretty obsessed with anything vintage and nautical. I collect antiques. My studio is filled with old glass beakers, wood, old puppets I got in Paris or anything else that strikes my fancy and inspires me.

What do you aim to convey with your artwork?
What I try to evoke is a human emotion. I may only draw waves and mountains. There's no people, but you can get a human emotion out of it. With my personal work, I'm known for my colors. My work is textural. Most of my work is on the computer, but I try to create work that doesn't look like it was drawn on the computer. I create all my textures organically with paint or charcoal and then I scan them in. I'm always trying to find new avenues and new ways to create.

What's the secret to your success?
For successful commercial artists, if you have a personal style just stick with it. I learned a lot of people can make triangle mountains, but it's my technique that makes it my own. If you go to Pinterest, you can find a million pieces of geometric art. But the way the artist can create their own style makes it unique.


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Posted by Beth Henderson
A look at A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Bottom from Isango Ensemble's adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream (New Vic 2015). Photo credit Ruphin Coudyzer.

This article was originally seen as a 2013 New Vic blogpost.

Over my ten years of teaching Shakespeare at New York University's Steinhardt School, I have made it a practice to ensure that young people join my graduate students for our exploration of Shakespeare's plays. 

Occasionally, I've had students ask why young people should study and perform Shakespeare's plays given that they were written four hundred years ago and come from a very specific Western tradition. I find that the perceived resistance of young people to Shakespeare often comes from their teachers' own fear of and discomfort with Shakespeare's plays. The "inaccessible" language; the complex and sprawling storylines; and the density of the scripts make for a daunting task in any unit of classroom study. I overcome these hurdles by engaging young people in a problem solving, mystery-cracking approach to the scripts, rather than a bookish quest to understand the meaning and interpretation of every word or phrase on the page. Tackling a Shakespeare play in an active way builds confidence, and that confidence translates to other academic and artistic tasks. 

To assist my students with their understanding of Shakespeare's work, regardless of age or experience, I ask them to consider five basic ideas about the cultural context of Shakespeare's plays and their dramaturgy. Those five ideas are as follows:

1. Shakespeare wrote his plays for a wide, popular audience.

Shakespeare's plays appealed to people from all walks of life and across class divides: kings, queens, nobles, workers and the poor. His plays were considered popular entertainment in his day, much like the blockbuster movies and television shows of today. If Shakespeare were writing now, I'd venture to say that he'd write for film and prime time television. He understood how to reach audiences of all ages and experiences, and when young people understand that, they gain confidence that their interpretation of a play could actually be valid and "correct." If we empower young people to find their own relationships to a play, suddenly that play becomes legible and relatable.

2. Reading, watching, and playing Shakespeare can be like working in a second language.

Even though Shakespeare wrote his plays in English, his style of writing is heightened and his vocabulary is vast. As English speakers in the 21st century, our relationship to language is very different from Shakespeare's and his audience's. When we work with Shakespeare, there may be words or whole sentences that are unclear. When watching Shakespeare in performance, encourage young people to look for other ways to understand what is happening: stage pictures, the tone of an actor's voice, lighting, etc. These elements can provide clues that clarify the difficult parts of Shakespeare's language. When reading a play in class, remind students that the English language has three end punctuation marks: periods, question marks and exclamation points. The arrangement of the verse and prose on the page can look confusing, but when I locate the end punctuation marks, I'm suddenly reminded that this is a language I understand—it's just arranged on the page a bit differently. Ask students to mark the sentences with brackets when they encounter a particularly difficult passage; isolating sentences leads to identifying a character's thoughts and ideas. 

A look at Measure for Measure.
A scene from Fiasco Theater's production of Measure for Measure (New Vic 2014). Photo credit Joan Marcus.
3. Shakespeare provides all the information we need in the writing on the page.

If we spend ample time reading one of Shakespeare's plays, we learn that all the clues we need to understand the play are there on the page in front of us. He gives us the setting of the action in the lines of the play, and has his characters tell us how they feel and why they behave a certain way. For example, we do not have to guess about Hamlet's state of mind when he discovers the truth about the death of this father, because he tells us that he will "put an antic disposition on." I like to work with young people on Shakespeare in performance because their often limited life experience does not detract from playing these characters. Since acting the play is not an exercise in emotion memory or sense memory (Shakespeare came before Stanislavski and his system of acting), young people can perform these plays effectively, simply by becoming adept storytellers. Of course, close connections to the experiences of the characters are certainly helpful, but by focusing on what the character says, an actor can discover what needs to be said and how it needs to be said in order for the story to unfold.


A look at Henry V.
The title character from The Acting Company and the Guthrie Theater's production of Henry V (New Vic 2009). Photo credit Michel Daniel.
4. Shakespeare wrote his plays for a simple stage.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre did not have the capabilities of modern theaters. Theaters did not have helicopters flying in or sets that rotated by themselves. Therefore, Shakespeare had his characters tell the audience where they were, either in conversation with one another or in a speech directed to the audience. Oftentimes, the audience in Shakespeare's time had to imagine the setting of a play more than we do today. Given this expectation of simplicity, Shakespeare's plays can be staged in theatres, gymnasiums or classrooms. We don't need fancy lighting or scenic elements or even extravagant costumes—we just need an actor or audience that's willing to imagine what Shakespeare's characters describe.  If we encourage actors of all ages to see what they say as they say it, then young audiences will see the world of the play before them, as well.

5. Shakespeare's characters are often superhuman or extraordinary, so they feel and act that way.

Shakespeare wrote his plays before the existence of modern psychology. While it helps to think about why a character behaves a certain way, Shakespeare did not always concern himself with logical reasoning. In other words, our modern notions of what is realistic are very different from Shakespeare's. The characters in his plays may make choices that seem very foreign to us, but those choices make sense within the worlds of Shakespeare's plays. Given our diverse and ever-expanding society, this understanding of cultural context as it relates to Shakespeare can also help young people to recognize that their own points of reference are not the only way to experience the world. People behave differently in different contexts, and having an increased awareness of that helps us to teach young people about tolerance and understanding within our growing, globalized society.

So why Shakespeare? Because the complexity of his work has survived the last four hundred years and still offers us opportunities to ask big questions about ourselves and the world around us. Like all of us, young people want to make meaning of the world around them, and when a complex, parallel world opens up for them, our own cacaphonous, fast-moving world might just become a little bit easier to navigate.

Joe Salvatore is a playwright and director based in New York City. He has created and directed plays and performances in venues of all shapes and sizes, from traditional spaces like the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village and the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, to site-specific locations like 14th Street in Manhattan and a Revolutionary War battlefield in southern New Jersey. Read more about Joe here


Posted by Beth Henderson
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