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.

The winter comes to a close with a heartwarming, modern take on Anna Sewell's classic, Black Beauty, running from March 16–25 with an Autism-Friendly Performance on March 19. We sat down with co-creators and New Vic alums Shona Reppe and Andy Manley to talk about the joy of theater for young audiences, pantomime and equine freestyle. 


Andy Manley Andy Manley in Black Beauty Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
1. How does it feel to be back at The New Victory? What are you most excited about this time around?
Andy Manley: It's always lovely coming back to the New Vic. I've been quite a few times now with various shows, and it's really lovely to see how the organization has changed and developed. 

I'm excited about seeing the reaction to the show and playing around in the main theater, which I haven't done since Martha in 2001. Usually I'm in the New 42nd Street Studios with shows for the very young! Also, it's really nice to meet New York audiences, some of which have been to see other shows of mine the New Vic has presented. Of course, I have some good friends who work at the organization, too, so it's a lovely extra to catch up with them.

Shona Reppe: I love the New Vic because it's always a joy to be there. I’m not performing this time—which is a bit strange for me—but I’m excited to see Black Beauty on the main stage and to catch up with the amazing staff at the New Vic! I love NYC. I’m so thrilled, can you tell?!

2. To you, why is theater for kids so very important at this moment in time?
AM: I think theater (and art generally) helps us better understand the world in which we live. It can be quite baffling (even as an adult), so anything that helps us make it a bit more understandable can only be a good thing. It's good to know you are not alone in the universe and that others feel a similar way. 


Shona Reppe Shona Reppe
SR: In theater, anything can happen right in front of your eyes. It’s not a screen, so it can't be paused or rewound. It's interactive on every level because the audience's presence is what makes the show work. Theater doesn’t spell everything out, so, when kids use their imaginations, that's when the magic happens. If they have their parents with them, that's even better—they share a great experience. 

3. Pantomime isn't as popular in United States as it is in the United Kingdom. Is there anything the audiences should know about panto before seeing Black Beauty?
AM: For our show, all you need to know about panto is that it happens once a year, around the Christmas holidays. Pantos are usually based on a fairy tale, so there are kings, queens, princesses and, of course, a wicked villain who tries to do something dastardly. In panto, good always conquers evil and love is usually in the air, too. 

The McCuddy brothers have an act where they perform as Hamish (think a horsey version of Big Bird). They travel around the country seeing if they can get an audition. Unfortunately, their act is seen as a bit old-fashioned now, so they're not getting as much work as they used to. Because they only work at panto time, they are very down on their luck.

SR: They need to know that when a character says, "Oh yes he is," the audience responds, "Oh no he isn't!" Also, if someone asks where someone is they say, "They're behind you!" Simple. The only other thing they would need to know is that a pantomime horse is a very old tradition and it's meant to be a bit ugly and sad looking (sorry Hamish!).

4. If the McCuddy brothers came to New York, where do you think they would stop first?
AM: Poughkeepsie—they travel very slowly. 

5. What first drew you to create and perform for young audiences?
AM: I really like making work and performing it for kids. They are very honest and don't feel the need to be polite if it doesn't interest them. That's refreshing. It keeps me on my toes. The last thing I want to do is turn them off theater!

SR: I perform for young audiences because they are BRILLIANT, honest, funny and they aren't at all uptight. They just want to enjoy themselves. So do I!


Andy and Hamish Andy Manley and Hamish in Black Beauty Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
6. What's the most memorable audience reaction to Black Beauty you can remember?
AM: I think my mum's. I could hear her laughing all through the show. At the end she hugged me, told me how great the show was and accidentally spilled a glass of wine down my back. That's never happened with any other audience member.

SR: I remember watching someone I knew crying in the final scene. I thought, "YES! This means I've done my job!"

7. What's the trickiest part of wearing the horse suit?
AM: The trickiest part about it? My part! ...don't tell my co-star Andy Cannon though. He thinks being the head is hard but he's wrong. Being the behind is much harder. I can't see where I'm going, I have to have my head next to Andy's bottom and I have to follow Andy's footwork, which can be very...creative at times, even though we have rehearsed the moves. (He calls it equine freestyle and says he is letting out his inner pony...I think he just forgets the dance moves!)


Long Lost First Play Thumb Saddle up and jump headlong into a tale where loneliness gives way to hope, friends become heroes and courage saves the day! Get your tickets today!

Posted by Beth Henderson

Have you ever met a stranger and knew, almost immediately, that they'll be a part of your life for a long (lost) time? Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor first met when they were young, collegiate actors in an absurdist play. Now, professional performers, directors and writers, they're slightly older, but their work is no less absurd. Get to know these two co-writers, co-directors and performers before catching them (and third member of the company, Teddy Spencer) in William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)!
Austin and Reed Austin Tichenor and Reed Martin

1. What's the one Shakespearean character you'd want to play? 

Austin Tichenor: I play Falstaff briefly in William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged), but I'd love to play him for real in either parts of Henry IV or The Merry Wives of Windsor!

Reed Martin: Scar from The Lion King. That counts right? It's based on Hamlet!

2. Tell us how you first met (abridged)!

RM: Austin and I met as students in the Drama Department at the University of California at Berkeley around 1981. We performed in a couple of shows together and stayed in touch over the years. 

AT: I think our first meeting was in a very absurd college production of Ionesco's Jack, or The Submission around 1981. My dad's question after the performance was, "Now why would you want to be in something like that?"

RM: I joined the Reduced Shakespeare Company in 1989 and when there was a cast opening in 1992, I suggested that we ask Austin to join the company.


Austin Tichenor Austin Tichenor as Falstaff
3. How do you create work together? Do you live near each other? 

AT: We both grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and were in the University of California at Berkeley's drama department together. While Reed still lives there, I live in Chicago, but I still visit my family out there.

RM: We spend a fair amount of time together on the road. We're in contact almost every day via email, phone, FaceTime or Skype. When we're creating a new show we spend a lot of time trying to settle on the subject matter. It needs to be something that we are both interested in and passionate about. The subject also needs to appeal to all the places to which we tour, both in the USA and around the world. 

We outline the show together and then write the scenes separately. We come together to read the new material, usually when we're on tour together. Then, we sometimes rewrite our own material and other times we rewrite each other's material. After about nine months and many drafts we have a version of the script that we bring into rehearsals. We rehearse for about six weeks, making changes and doing rewrites every day. And then we put it on its feet in front of an audience. The audience is like another collaborator. We listen to how the audience responds and make changes accordingly.

4. Describe what it's like to juggle so many characters. Do you ever wish you could trade with each other? 

RM: When we start to rehearse a new show sometimes the characters aren't very distinct, but over the rehearsal period they become clear. The toughest thing is all the quick costumes changes. There's a fascinating, fully-choreographed show backstage involving props and costume changes that the audience never sees.

AT: Part of the fun is the juggling! Making each character distinct and funny is a great challenge and one of the reasons I wanted to be an actor. 

RM:  I wouldn't want to trade parts with Austin. He has to play the ukulele onstage every show and I know how tough that is. I have played the accordion in a number of Reduced Shakespeare Company shows. If you stumble over a line you can usually cover it, but everybody can hear when you play a sour note.


Reed Martin Reed Martin as Puck
AT: I usually don't want to play Reed's roles because he's very physical and I'm very lazy. But we both play Falstaff in this production—audiences can decide #WhoWoreItBetter.

5. What is the strangest space you've performed in? 

RM: One time we performed an excerpt from our Complete History of America (abridged) at The White House on the Fourth of July. It was surreal and awesome.

AT: I played the Prince of Aragon in a production of The Merchant of Venice in a bar in Chicago. The audience had been drinking, so they heckled me. I had to change my lines to deal with them and they all applauded me on my exit. It was fantastic.

6. You've been at The New Victory a few times now, what makes you excited about this particular go-around? 

AT: It's always exciting to be back at the New Vic! The history of the building is so amazing, it's a privilege to be speaking Shakespeare's words—even his long lost first words—on this stage!

RM: This is our third time at the New Vic and we love it! The reaction to William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged) around the world has been spectacular and we can't wait to share it with the audiences at the New Vic. The show is a love letter to Shakespeare, to theater and to first plays by all young playwrights.

Photos: Teresa Wood
Long Lost First Play Thumb That's right, the "Bad Boys of Abridgement" are back! Uproarious and rapid-fire, the Reduced Shakespeare Company makes sharp, short comedy in their latest sendup, spinning the Bard's 39 plays into a fast, funny and fictional 40th. Get your tickets today!

Posted by Beth Henderson
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