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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.

New Victory LabWorks was launched in 2012 to bolster the landscape of theater for young audiences created in the United States. We envisioned nurturing the creation of new work by providing New York City-based artists with dedicated rehearsal space in our New 42nd Street Studios and dramaturgical guidance, and then watching the companies soar. We hoped that one day works developed in the LabWorks program would return home and land in a New Victory Theater season. Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom, aka the Acrobuffos, were LabWorks artists in 2014-15. Since then, the Acrobuffos and their beautiful airborne spectacle have, indeed, soared, bringing Air Play to audiences across the U.S. and around the world. We couldn't be more pleased that Air Play is the first show developed as part of New Victory LabWorks to be programmed for The New Victory stage, and we can't wait to see how the other exciting projects developed in LabWorks take off. 

Olga Putilina
Artistic Programming Associate
 

We were standing on the huge stage of the Palace Theatre in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Seth and I had just turned on our circle of twelve fans and thrown in a single red umbrella when it flew beyond our reach, then kept flying, up, up and further up, far over the theater lights hanging at 50 feet.

 

Big Balloons     Photo: Florence Montmare
"Uh-oh," said Seth, "We need to call The New Victory Theater. This is a problem."

We knew our props would fly, we just didn't know quite how high. We had been working for months with Daniel Wurtzel, an air sculptor from Brooklyn, who had invented breathtakingly beautiful art out of a ring of fans with fabric swirling above it. He's a big deal—his sculptures are installed in museums all over the world. Check him out here. With Daniel, we were busy making new sculptures unique for the show we were building—a collaboration between him, a kinetic sculptor, and us, the clowns. (Yes, really, we're professional non-verbal, world-traveling clowns, even though we don't wear makeup.)

The problem was that we were soon supposed to begin three weeks of rehearsal as part of New Victory LabWorks, a program that fosters the creation of new work for young and family audiences. The rehearsal space had an 18-foot ceiling. Our umbrellas were dilly-dallying without a care in the world at 55 feet. Oops.

We called the New Vic. "We're so sorry," said Seth, "The show got too big." We kept saying "the show" because at this point, we still didn't have a title. Plus, we still weren't sure just what "the show" was going to be… other than big. Really big.

"We won't fit in your space, even though it's such a generous opportunity. Please give our spot to another artist. We'll have to find somewhere else to rehearse."

Now, what you must understand is, The New Victory is not a place you just turn down. You have to be crazy to not accept help from a theater with such a rich history of bringing modern circus and innovative family theater to the heart of Times Square. Crazy… or just too big. Our "little" show had grown into a giant cyclone on stage with a will of its own. To our horror, it wasn't just the umbrellas soaring above our height limit. Our long fabrics wafted up and got stuck in the lights, our balloons drifted past the curtains and our packing peanuts decided to live up in the rafters. Our favorite large prop, a billowy, gentle piece of fabric, inflated into a massive white monster. (We now call it "Moby." Literar-ily.)

 

Christina, Seth and Moby Christina, Seth and Moby in rehearsal

"Send me a video," Jonathan, the New Vic's then-Assistant Director of Artistic Programming, said, and we did. "Oh," he said, "That IS big." We sat in silence for a moment, not sure what to say. Before we could apologize, he said, "Give me a week, let me see what we can do."

We kept working. We figured out how to tame our fabrics (except for Moby, he's still a bit feral), we invented a system to control every fan wirelessly, we searched for advanced theater computer programs to handle the cues we needed, we rewrote our comedy, we special-ordered balloons from Italy, we borrowed some temporary costumes, the stagehands made us a template ground cloth to measure our fans and we took as many pictures and videos as we could. It was a big week.

At the end of the week, Jonathan got back to us. "Good news," he said. "We are able to move you into The New Victory Theater to rehearse." We looked at each other. Did he just say…? "We have a week before The New Victory Theater season starts when you could work with our stage crew. Plus, you can bring in your lighting designer." Due to the unexpected scale of our show, we were the first, and so far only, LabWorks artists to be able to experiment outside the New 42nd Street Studios and on the New Vic's historic stage.
 

 

Snow     Photo: Florence Montmare
This happened in 2014. After that, the team working on our show kept having big career milestones. Daniel Wurtzel's air sculptures really took off—he was featured at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, in Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna, on Broadway's Finding Neverland and now he regularly works with directors like Julie Taymor, Robert Lepage and Diane Paulus. West Hyler, our director, has, since then, directed for Cirque du Soleil's Paramour, Big Apple Circus, won prestigious awards and has even written, directed and produced his own show, Georama. Our lighting designer, Jeanne Koenig, was installing The Lion King all over the world. And Seth and I? We were still performing internationally with our show Waterbombs! The whole time, we all kept diving back into rehearsal, finagling our calendars, and working on "the show," which found its name that fateful week in Cleveland—Air Play.

It was nice to have a title, but the road wasn't over. We kept rehearsing at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, our first rehearsal "home." We were lucky enough to get another big theater, Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to give us space. Cleveland's Playhouse Square (a connection made for us by Mary Rose Lloyd, the New Vic's Director of Artistic Programming) gave us another grant, and gave Air Play its public premiere in October of 2015.

Since then, Air Play has flown us all over the world, literally. We've performed on five continents, including an opera house surrounded by active volcanoes in Chile, across the river from Big Ben in London, with cockatoos and giant fruit bats flying right outside the theater door in Australia and having tickets scalped for our sold-out show in Shanghai. 

Seth and ChristinaAnd now, a few years later, we're back at The New Victory Theater, performing Air Play at home in New York City for the first time. Put on your seatbelts, it's gonna be a wild ride.

P.S. Please don't feed Moby.

Christina Gelsone works with her husband, Seth Bloom, as the Acrobuffos. Since becoming clown partners in 2006, they have created five shows together, competed in international circus festivals, performed in over 20 countries, juggled on Late Show with David Letterman, headlined at the Big Apple Circus, and were featured in The New York Times. Their websites are airplayshow.com and acrobuffos.com.
 
Posted by Beth Henderson
March 19, 2018

Family Activity: Air Play


Create your own mini air cannon, become an air sculptor and discover your clown persona in this Family Activity for Air Play! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past entries on our blog and at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.
 

A Mini Air Cannon

In this activity, create your own mini air cannon in a few simple steps. Once you're done crafting this hand-held air machine, see what you can blow around the house!

Materials: Paper cup, balloon, scissors, rubber band, marker

Materials
Balloons

Step One: Draw a dime-sized circle on the bottom of your cup.

Step One

Step Two: Cut out the circle.

Step Two

Step Three: Cut off the neck of your balloon.

Step Three

Step Four: Place the balloon over the open side of the cup and secure it with a rubber band.

Step Four

Step Five: Test it out! Pull back and release the balloon to create a puff of air. Try blowing a variety of light household objects around, like a feather or some toilet paper!

Example

BONUS: What is the heaviest object your mini air cannon can move?

Air Art

Air Play was created by experimenting, researching and a lot of "air-xpertise"! In fact, the show began as a collaboration between two clowns and an air sculptor! In this activity, we invite you to become a household air sculptor with your family.

Step One: Daniel Wurtzel is the artist who created the air sculptures in Air Play. Find out more about his amazing work here.

Step Two: Watch these sample videos of fun air experiments. 

Materials: Blow dryer and ping pong balls

Ping Pong

Materials: Handmade paper plane and two electric fans

Fan

Materials: Duvet cover and a large, electric fan

Baby

Step Three: Do you have some of these materials at home? Great! Gather them up and test them out to see how long can you keep your items in the air or inflated. What other things in your house do you think can fly?

Step Four: Try shooting a video of your different air masterpieces. Play with speed or different filters to see all of your work's beautiful potential. Tag us on your favorite social media platform using the hashtag #familyplay. 

Find the Clown in You

In this activity, you create your own clown. Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone, the amazing duo in Air Play, elicit gasps and giggles throughout their show. What kind of clown are you?

Step One—The Costume: Being a clown is all about finding fun elements that help the audience identify your character. Christina and Seth use the colors red and yellow for their costumes. They also have pretty awesome hair colors that add to their persona.

The Acrobuffos
  • Do you have a favorite color?
  • What colors do you think best represent your personality?
  • Gather all of your clothes in your chosen color from your wardrobe to put together an amazing clown outfit.
Step Two—Funny Walks: The way your clown walks is an important part of your persona. The choices that you make with your walk can really heighten your character. Watch this video to get inspired.
 
 
Now it's time to try out your own silly walks! Try these challenges:
  • Walk with your knees touching.
  • Walk as low to the ground as possible.
  • Walk like you are light as air.
  • Walk while shaking all of your body.
 How else can you make your walk as silly as possible?
 
Step Three—The Silly Skill: Do you have a special talent, craft or science experiment? Make it a part of your act! Do you need some help figuring out what that is? Get inspired by these prompts.
  • Can you climb and balance on something (safely!) in your home?
  • Can you bounce or balance on different body parts?
  • Can you balance a small item on your nose?
  • Can you juggle?
  • Can you make funny voices or sounds?
  • Can you do a trick with a pet?
  • Are you flexible?
  • Can you make funny faces?
  • Can you play a musical instrument?
  • Can you do any magic tricks?
Step Four: Put it all together! Dress up in your funny outfit, show your family your funny walk and special, silly skill to create your own clown routine
 
Air Play Thumb Watch in absolute wonder as umbrellas take flight, balloons sprout minds of their own and shimmering silks ripple to the rafters in the modern circus spectacle Air Play. Get your tickets today!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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