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.
January 13, 2016

Every Audience the Same

Written by Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming, and members of the Artistic Programming Department

During the Talk-Back immediately following the opening night performance of our latest show, Museum of Memories, a teenage boy in attendance with his parents shared that one of his classmates had committed suicide last year and he hadn't known quite how to process it. "I haven’t cried for months, until now," he said. "Thank you for that." On their way out, his mother approached our Programming Assistant and added, "Thank you for thinking this was something kids should see."
Museum of Memories, NIE Theatre (Photo: Jiří N. Jelínek)
Museum of Memories, NIE Theatre (Photo: Jiří N. Jelínek)

At The New Victory, we've never shied away from embracing complex subject matter in our programming, whether it's dense source material (Wuthering Heights, New Vic 2012; Measure for Measure, New Vic 2014), the ravages of war (Past Half Remembered, New Vic 2008; Brundibar, New Vic 2006), drug addiction (Cranked, New Vic 2009), domestic violence (The Book of Everything, New Vic 2012), adolescent unrest and sexual exploration (Once and for All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen, New Vic 2010), racism and sexual abuse (The Bluest Eye, New Vic 2007), bullying and teen violence (The Shape of a Girl, New Vic 2005), or manslaughter (The Stones, New Vic 2006). Try as we might to cordon these subjects off as "for adults only," life, as usual, subverts our attempts. Young people are routinely exposed to life’s challenges, and we do them a disservice when we deny them a forum in which they can reflect and react. 
Once and For All We're Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen, Ontroerend Goed and KOPERGIETERY (Photo: Phile Deprez)
Once and For All We're Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen,
Ontroerend Goed and KOPERGIETERY (Photo: Phile Deprez)

Theater can inspire and compel children, as well as reveal more navigable paths through their complicated worlds. "Every parent wants his/her child to have a happy, uneventful childhood, but bad things happen to kids, despite our best intentions," playwright Martha King De Silva said in a recent interview with TCG. "Putting plays with these themes on our stages can have powerful outcomes―creating enlightenment and empathy in those children who are among the lucky and reassurance for the unlucky children that they are not alone. How great could it be to draw strength from watching a character battling the same challenges as you and emerging victorious?"
The Book of Everything, Belvoir and Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image (Photo: Heidrun Lohr)
The Book of Everything, Belvoir and Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image (Photo: Heidrun Lohr)

Museum of Memories is about a young man's suicide and the swirl of memories left in his wake that his loved ones must sort through. It's sad, yes, but it's also funny, sweet, and life-affirming. With sophisticated and sensitive storytelling and theatrical flourishes, Museum of Memories doesn't seek to offer answers—it instead offers a much-needed space for questions. It's a show we're proud to present, in a season that also includes The Velveteen Rabbit, which was created for an even younger age range and handles with similar grace the subject of loss.

The companies behind these shows—NIE Theatre (New International Encounter) and Unicorn Theatre—treat their young audiences with a unique respect. In that very same opening night Talk-Back, the Museum of Memories cast revealed that they treat every audience the same, whether it's primarily adult or young, giving the latter audience a vote of confidence in their abilities to process and perceive. Young people, they've found, appreciate this respect and respond in kind.
The Velveteen Rabbit, Unicorn Theatre (Photo: Robert Day)
The Velveteen Rabbit, Unicorn Theatre (Photo: Robert Day)

"These themes are, in many societies and cultural contexts, looked upon as taboo," Museum of Memories director and NIE Co-Artistic Director Kjell Moberg writes in his program note. "My aim has been to open up these taboos, and to create a physical and mental space where it's okay to laugh and cry, to be a spectator and participant." This week, Kjell will be leading a workshop on this very subject, Embracing Complex Subject Matter, with a group of NYC-based artists and theater-makers who are part of our New Victory LabWorks community. Prior to Museum of Memories coming to the New Vic, Kjell also shared this Explore video with us, in which he discussed his artistic process and some of the early inspirations for the show.

As we plan future seasons, we look forward to more shows that offer similar opportunities for our audiences, of all ages, to connect deeply with the material on stage and off. Museum of Memories runs one more weekend in The Duke on 42nd Street. There will be post-show Talk-Backs and supplemental support materials available at every performance. We hope you'll join us and share some remembrances of your own.
Mary Rose Lloyd   Mary Rose Lloyd is the Director of Artistic Programming at The New Victory Theater, curating each New Victory season as well as the Victory Dance summer series, and overseeing LabWorks, the New Victory's new work development program. A staff member since 1996, Mary spends much of her time traveling to see hundreds of shows each year and to attend conferences and festivals as a frequent speaker, panelist or juror. She has served on the Boards of Directors for both TYA/USA and International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and is the recipient of IPAY's Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award. She is passionate about books, family, friends and, most certainly, the performing arts.
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