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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.
October 19, 2016

The 5 Explorers of Mr. Popper's Penguins


It seems like every single inch of the world North to South to East to West has been explored, but just a little while ago, that wasn’t the case. In our second show of the season, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Mr. Popper dreams of being a global explorer of great renown, but instead he’s a house painter. While painting houses, he has elaborate fantasies of exploring the entire world, from the wild forests to the frozen polar icecaps. 

Do some of the names mentioned in Mr. Popper’s sound familiar? The show includes references to real life explorers! We dive in here to find out more about Mr. Popper's heroes! 

Captain James Cook  
Captain James Cook

"Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go."

Who is he in the show?
Captain James Cook is the namesake of the star of our show, the penguin Captain Cook! The penguin is given to the Poppers by Admiral Drake and soon makes a large splash in their quiet life. 

Who was he in reality?
The Captain (1728-1779) was once at the forefront of British cartography and seafaring navigation. Before he felt the pull of the sea, he was born the son of a farmhand. After educating himself during apprenticeships at sea, he climbed through the ranks of the Royal Navy. After extensively charting the coast of Newfoundland in maps still used 200 years later, he voyaged to the Pacific Ocean three separate times. There he became the first European to make contact with Australia's Eastern coastline and the Hawaiian Islands. On top of that, he was the first individual to circumnavigate New Zealand!
 



Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake

"There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory."

Who is he in the show? 
Sir Francis Drake inspired the name of Admiral Drake! He jump starts the action of Mr. Popper's Penguins by delivering the penguin, Captain Cook, to the Poppers!

Who was he in reality?
Knight, pirate, slaver and captain have all been monikers to describe Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596). Though not entirely an honorable man, he greatly contributed to the navigation and even politics of his time. He first started his career at sea as one of England's earliest slavers. Spain had outlawed selling slaves to settlers in Mexico and as a result his vessel and crew were destroyed by the Spanish while at port off the coast. After this, he developed a lifelong hatred of the Spanish and became a pirate, attacking their ships. Queen Elizabeth II legitimized him with a knighthood for becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He finally found vengeance against the Spanish in 1588, when he served as second-in-command while the British destroyed the Spanish Armada.
 



Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart

"Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

Who is she in the show?
Earhart and the following two explorers, Scott and Shackelton, only have short cameos in Mr. Popper's Penguins. However, it doesn't make their lives any less fascinating! When Captain Cook is sick in the show, Earhart, Scott and Shackleton reach out on the radio, trying to help him. 

Who was she in reality?
You've probably heard of Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) because she disappeared while on her mission to fly around the globe. However, she's so much more than that! She was born in Kansas to a mother who didn't believe in raising "nice little girls." In fact, she grew up wearing pants instead of dresses, to the disapproval of her maternal grandmother. Though she first pursued a degree in medicine, she eventually felt a pull toward the sky and started taking flying lessons at the age of 24. She then became the first woman to fly nonstop across the Atlantic and the first person to fly from Hawaii to California. However, on her second attempt to circumnavigate the globe, she lost radio contact and it is assumed that she was lost at sea.
 



Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Robert Falcon Scott

"We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last."

Who is he in the show?
Scott briefly appears as he, Earhart and Shackleton try to help Captain Cook by madaying for help on their radios. 

Who was he in reality?
Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) was another famed Royal Navy commander! The British Scott led two expeditions to the Antarctic region, the Discovery Expedition and the doomed Terra Nova Expedition. He was the first man to discover the Polar Plateau, on which the South Pole is located, while setting the record (at the time) of traveling South to latitude 82°S. He became a national hero, had a successful career in the Navy and began a lifelong feud with the next explorer on our list, Sir Earnest Shackleton. On the second journey, his party discovered plant fossils, proving that Antarctica was once forrested and connected to other continents. While travelling back from the second expedition, a failed meet-up led Scott and his fellow companions to die from a combination of exhaustion, exposure and starvation. 
 



Sir Earnest Shackleton
Sir Earnest Shackleton

"Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all."

Who is he in the show?
He tries to help Captain Cook by radioing for assistance, along with Scott and Earhart. 

Who was he in reality?
Along with his rival, Captain Scott, Sir Earnest Shackleton (1874-1922) participated in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. In fact, he ended this age with his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the successful crossing of Antarctica. First born in Ireland, he moved to London with his family at the age of 10. His first Antarctic experience was traveling with Captain Scott, during his Discovery Expedition. Though he failed to reach the South Pole on his second expedition, his team reached the furthest point South at the time at 88°S, only 97 miles from the Pole. On this mission, his team also climbed Mount Erebus, Antarctica's most active volcano. He was knighted by King Edward VII once he returned home. Though he was largely forgotten soon after he died, he was 'rediscovered' in the 20th century thanks to the book Endurance and numerous movies! Now, he is renowned for his leadership skills during his dangerous, yet casualty-free Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 
 



 
New Victory Thumb Get your Mr. Popper's Penguins tickets to imagine the different ways you can become an explorer! 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
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