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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.
September 21, 2015

What's in a Genre?

Artistic Range in Our 2015-16 Season


Written by Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming and Olga Putilina, Artistic Programming Associate

Every season has its own sense of magic, and 2015-16 is particularly exciting for us. The New Victory Theater’s 20th anniversary season, which we’ve been planning for quite some time, becomes a reality this fall. To celebrate our 20th birthday, we’re honoring artists who have been part of our journey over the years. Each show this season is from a company that has been here in a past season and is now returning, either with the production we’ve previously presented or with a brand new show that will make its New Vic debut.

In the past two decades of bringing award-winning theater to the kids and families of New York City, the companies and artists we’ve presented on our stage have expanded our understanding of what performing arts for young audiences can be. Our seasons—and this one is no exception—are programmed to include shows that appeal to an array of age ranges and feature a variety of genres such as theater, puppetry, circus, dance and music. So, as we say cheers to 20 years, we want to take a moment to honor the diverse genres you’ll see in our 2015-16 season.

Artful Adaptations
Seeing a familiar tale brought to life on stage really resonates in the hearts of viewers who might already be on a first-name basis with the characters from many a bedtime story. Bringing a work from the page to the stage is also a special kind of collaboration with the book’s author, as layers are added to the story in the form of theatrical stagecraft, including the playwright’s translation of the book to theatrical form, the director’s interpretation of the text and the various design elements.

Tall Stories’ THE GRUFFALO, a show best for ages 4–7, is based on the beloved picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Since our last presentation of the show back in 2004, audiences have been pining for the Grr-Grr-Gruffalo and the courageous Mouse. The stage adaptation is true to the original story and is charmingly brought to life through physical theater, music and interactive storytelling.

Unicorn Theatre’s THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, for everyone ages 6+, exemplifies the kind of smart, sophisticated theater-making that we aim to bring to our audiences. Though the story centers on a rabbit, there is nary a fuzzy bunny costume in sight. THE VELVETEEN RABBIT comes to life through subtle acting and creative direction on a breathtaking set that’s full of surprises.

Adventure Theatre MTC’s CAPS FOR SALE THE MUSICAL, also a show best for ages 4–7, is an ingeniously adapted fusion of Esphyr Slobodkina’s acclaimed children’s books: Caps for Sale, Circus Caps for Sale and More Caps for Sale: Another Tale of Mischievous Monkeys, set to be published this year. Bright, fun and with a set that recalls Slobodkina’s inventive collaged illustrations, the books take on new life through original music, featuring big numbers and a Broadway feel.

Imaginative Puppetry
Perhaps we're so enamored with puppetry at the New Vic because, as puppeteer Marsian De Lellis notes in a recent article, puppetry allows people to "witness the artist...oozing raw creativity into a universe they have made with their own hands." Our 2015-16 season offers several opportunities to experience this enchanting genre in one of its myriad forms.

Little Angel Theatre’s HANDA'S SURPRISE (which is also an adaptation of a picture book of the same name by Eileen Brown), best for ages 6 months–4 years, uses puppetry as a way to transport our youngest theatergoers to a sunny day in a Kenyan village. Various animals from the original story are imbued with life as innovative hand puppets, allowing them to have one-on-one interactions with audience members, seated in a circle on the floor around the performers.

Théâtre de l'Œil's THE STAR KEEPER, for everyone ages 6+, visually tells the story of Pretzel, a charming worm with a mission to cross a house of dreams, a spider web and the ocean in his efforts to return a fallen star to the night sky. The company's use of a mix of puppetry styles—shadow puppets, marionettes, bunraku and flat puppets in a specially-constructed black box puppet theater set—lends the production an otherworldly and poetic feel. Pretzel encounters a multitude of offbeat and whimsical characters along the way, including the Bubble Charmer, Maggie Mischief and Cedrick the Centaur, all of whom are made more vivid through the use of puppetry, which as this production attests, offers limitless possibilities to build beguiling worlds.

Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company’s THE PIED PIPER, for everyone ages 7+, is a visual spectacle which tells the Brothers Grimm story of the Pied Piper with the help of the company’s signature intricately and elaborately constructed marionettes. Marionette puppetry, with its carefully controlled strings that must be manipulated just so, is the perfect medium to relay the saga of the town of Hamelin, which loses control when the mayor neglects to pay a mysterious stranger his dues for ridding the town of rats.

Le Clan Des Songes’ CITÉ, best for ages 3–5, uses shadow puppetry, one of the styles seen in THE STAR KEEPER, to wordlessly tell the story of a man on a sun-chasing adventure through a cityscape. Though the chosen art form used to tell the story might be familiar, the resulting show is strikingly unique. Shapes and colors are central to this playful piece, the inspiration for which came from the contemporary art of painter Evsa Model.

Incomparable CircusCircus exposes us to the boundaries of human limitations, defying our expectations and delighting us with the idea that anything is possible. The art form has come a long way since the days of animal circuses under a big striped tent. The two circuses in our 2015-16 are as different as can be from one another, yet they both exemplify the skill, artistry, and innovation of this awe-inspiring genre.

Cirque Mechanics’ PEDAL PUNK, for everyone ages 5+, offers an irresistible steampunk aesthetic that one wouldn’t normally think to connect with circus. There is no one on the circus scene quite like Cirque Mechanics, whose creative director, Chris Lashua, dreams up cool gadgets and then uses them as a springboard to create new shows. In this case, a Rube Goldberg-style mechanical marvel called “the gantry”—a 20-foot high pedal-powered set—serves as the production’s centerpiece. The show’s other elements, including the costumes, lighting and staging, also evoke the feeling of a vibrant technological fantasy world in which anything can happen.

BELLO MANIA, also for everyone ages 5+, returns for its third New Vic installment, this time with even more mania! We’re proud to be the New York home of daredevil and audience favorite Bello Nock, who creates and performs jaw-dropping stunts while managing to maintain his signature up-do. This production features his distinct brand of humor, signature acts (hello, sway pole!), a new cast of characters and an infusion of stage magic never seen in any of Bello’s previous shows.

Compelling Dance
Dance pioneer Isadora Duncan once said, “A dancer…can give to the people something that they can carry with them forever. They can never forget it, and it has changed them, though they may never know it.” Dance offers infinite possibilities for artistic expression. The dance productions in our 2015-16 season include cultural celebration, percussive dance and storytelling through dance.

Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba’s CUBA VIBRA!, for everyone ages 6+, is a vibrant cultural spectacle that is representative of the global scope of our programming. We’ve presented works from dozens of countries over the past twenty years, and delight in being able to honor different cultures on our stage. In light of the recent warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, we're thrilled to bring Cuba’s singular cultural flair back to the New Victory stage, as expressed through Afro-Cuban big band music and a medley of dance styles from the region, including rumba, cha-cha and salsa.

UNTAPPED!, for everyone ages 7+, is an upbeat dance production which blends different styles of footwork to uproarious effect. The company’s unexpected pairings of tap and other percussive dance styles with hip hop, rock and jazz music creates an infectious atmosphere and a show that’s just plain fun.

The Pasadena Playhouse & Crossroads Theatre Company’s FLY, for everyone ages 10+, is a theatrical piece; but it beautifully incorporates a contrasting use of tap dance, along with the actors, to tell the historically vital story of the Tuskegee Airmen. The show features a Tap Griot, a character who appears throughout the production and adds emotional weight to the story’s unfolding events through dance. 

Innovative Theater
Rounding out our 20th anniversary season are four theatrical productions which offer a world of variation in their approach to theater-making. First up in our season is Seattle Children’s Theater’s ROBIN HOOD, for everyone ages 7+, which tells the tale of the legendary hero, employing virtuosic fight choreography, humor, physical theater and featuring just four performers taking on every role. 

Isango Ensemble’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, for everyone ages 9+, is a vibrant spectacle which integrates South African culture and instrumentation into its take on Benjamin Britten’s original opera. 

Catherine Wheels Theatre Company’s WHITE, best for ages 2-5 years, is an innovative and charming piece of theater for our youngest audience members which, following its presentation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a few years back, had flocks of adults clamoring for tickets too. 

NIE Theatre’s MUSEUM OF MEMORIES, for everyone ages 13+, tells a beautiful and emotional story about a young man who took his own life yet lives on in the memories of others. After the performance, audiences are encouraged to explore the production’s set—an actual museum containing elements and mementos reminiscent of life.
 

We hope to see you again and again over the course of the 2015-16 New Victory Theater season to experience all of the cool shows in each of these unique genres. We’ll be there (possibly wearing birthday hats for the New Vic’s 20th year), cheering and clapping along in amazement at the boundless artistic expression of the artists and companies who join us for this most special season.
 
   
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.
  
Olga Putilina    Olga Putilina is the Artistic Programming Associate at The New Victory Theater, where she gets to live in the future by helping to plan New Victory seasons and Victory Dance. Olga holds an MSEd in Educational Theater from City College. She also once held a three-toed sloth, but that's entirely different.
New Victory Teaching Artist Spica Wobbe at a Puppetry Kids Week
This week is National Arts in Education Week, a week devoted to promoting the value of the arts—dance, music, theater, literature, design and visual arts—as core academic subjects in schools. At The New Victory, we believe that the performing arts have the power to spark young imaginations and give kids the tools for learning in all disciplines. As the largest provider of live performance to NYC schools and after-school programs, we partner with more than 160 schools and serve over 40,000 students each year. Our New Victory Education Partner schools enjoy $2 student tickets, free classroom workshops, and online resource guides and professional development for educators interested in incorporating the arts into their lesson plans.

We also provide opportunities for kids and their families to explore the performing arts by learning new art skills inspired by the performances they see on the New Victory stage. These public engagement activities—from at-home Family Activities and pre-show lobby activities to Family Workshops and Kids Weeks—enhance kids' experiences as both audience members and future patrons of the arts. And, of course, they have lots of fun!New Victory Teaching Artist Liz Bolick at a pre-show Arts Express

In honor of National Arts in Education Week, we wanted to share some thoughts and stories from our New Victory Teaching Artists—our "boots on the ground," as it were. This ensemble of 55 arts educators possesses a diverse range of skills, including acting, playwriting, music, puppetry, hip hop, street theater, circus arts and contemporary dance. Together they develop comprehensive explorations of the art forms and themes presented onstage. Our Teaching Artists work in classrooms as part of the Education Partnership Program, and they also lead many of our Public Engagement programs. If you've ever come early or stayed late at the New Vic to participate in a fun activity, you've probably met at least one of them.

So, why do our TAs do what they do? We asked what inspires them and what kind of impact they believe they have. Here are some of our favorite answers.

How do you share your art forms with students and families?

"My circus, clowning and physical comedy skills create excitement, fun and lots of laughter.  Kids are fascinated by my antics and tricks and want to play! They want to experience the skills they have seen in the theater, so I perform and demonstrate these skills up close and help them get hands-on experience."

"My primary art form is movement theater, though I work professionally in acting, directing, design and dance. I get to share this work with students and families through workshops, public performances and edu-taining at special events. There is nothing greater for me than watching a family learn, explore, and laugh through the arts."

Teaching Artist WT McRae at a Circus Kids Week; Teaching Artist Drew Petersen and Education Staffer Renata Melillo Townsend at a Theater Kids Week

What does your engagement with students and families add to their theatergoing experiences? Why is it important?

"Teaching young people and their families art form-based lessons offers them a frame of empathy for the work the performers are doing. We often hear families say, 'I had no idea how challenging this is!' I think this makes them feel more connected to the person they will be watching onstage." 

"Too many kids in too many schools are having their arts programs cut. Many kids learn more physically—they need to move and play. Music, circus, dance, theater and puppetry—all art forms—help reach students in different and deeper ways."

"Hands-on experience with the form gives students and families permission and the necessary language to confidently share their opinions. For instance, 'I loved that show, because they used this artistic principle we were learning about,' or, 'I am glad I saw it, but it wasn't for me because...' That discourse is important."

"Artistry needs to be passed down to younger generations. Allowing kids to experience live theater and to meet living, breathing artists shows them the possibilities that exist to become artists themselves." 

TA Josh Matthews at a pre-show Arts Express; TA Skyler Sullivan at the Family Benefit

What's your favorite memory of a kid you've taught?

"We were in a 2nd grade classroom facilitating a workshop in which kids played with marionettes and acted out fairytales. One kid exuberantly raised his hand and asked if the three little pigs would be in the show. We explained that the show was the story of Sleeping Beauty and that there were no pigs. Insistent, the kid told us that he had a pig puppet at home and would be happy to lend it out to Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company for their show." 

"In the middle of a workshop for The Light Princess last year, one little boy grabbed my arm during the first activity and said 'This is really fun!'  A few minutes later we were telling secrets when he told me 'people think I'm really smart…but I just listen.'"

"One very withdrawn 3rd grade boy almost never spoke. He barely looked anyone in the eye, and some of his teachers considered him a "trouble-maker" for being so distant. For a classroom performance, he chose to do a gymnastic streamer solo.  When I asked him what music he would like, he asked for rock 'n' roll. He choreographed and performed a totally amazing piece to a song by The Rolling Stones, which made the audience go wild. He focused, worked really hard on his steps and did a spectacular job. It was stunning and incredibly brave."
Teaching Artists Margot Fitzsimmons and Shelah Marie leading classroom workshops at an Education Partner school
Contributions from WT McRae, Liz Bolick and Renata Melillo Townsend
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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