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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.

Flo Wolston stands out for her glamour and poise, but behind the perfectly done makeup, she is a veritable treasure trove of New York City history. During the 1930s, she saw the rise and inevitable fall of Minsky's Republic. Does that name sounds familiar? Before it became The New Victory Theater, the theater had many names.

In the 1930s, Billy Minsky opened Broadway's first burlesque club, naming our beloved theater Minsky's Republic. The theater facade featured a bold checkerboard pattern with the faces of Minsky's biggest stars, including Gypsy Rose Lee. Inside, black-tie attire was strictly required. Doormen were dressed as French cavalrymen, and the female ushers wore French maid costumes and squirted perfume on patrons as they entered. And famously, down the center of the orchestra, was a double runway that put Minksy's showgirls, including Ms. Wolston, as close to the patrons as possible. 

As she celebrates her 100th birthday on Friday, August 25, we look back with her to a time of a jazz-filled Midtown, after-hours clubs with Liberace, and the perfect corned beef sandwich on rye. Start up a playlist of days long gone and wish Flo a happy birthday with us, here at The New Victory Theater!

Flo on the Marquee!
 
Flo in her 20s
What is the biggest way New York has changed since your time as a Minsky's dancer?
There are less delis, no booking agents and too many big syndicates to count. TV has really changed live entertainment. For instance, there used to be a bunch of small jazz clubs on 52nd St. Now, you can only find large venues in Midtown. 

What was your favorite song to perform to? 
My favorite artist back then was Robert Alda, and I always looked forward to dancing to "Stairway To The Stars" and "Stay In My Arms Cinderella." 

Was 42nd Street as crowded and busy in the 1930s as it is today?
Yes, 42nd St was always this busy. It hasn't changed. I love seeing the theater still in use!

How did the Great Depression affect Minsky's Republic?
The Great Depression didn't affect Minsky's at all. Back then, tickets were only 35 cents, 50 cents and $1.

Minsky's BurlesqueDid you ever meet any celebrities?
I didn't meet any celebrities at Minksy's. But after it closed I worked with Jackie Gleason at La Conga and met actor Ray Milland and his wife. At the after-hours club Spivey's Roof, I became friends with Liberace who you could find playing the piano there most nights. 

Where are you from? What did your family say when you moved here and started performing at Minsky's?
I was born in Philly and moved to NYC when I was four-years-old. I earned $50 a week (about $900 today), so my family didn't mind that I worked at Minksy's at all. In fact, my dad would stop backstage to visit me, and my uncle would even catch a show from time to time. 

What was your favorite place to eat while you worked on 42nd Street? Is it still there?
My favorite place to eat was at the Stage Door Deli on 47th Street near the Gaiety Theater. It's no longer there, but I always used to get a corned beef sandwich with mustard on rye.

What was your audience like? 
Audience members at that time were mostly men. People assume that the audience was wild but, in fact, you couldn't be rowdy or you'd be thrown out immediately. It was all very well controlled. 

Flo WolstonHow was the experience of attending a show different in the 30s compared to today?
Well, the prices today are ridiculous. Also, I miss seeing tap dancing and toe dancing (pointe). You don't see that in most shows anymore. 

What was your reaction to Mayor LaGuardia shutting down Minsky's? Do you think it was the right call?
I was in disbelief when Mayor LaGuardia shut down Minsky's. Absolutely devastated. It took away a steady paycheck, which was not a good time for us performers. Looking at all of the risque entertainment that exists today, I can honestly say it never should have closed.

Tell us about your favorite costume! 
I didn't have a favorite costume. We just wore sparkly underwear!
 
 
The New Victory Theater Discover more about the history of The New Victory Theater here!

 

Posted by Beth Henderson

Creativity SeminarWe at the New Vic believe in working closely with New York school teachers to cultivate their skills so they can bring the performing arts to their classrooms. New Victory Teaching Artists and Education staff provide multiple opportunities, like Creativity Seminars every summer, for educators to grow professionally through all types of art forms, including puppetry, circus, dance and theater.

Participants engage through art making, skill building and reflecting and discussing the practical strategies of art form-based teaching and learning. The ultimate goal of Creativity Seminars is to build a bridge between artistic experiences and academic curriculum.

This summer, over fifty teachers and education professionals took part in two Creativity Seminars—Theatrical Play in the Classroom and Puppetry in the Classroom. Check out what participants learned!

"I was very nervous coming into this course, as I've always been afraid of performing in front of any audience. At the same time, I know just how valuable theatrical play is for teaching all kinds of learners. With this in mind, I wanted to take this course in order to learn how to overcome my own fear of performing in front of others in order to better teach my own students.

This course has completely blown me away. I have never felt so comfortable performing with and for others. One of the most important aspects of this course was that the instructors created a safe and respectful environment where I felt free to be silly and play with my optimistic and positive colleagues.

I will never forget when Carolyn, the Teaching Artist, encouraged us to cheer for anyone who made an error. It completely changed the class' reaction to making mistakes, because all of the potential embarrassment that comes with making a mistake disappeared.

I had an absolute blast taking this course and can't wait to incorporate all that I have learned within my own classroom!" — Sarah

Puppetry

"We explored creative methods that could easily be brought to the classroom and adapted to many classes. Our instructors' enthusiasm was contagious. The bold and confident way they presented ideas and exercises helped to dispell any awkwardness that could ensue. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and have learned so much. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and showed me I could be bolder as well." — Miao

"This was truly a fun, hands-on and engaging course. I learned new skills that I would definitely use in my classroom. Gaining new knowledge to bring to our students couldn't have been done without our amazing teaching artists. I learned so much and I feel extremely prepared to pass it on this school year. Thank you for making this the best summer ever!" — Darlene

Theatrical Play

"This seminar made performing really fun and non-intimidating. I went into the workshop really anxious about having to act in front of people. Usually, I don't like attention, but the Teaching Artists made me feel safe to take risks. I feel like I've discovered another side of my personality." —Meisi

"​As someone who has no background in any kind of theater, having the opportunity to work professional artists was beyond measure." —Susan

"I can't wait to apply what I learned in the workshop to my classroom! These lessons will teach my students collaborative skills and critical thinking strategies, as well as self respect and confidence." — Monique

 
 
The New Victory Theater Interested in learning more about our Professional Development Programs? Check out our resources here

 

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