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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.

All season long, we've been asking you to tell us where your #LoveOfTheater started; and last week, we shared some of the many wonderful responses we've received via social media. A shared love of theater is what brings us all together at the New Vic, so this week, as 2015 comes to a close, we're turning the mirror around and sharing with you where our #LoveOfTheater started.
 
 
Where did my #LoveOfTheater start? I've wanted to be an actor for as long as I can remember. I started performing when I was seven. I remember even sitting in the dark in the wings of my local theater, listening to what was happening onstage before my entrance, knowing I never felt more at home. — Curt James, New Victory Teaching Artist

My #LoveOfTheater‬ actually started with a production of Robin Hood in 7th grade. I still remember my line, "Robin, you're so clever I could just kiss you," which of course elicited "ewwws" from kids and "awwws" from parents! — Lilaia Kairis, Director of Digital Services
 

My #LoveOfTheater started when I was cast in the coveted role of Women #4 in Les Misérables and befriended all of these crazy/wonderful people! — Lauren Hood, Artistic Programming Assistant


My #LoveOfTheater started in 1989 when I saw The Wizard of Oz at the Carousel Dinner Theatre. The Wicked Witch came flying overhead—surprise!—and Dorothy fell into the orchestra pit! — Zack Ramadan, Digital Content Producer


My #LoveOfTheater started early. I saw South Pacific on Broadway when I was five, and I sang along to every song in my seat. I've been hooked ever since! — Jono Waldman, New Victory Teaching Artist

My #LoveOfTheater started with The Muppet Show. Watching the Muppets struggle to put on their show every week made the joys and challenges of collaborating on a live performance very exciting to me. In middle school I became obsessed with the musical Sweeney Todd. I remember when my music teacher played the record for us in class. The sound of the opening whistle and the creepy music that followed made me want to know more. I went the library to check out the whole album and have loved it ever since. — Kevin Ray, New Victory Teaching Artist

The conductor handing three-year-old me his baton at Cathy Rigby's Peter Pan on Broadway started my #LoveOfTheater. — Lindsay Amer, Fall 2015 Communications Apprentice

I discovered my #LoveOfTheater in 1986. I was six years old, and my mom took me to see the national touring production of Annie. I loved every minute! — Christopher Ritz-Totten, Public Relations Associate

My mom would always take me to the theater—kids shows at arts festivals in the summer, touring productions of Broadway musicals, ballet and modern dance performances. Some of my most vivid memories are of sitting in dark theaters letting my mind wander and my imagination soar. — Patrick Ferreri, New Victory Teaching Artist

My ‪#‎LoveOfTheater‬ started with my Dad. He directed me in my first production of The Wind in the Willows at Knowlton Elementary School. I will never forget rehearsing in the school library and thinking, "This is the best thing ever!" — Renata Melillo Townsend, Education Programs Manager

My #LoveOfTheater started when I went on a school trip to see Sesame Street Live, and I loved the show so much that I called the theater to ask for an audition. I was seven! Surprisingly, I was given an opportunity, but my mom wasn't able to take me. All these years later, I'll never forget that experience. — Janet Onyenucheya, New Victory Teaching Artist

My #LoveOfTheater started when I was five years old. I saw a show where the actors entered through the audience. One of the actors crouched next to my chair and said hello before racing down the aisle and bounding onstage. It was so magical—I love the "liveness" of theater, the community experience. It is still pretty magical to me! — Julia Sirna-Frest, New Victory Teaching Artist

I would say my #LoveOfTheater started when I was five or six years old. We had the double-tape VHS edition of The Sound Of Music, and I would watch it every single day, on loop. I eventually moved on to Mary Poppins. To this day, I know all the lyrics and quips from both (incredibly long) Julie Andrews productions! — Katie Diamond, Graphic & Media Production Coordinator​

My #LoveOfTheater started at age eight in a production of The Wizard of Oz (Goes Improv).  The whole show was improvised, and we learned all the songs by listening to the soundtrack. I played the Tin Man, and I was so serious about it—I learned all of my lyrics. One lyric to the Tin Man's song is "...and awful sentimental regarding love and art." But I had only listened to the words, not read them on paper, so I thought the lyric was "an awful scent of metal regarding love and art." It made sense to me, given that it was about the Tin Man! I belted out that line, holding my nose, and everyone cracked up. I felt really liberated, and I've been doing theater ever since! — Arielle Lever, New Victory Teaching Artist
 
 
  From singing along with classic Broadway musicals to performing in low-tech elementary school productions, our #LoveOfTheater has brought us all together. Here's to 2016—may your love of theater grow and grow!

Our New Victory Teaching Artists are an amazing bunch, and this season we're welcoming seven new Teaching Artists to the ranks! They possess a diverse range of skills, including acting, directing, music, puppetry and dance. Together with their 47 peers, they extend the theatergoing experience by engaging school and public audiences in the art forms and themes we present onstage. 

So who are these new TAs, and how did arts education become their passion? We asked them each to introduce themselves, and to tell us about their experiences so far as part of our Teaching Artist ensemble. We also asked them to share their favorite stories from when they were kids!
 

Jono Waldman

Jono WaldmanMy name is Jono and I'm a musician. I also devise plays and musicals with young people. I became a teaching artist because I love collaborating with kids. They tend to know fewer rules than grownups. Art-making is better with fewer rules!

I have already had some wonderful teaching experiences as a New Vic TA, but honestly my favorite experience has been working with the TA ensemble as a whole. Teaching artist work tends to be solitary.  It's usually just you and the kids. At the New Vic, I get to collaborate with a group of quick-witted, inspiring artists and educators. I truly look forward to every meeting.

When I was a kid, my father would put on orchestral records, and he and I would imagine narratives that followed the movement of the music. My favorites were Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 and Drigo's Enchanted Forest.
 

Julia Sirna-Frest

Julia Sirna-FrestI'm an actor, director and singer and have spent my New York life performing in the downtown theater world, as well as tours to France and Croatia. I also sing and play ukulele in a Dolly Parton cover band called Doll Parts!

I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by the arts and got the chance to perform from an early age. It shaped who I am, so being able to give that opportunity to young people today and help them find their voice is so exciting and moving.

I feel like teaching artists are really teaching pride, empowerment and confidence, and we just happen to be using theater to teach those life lessons. During one of our lessons recently, one of the students exclaimed, "This is a dream come true!" It doesn't get much better than that! 

As a kid, I was obsessed with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Magical lands in a closet? Genius!
 

Janet Onyenucheya
Janet Onyenucheya
My name is Janet Onyenucheya and I am a musician, songwriter, actress and educator. I wanted to become a teaching artist because it was the best way to combine two of my biggest passions—arts and education! I really love my students and they give me so much life and inspiration.

My favorite New Victory Teaching Artist experience has been facilitating the Pedal Punk classroom workshop. The lesson plan is extremely fun, and I always enjoy acting like a clown in the classroom!

My favorite story as a kid was Tar Beach. I appreciated seeing an African-American family cooperate in a thriving community full of unique traditions. The pictures were absolutely beautiful and the story was set in the urban landscape of New York City—my hometown!
 

Patrick Ferreri

Patrick FerreriMy name is Patrick Ferreri and I'm a dancer and an actor. Movement has always been in my life. From potty dances as a toddler to support my early bathroom usage to kitchen tap dances to amuse my family, I have always found moving to be an excellent way to make things happen. My explorations of movement as an adult have led me into more and more subtle arenas, thus the progression into acting. 

My mother is a teacher and it has always been her dream job. As a little guy, I grew up witnessing firsthand the passion and dedication that she brought to the art of teaching, as well as the fulfillment she received in return. I was hooked. As a professional dancer just out of college with lots of ideas and decreasing avenues to explore them, I thought back to how influential the arts were to me as a kiddo and decided that education was the best way to build new avenues of empowerment and opportunity. 

So far, my favorite Teaching Artist experiences have been around A Midsummer Night's Dream: watching the faces light up in a class of fifth graders as they connected the dots between the Shakespeare they were reading, the opera they had just seen and the movie they had watched in class. Seeing them piece together something that had at first seemed overwhelming and inaccessible to them was exhilarating and reminded me of why I keep teaching.

I always loved old family stories. Stories of what my mom was like before she was my mom. Stories of her living in New York working with tenants' rights organizations and first starting to teach in Newark. Stories of my grandmother as a little girl born and raised in Philadelphia escaping to her grandmother' farm in Virginia and running around barefoot, climbing trees and chasing after chickens. Stories that made the world bigger and full of adventure. 
 

Arielle Lever

Arielle LeverI'm Arielle Lever. I identify as an actor and deviser (a deviser is someone who creates original theater from a collaborative process instead of being given a pre-written script). While I definitely still do the traditional acting "thing," my favorite projects are based in devised theater. I love collaboration and working with a group of people to make something new. I also find that, when I'm devising work, I learn so much from the others I work with.

There was a program in my school that allowed drama students to teach and work with individuals in the community with developmental disabilities. The funny thing was that I ended up learning the most from them. This opened my eyes to new ways of interacting with theater—as an educational tool, a form of outreach and a true exchange of ideas.

My favorite experiences so far have definitely been with the Lexington School for the Deaf. It is rare to be in a community that is so supported and supportive. All of the teachers and students treated each other with dignity, care and respect. I rely so heavily on language in my life, but I've learned that oftentimes it's just white noise. It was so amazing to get to the core of communication, either by simplifying language to what I really needed to say or to not use words at all.

As a kid, I loved the story of The Giving Tree.  I actually read an excerpt from it at my college graduation!
 

Curt James

Curt JamesI'm Curt James, and I trained as a classical actor in London, learning Shakespeare, Chekov, Greek theater, corporeal mime, neutral and character mask as well as pure voice and movement. I have been working as an actor ever since and have also dabbled in bunraku puppetry.

I love teaching and believe that as a theater practitioner I have a responsibility to help educate and shape the audiences of tomorrow. I fundamentally believe that theater is valid and necessary and that it should be accessible and enjoyed by everyone. Being a teaching artist helps me stay in touch with what ignites communities and theatergoers of today and tomorrow. So far, my favorite experience has been getting to know my fellow teaching artists as we learn together.

I love stories about epic journeys and finding your way home. My favorite story as a kid was Corduroy. It's about a toy bear who lives in a department store and catches the eye of a little girl. Her mother notices that Corduroy is missing a button and refuses to buy him, so after the store closes, he gets down from his shelf and wanders the store in search his button—an overnight adventure!
 

Kevin Ray

Kevin RayI'm Kevin Ray. I'm a theater artist with experience in acting, processional puppetry and directing.

I participated in an arts-in-education training program through The Actors Fund and started working as a teaching artist shortly thereafter. I was excited about using art as a medium for teaching a variety of subject matters and engaging young people in learning. Recently, as part of a post-show workshop for The Gruffalo, I had a fantastic time working with first grade students creating original monsters!

As a kid, my favorite story was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I liked it because the film combined so many different genres. It was a musical, a romance and a horror story all at the same time. As an artist, I'm interested in the ways that styles, genres, and forms can be used to deepen content.
 
 
Play icon      Our newest New Victory Teaching Artists are all looking forward to meeting you! Keep an eye out for them throughout the year at Family Workshops, pre-show Arts Express events and post-show Talk-Backs and TXT Marks the Spot events. Say hi, and surprise them with a shout-out to their favorite childhood stories!
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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