As we celebrate The New Victory's twentieth birthday this season, we're highlighting some of the families who have been a part of our greater New Vic family for many years. For these parents and kids, seeing theatrical performances at the New Vic has become a tradition, and over the years they’ve shared their love of theater with their extended family and friends.
This week, we turn the spotlight on Sasha Grunberg and her parents, Frank Grunberg and Patty Enright, who have been attending shows here since the late 1990s. Sasha is now twenty years old, a college student, and she’s a New Vic kid through and through.
"The earliest memories I have of The New Victory are my birthday parties," Sasha tells us. "New Vic-wide, I'm known as Birthday Party Sasha." Indeed, Sasha celebrated her January birthday here on multiple occasions, inviting dozens of family members and friends to see a New Victory show—often a holiday circus spectacle. "Because we were here so much, New Vic staff kind of became part of the family, and that's made it so much more special."
|These birthday party invitations, designed by Sasha's dad, Frank Grunberg, incorporated the artwork for the shows that friends and family would get to see before the party: Circus Oz (2004), Aga-Boom (2005) and New Shanghai Circus (2007).
Sasha's earliest memory of seeing a theatrical performance predates her birthday parties at the New Vic. It was The Wizard of Oz
when she was only three years old. "I remember going in the little Dorothy dress with the little ruby slippers. And I remember being so enthralled by these characters that I once saw in a movie or in a book put on a stage. I think that's a great experience for anyone to see, no matter what age."
Sasha's love of theater only grew from there, and her exposure to the performing arts as a kid has had a definitive impact on her. Describing the New Vic as a gateway to stage experience, Sasha credits her personal involvement in middle and high school theater with teaching her lifelong skills in organization, time management and artistic collaboration. "Coming to the New Vic sparked my interest in theater, which ultimately made me a more confident person."
|Patty lights the candles at Sasha's 7th birthday party, here at the New Vic in 2002. Photo: Frank Grunberg
Even before Sasha was old enough to attend shows here, Patty and Frank got involved with The New Victory. Before the theater opened in 1995, they recall receiving a letter in the mail asking whether they'd be interested in supporting high-quality theater for young audiences. Their donation twenty years ago resulted in an ongoing relationship, and they've since joined us for over fifty performances.
"We look forward to helping to support The New Victory's continued good work," says Patty, for whom providing access to affordable, quality programming is an important, personal goal. "My parents made culture a real issue. They exposed me and my siblings to a variety of music, dance, theater and art. I enjoyed every chance I got to be a part of the cultural scene." One of Patty’s favorite memories is of bringing her parents to The New Victory alongside Sasha, expanding their family theatergoing tradition across three generations. They always aimed for Sunday matinees with a family meal afterwards, using theater "as the foundation for time together as a family."
Sasha echoes this sentiment. When she was younger, her parents both had very busy work schedules. "So a show at the New Vic, for us," she explains, "was always a time that the three of us could be together, do something together as a family and all get something out of it." The familial experience extended to friends and neighbors, too. Sasha fondly recalls an elderly neighbor who attended one of her birthday parties that featured a chair-stacking Chinese circus act. The two of them joked for years afterward about how many chairs they themselves could stack. "How many chairs are you up to? I'm on 12!"
Being able to inspire kids like Sasha is why we do what we do at The New Victory, and Sasha recognizes this herself. This past summer she attended Victory Dance, and she saw her own childhood experience reflected in the awestruck faces of kids in the audience. "You never know where that spark is, and you don't know where that kid is sitting in the house. Someone could have the same experience as me, and pick up on something and say, 'Oh, I really loved the Martha Graham performance. I want to do ballet.' Or, 'I loved the sound the tap dancing shoes made. Let me try that.' That's important for kids!"
Where did your #LoveOfTheater
start? Let us know on Twitter @newvictory
, or snap a selfie for Instagram and tag us @newvictorytheater
the next time you're here!