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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.

New Victory LabWorks was launched in 2012 to bolster the landscape of theater for young audiences created in the United States. We envisioned nurturing the creation of new work by providing New York City-based artists with dedicated rehearsal space in our New 42nd Street Studios and dramaturgical guidance, and then watching the companies soar. We hoped that one day works developed in the LabWorks program would return home and land in a New Victory Theater season. Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom, aka the Acrobuffos, were LabWorks artists in 2014-15. Since then, the Acrobuffos and their beautiful airborne spectacle have, indeed, soared, bringing Air Play to audiences across the U.S. and around the world. We couldn't be more pleased that Air Play is the first show developed as part of New Victory LabWorks to be programmed for The New Victory stage, and we can't wait to see how the other exciting projects developed in LabWorks take off. 

Olga Putilina
Artistic Programming Associate
 

We were standing on the huge stage of the Palace Theatre in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Seth and I had just turned on our circle of twelve fans and thrown in a single red umbrella when it flew beyond our reach, then kept flying, up, up and further up, far over the theater lights hanging at 50 feet.

 

Big Balloons     Photo: Florence Montmare
"Uh-oh," said Seth, "We need to call The New Victory Theater. This is a problem."

We knew our props would fly, we just didn't know quite how high. We had been working for months with Daniel Wurtzel, an air sculptor from Brooklyn, who had invented breathtakingly beautiful art out of a ring of fans with fabric swirling above it. He's a big deal—his sculptures are installed in museums all over the world. Check him out here. With Daniel, we were busy making new sculptures unique for the show we were building—a collaboration between him, a kinetic sculptor, and us, the clowns. (Yes, really, we're professional non-verbal, world-traveling clowns, even though we don't wear makeup.)

The problem was that we were soon supposed to begin three weeks of rehearsal as part of New Victory LabWorks, a program that fosters the creation of new work for young and family audiences. The rehearsal space had an 18-foot ceiling. Our umbrellas were dilly-dallying without a care in the world at 55 feet. Oops.

We called the New Vic. "We're so sorry," said Seth, "The show got too big." We kept saying "the show" because at this point, we still didn't have a title. Plus, we still weren't sure just what "the show" was going to be… other than big. Really big.

"We won't fit in your space, even though it's such a generous opportunity. Please give our spot to another artist. We'll have to find somewhere else to rehearse."

Now, what you must understand is, The New Victory is not a place you just turn down. You have to be crazy to not accept help from a theater with such a rich history of bringing modern circus and innovative family theater to the heart of Times Square. Crazy… or just too big. Our "little" show had grown into a giant cyclone on stage with a will of its own. To our horror, it wasn't just the umbrellas soaring above our height limit. Our long fabrics wafted up and got stuck in the lights, our balloons drifted past the curtains and our packing peanuts decided to live up in the rafters. Our favorite large prop, a billowy, gentle piece of fabric, inflated into a massive white monster. (We now call it "Moby." Literar-ily.)

 

Christina, Seth and Moby Christina, Seth and Moby in rehearsal

"Send me a video," Jonathan, the New Vic's then-Assistant Director of Artistic Programming, said, and we did. "Oh," he said, "That IS big." We sat in silence for a moment, not sure what to say. Before we could apologize, he said, "Give me a week, let me see what we can do."

We kept working. We figured out how to tame our fabrics (except for Moby, he's still a bit feral), we invented a system to control every fan wirelessly, we searched for advanced theater computer programs to handle the cues we needed, we rewrote our comedy, we special-ordered balloons from Italy, we borrowed some temporary costumes, the stagehands made us a template ground cloth to measure our fans and we took as many pictures and videos as we could. It was a big week.

At the end of the week, Jonathan got back to us. "Good news," he said. "We are able to move you into The New Victory Theater to rehearse." We looked at each other. Did he just say…? "We have a week before The New Victory Theater season starts when you could work with our stage crew. Plus, you can bring in your lighting designer." Due to the unexpected scale of our show, we were the first, and so far only, LabWorks artists to be able to experiment outside the New 42nd Street Studios and on the New Vic's historic stage.
 

 

Snow     Photo: Florence Montmare
This happened in 2014. After that, the team working on our show kept having big career milestones. Daniel Wurtzel's air sculptures really took off—he was featured at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, in Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna, on Broadway's Finding Neverland and now he regularly works with directors like Julie Taymor, Robert Lepage and Diane Paulus. West Hyler, our director, has, since then, directed for Cirque du Soleil's Paramour, Big Apple Circus, won prestigious awards and has even written, directed and produced his own show, Georama. Our lighting designer, Jeanne Koenig, was installing The Lion King all over the world. And Seth and I? We were still performing internationally with our show Waterbombs! The whole time, we all kept diving back into rehearsal, finagling our calendars, and working on "the show," which found its name that fateful week in Cleveland—Air Play.

It was nice to have a title, but the road wasn't over. We kept rehearsing at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, our first rehearsal "home." We were lucky enough to get another big theater, Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to give us space. Cleveland's Playhouse Square (a connection made for us by Mary Rose Lloyd, the New Vic's Director of Artistic Programming) gave us another grant, and gave Air Play its public premiere in October of 2015.

Since then, Air Play has flown us all over the world, literally. We've performed on five continents, including an opera house surrounded by active volcanoes in Chile, across the river from Big Ben in London, with cockatoos and giant fruit bats flying right outside the theater door in Australia and having tickets scalped for our sold-out show in Shanghai. 

Seth and ChristinaAnd now, a few years later, we're back at The New Victory Theater, performing Air Play at home in New York City for the first time. Put on your seatbelts, it's gonna be a wild ride.

P.S. Please don't feed Moby.

Christina Gelsone works with her husband, Seth Bloom, as the Acrobuffos. Since becoming clown partners in 2006, they have created five shows together, competed in international circus festivals, performed in over 20 countries, juggled on Late Show with David Letterman, headlined at the Big Apple Circus, and were featured in The New York Times. Their websites are airplayshow.com and acrobuffos.com.
 
Posted by Beth Henderson


Though they first met at the National Centre for Circus Arts, the friendship between the creators of Barely Methodical Troupe's Bromance has taken them far beyond the bounds of academia. 

Louis and Charlie first laid eyes on each other during school auditions in 2010. Charlie reminisces, "I still remember Louis' solo piece about the evolution of man—surprisingly conceptual, I thought, for a big guy that does parkour for a circus audition."

 

Charlie Wheeller Charlie Wheeller in the Cyr wheel Photo: Chris Nash
After they were both accepted, Beren joined the team. As soon as Charlie saw him fly, he realized that Beren was a "magical dude." Charlie immediately wanted to train with him. He comments, "There's a great saying, 'Never be the best in the room.' I still always enjoy being onstage with Beren to simply witness the magic."

Beren has equally glowing things to say about "Chiseled Charlie" or "that fresh-faced Justin Beiber lookalike." He loves his energy and "knew from the get-go that deep down we're nearly the same person."

During the journey to his first day of school at the National Centre for Circus Arts, Beren sat directly in front of Louis on the ferry. So, his first impression was, "...why is this huge man following me?" He says, "The rest was history and I'm all the better for meeting him."

When they first began working together, it seemed like an odd pairing. Louis elaborates, "Beren came from a martial arts and tricking background, Charlie from breakdancing and I came from parkour and it was this combination of influences that initially informed our movement style, and still does to this day." 

Beren agrees that that this variety of style helped to fuse their trio, "Myself, Charlie and Louis instantly stuck together because we were different from our classmates, who came from the circus and gymnastics worlds. Not knowing any of the circus jargon, we just threw ourselves around relentlessly until we had some snazzy moves under our belts."

There's a fourth member of the troupe who quickly stepped into Bromance when a shoulder injury sidelined Louis—Arthur Parsons. Dubbed "Endearing Arthur," by Beren, who attributes Arhtur's charm to his infectious positivity. "People gravitate towards him like he has a magnetic force. Everyone wants a dose of that gentlemanly charm."

 

Beren D'Amico and Louis Gift Beren D'Amico balancing on Louis Gift during a hand-to-hand routine Photo: Chris Nash

Though not an original creator, Arthur switches out with Louis for certain performances and has become a central figure to the group. He says, "When I first met the Barely Methodical crew, they immediately seemed like they were old friends I just hadn't met yet. I turned out to be right!"

"There's a moment in the show that perfectly captures the idea of what a 'bromance' means to me. Beren and I look into each other's eyes as he's walking towards me. I'm filled with a feeling of love and warmth—in that moment, I know we're connected and looking out for each other."

Bromance initially started as a brief 30-minute piece, but producer Di Robson brought the "sensei of a director" Eddie Kay in to extend it into a full-length show. "Once we met him, we knew we were in for a fun ride. Eddie's humor was a complete joy and it became clear that comedy needed to become a strong foundation for Bromance to sit on," says Charlie.

Although Beren, Louis and Charlie lead exceptionally unique lives, Bromance has a story that makes it both incredibly personal, yet ultimately universal. Louis explains, "A lot of the situations in Bromance are drawn from our history as friends. However, they're situations that everyone has experienced at least once in their life."

The only question that remains is, "What's next for Barely Methodical Troupe?" Always excited to stretch the limits, Louis shares, "The feeling to stay fresh is less pressure and more ambition. One of the main reasons we do this is because we love pushing our skills and learning new things. We want to stay fresh for ourselves just as much as for our audiences!"

Consider this audience member rapt with excitement to see what new trick is up their sleeves. In the meantime, check out Bromance at The New Victory Theater, spinning on our stage until February 25! 
 
 
Bromance Thumb In Bromance, the astonishing talent of these three mates from London will make a hopeless bromantic out of you. Get your tickets today!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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