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 and
Posted by Beth Henderson

The winter comes to a close with a heartwarming, modern take on Anna Sewell's classic, Black Beauty, running from March 16–25 with an Autism-Friendly Performance on March 19. We sat down with co-creators and New Vic alums Shona Reppe and Andy Manley to talk about the joy of theater for young audiences, pantomime and equine freestyle. 


Andy Manley Andy Manley in Black Beauty Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
1. How does it feel to be back at The New Victory? What are you most excited about this time around?
Andy Manley: It's always lovely coming back to the New Vic. I've been quite a few times now with various shows, and it's really lovely to see how the organization has changed and developed. 

I'm excited about seeing the reaction to the show and playing around in the main theater, which I haven't done since Martha in 2001. Usually I'm in the New 42nd Street Studios with shows for the very young! Also, it's really nice to meet New York audiences, some of which have been to see other shows of mine the New Vic has presented. Of course, I have some good friends who work at the organization, too, so it's a lovely extra to catch up with them.

Shona Reppe: I love the New Vic because it's always a joy to be there. I’m not performing this time—which is a bit strange for me—but I’m excited to see Black Beauty on the main stage and to catch up with the amazing staff at the New Vic! I love NYC. I’m so thrilled, can you tell?!

2. To you, why is theater for kids so very important at this moment in time?
AM: I think theater (and art generally) helps us better understand the world in which we live. It can be quite baffling (even as an adult), so anything that helps us make it a bit more understandable can only be a good thing. It's good to know you are not alone in the universe and that others feel a similar way. 


Shona Reppe Shona Reppe
SR: In theater, anything can happen right in front of your eyes. It’s not a screen, so it can't be paused or rewound. It's interactive on every level because the audience's presence is what makes the show work. Theater doesn’t spell everything out, so, when kids use their imaginations, that's when the magic happens. If they have their parents with them, that's even better—they share a great experience. 

3. Pantomime isn't as popular in United States as it is in the United Kingdom. Is there anything the audiences should know about panto before seeing Black Beauty?
AM: For our show, all you need to know about panto is that it happens once a year, around the Christmas holidays. Pantos are usually based on a fairy tale, so there are kings, queens, princesses and, of course, a wicked villain who tries to do something dastardly. In panto, good always conquers evil and love is usually in the air, too. 

The McCuddy brothers have an act where they perform as Hamish (think a horsey version of Big Bird). They travel around the country seeing if they can get an audition. Unfortunately, their act is seen as a bit old-fashioned now, so they're not getting as much work as they used to. Because they only work at panto time, they are very down on their luck.

SR: They need to know that when a character says, "Oh yes he is," the audience responds, "Oh no he isn't!" Also, if someone asks where someone is they say, "They're behind you!" Simple. The only other thing they would need to know is that a pantomime horse is a very old tradition and it's meant to be a bit ugly and sad looking (sorry Hamish!).

4. If the McCuddy brothers came to New York, where do you think they would stop first?
AM: Poughkeepsie—they travel very slowly. 

5. What first drew you to create and perform for young audiences?
AM: I really like making work and performing it for kids. They are very honest and don't feel the need to be polite if it doesn't interest them. That's refreshing. It keeps me on my toes. The last thing I want to do is turn them off theater!

SR: I perform for young audiences because they are BRILLIANT, honest, funny and they aren't at all uptight. They just want to enjoy themselves. So do I!


Andy and Hamish Andy Manley and Hamish in Black Beauty Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
6. What's the most memorable audience reaction to Black Beauty you can remember?
AM: I think my mum's. I could hear her laughing all through the show. At the end she hugged me, told me how great the show was and accidentally spilled a glass of wine down my back. That's never happened with any other audience member.

SR: I remember watching someone I knew crying in the final scene. I thought, "YES! This means I've done my job!"

7. What's the trickiest part of wearing the horse suit?
AM: The trickiest part about it? My part! ...don't tell my co-star Andy Cannon though. He thinks being the head is hard but he's wrong. Being the behind is much harder. I can't see where I'm going, I have to have my head next to Andy's bottom and I have to follow Andy's footwork, which can be very...creative at times, even though we have rehearsed the moves. (He calls it equine freestyle and says he is letting out his inner pony...I think he just forgets the dance moves!)


Long Lost First Play Thumb Saddle up and jump headlong into a tale where loneliness gives way to hope, friends become heroes and courage saves the day! Get your tickets today!

Posted by Beth Henderson
 |<  < 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10  >  >|