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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.

Travelling all the way from London, Bromance is an adrenaline-fueled circus show by the Barely Methodical Troupe, where handshakes become handstands and backslaps become backflips. Get to know the creators of Bromance—Charlie, Beren and Louis—as they share how they first discovered circus, what happens when a show goes awry and what "Love of Theater" means to them. 
 


Map of LondonWhere are you guys from from? 

Charlie Wheeller: Southampton, England, but I'm living in East London now.

Beren D'Amico: I'm from South London. The others look down on my neighborhood, but they're just naive about the vibrancy and character of the South!

Louis Gift: I grew up in Islington, in North London. It's way nicer than South London.

 

Charlie Charlie Wheeller
How did you first get involved in circus?

CW: When I was growing up, I loved getting involved in the local theater groups, including one that my dad ran. I was also a physical kid, who loved playing football, breakdancing and even gymnastics. When I was looking at universities, I applied to the National Centre For Circus Arts in London. There, I met the Cyr wheel and I haven't stopped spinning since.

LG: I had always been into flips and acrobatics ever since watching Power Rangers on Saturday mornings as a kid. I specialize in hand-to-hand acrobatics as a base, but all of us make a conscious effort to train in complementary disciplines. This helps keep the creative juices flowing and is also nice for a bit of a change up.

BD: I had a love for all things physical from the get go, since my parents toured with the legendary French circus company Archaos. I found tricking and fell in love. Eventually, I decided circus school made the most sense for me and trained in hand-to-hand as a flyer.

What was your most memorable onstage experience?

 

Beren Beren D'Amico
LG: Opening our second show, Kin, at The Roundhouse was particularly special to me. That venue is close to where I've lived for most of my life and it's also where I saw one of my very first circus shows. Standing backstage and hearing the cheers and support from the crowd as we ran on to start was a moment I'll never forget!

BD: Mine happened at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival during the 'Politicians' act in Bromance. We move and manipulate chairs, whilst sitting and standing. During one performance, a stray Cyr wheel smashed one of the chairs to pieces (thanks, Charlie.) We had to completely improvise. It was terrifying.
 
CW: It worked so well! We even talked about permanently adding it into the show.

What's the most daring trick you've tried?

CW: The craziest trick I've performed is a double somersault with an open out in the middle, back to the teeterboard. We've just started throwing flips from the teeterboard to human pyramids. That's where the risk factor rises another couple of notches. Fingers crossed! 

LG: The most daring trick I've tried was before I was ever involved in circus. I was on a beach in Cornwall, England, and I saw this cliff that seemed jumpable. I went up and looked over the edge to see how scary it was from up high. I spent about 45 minutes repeatedly running up to the edge to get ready, until I eventually went for it. It was about 30 feet so there was a nice bit of airtime. I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again!

What does "Love of Theater" mean to you?
Louis Louis Gift

CW: An audience leaves their age in the foyer at the theater, entering the auditorium as an ensemble, ready to be whisked up and electrified by the spectacle. We all remember that one show or that one evening, where we travelled home from the theatre a different person, filled with inspiration from indescribable magic.

LG: It means a love of drama and a love of fantasy. When audiences see a performance, it's an opportunity for them to enter a fantasy world in which the performers act out a situation where they can experience emotion and drama, without having to deal with the fallout. Having said that, sometimes what an audience wants isn't the drama or a message, but good, clean fun. I think it is important not to undervalue that!

BD: From the inside, it would be that mad adrenaline that comes from perfectly executing your hardest trick, successfully making a whole theater full of people laugh or the spontaneous moments that take you by surprise. From the outside, it would be seeing something that instantly makes you want to go and create something or train harder than ever before.
 
 
Bromance Thumb In Bromance, the astonishing talent of these mates from London will make a hopeless bromantic out of you. Get your tickets today!
Posted by Beth Henderson

 

Sara Zatz Ping Chong + Company's Sara Zatz Photo: Adam Nadel
In the rehearsal room are seven folding chairs with music stands in front of them, arranged in a semi-circle. A poster titled "Community Agreements" hangs on the wall. Seven young adult New Yorkers, in hoodies and caps, stand in the corner, waiting for the music for their entrance. Courtney, the stage manager, starts the sound cue, and one by one, Edwin, Syl, Monica, Porscha, De-Andra, Rafael and Mohammad walk onto the stage and take their seats. It's the opening of a run through of Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ

"You're walking on stage for the very first time!" Sara Zatz, the co-director and co-writer says. "Take your time and really own the space. Don't rush it."

Owning the space, and owning your own story, is at the center of Ping Chong + Company's award-winning theatrical series, Undesirable Elements. Since 1992, the New York-based experimental theater company has created over 50 interview-based theater works that explore issues of culture and identity in specific communities. The basis of the script is in the participants' own words; stories gathered from intensive interviews are interwoven with historical research. While the form—the chairs in a semi-circle, the use of clapping as interludes—is in the same in each production, the results are always vastly different because of the nature of stories told. Sometimes the cast, who are non-professionals, are telling their stories for the very first time. 

For the 25th anniversary of Undesirable Elements, The New Victory Theater commissioned a show that tells the coming-of-age stories of New York City's diverse youth. The recruitment process took over a month: Sara Zatz and artistic collaborator Kirya Traber reached out to over 50 community organizations and schools in New York City, hoping to find 18-21 year olds from a wide range of backgrounds and neighborhoods, willing to share their experiences.

 

The Performers The performers of Generation NYZ, left to right: Edwin, Rafael, Mohammad, Monica, Porscha, De-Andra and Syl. Photo: Adam Nadel
Thirty people filled out the participant questionnaire, which included questions about personal background and reflections on living in New York. From these packets, Sara and Kirya invited 20 people in for individual two hour interviews. 

"We were thrilled to receive such an enthusiastic response to the call for participants," Sara said. "We knew we wanted the cast to reflect the kaleidoscope of experiences in New York City, and was especially mindful of finding stories across the five boroughs. Choosing the final ensemble was tough—we were originally thinking of a cast of five, but expanded to seven because we met so many amazing young people with important stories to tell." The company hopes to keep in touch with the young adults ultimately not selected, offering acting workshops and tickets to company performances. A few of their voices will also be included in a pre-show lobby installation that can be experienced during the show's run at The New Victory's smaller venue, The Duke on 42nd Street theater. 

There was excitement and some shyness when the cast of seven met each other for the first time. Between them, they know seven languages (including American Sign Language) and hail from all over the city, from East New York to the South Bronx. After a quick introduction excercise, Kirya sat everyone in a circle and asked the group to make a list of community agreements.

 

Ping Chong and the New Vic Ping Chong + Company in one of their first planning sessions with the New Vic
"Respect each other's boundaries," someone said. Sara wrote it on the poster in marker. 
"One voice, one mic."
"Be open, ask questions."

"Has anyone heard of the yellow zone?" Kirya said, after a pause. Everyone shook their head. She explained, "Green zone is those things you share easily with the world. Like your name, where you're from. Red zone is private stuff that you can't share with anyone. The yellow zone is a space with a bit of risk, things that you don't normally share that make you feel vulnerable." 

For a show that includes personal stories about serious issues like mental health, bullying, LGBTQ+ identity and homelessness, it was important to Kirya and Sara to form a safe, open environment. Before every rehearsal, they check in with the cast—how is everybody feeling? And the Community Agreement poster stays on the wall, which they review. Soon, the stories that the cast has shared with each other in intensive interviews and group conversations will be shared with the world at the Duke on 42nd Street.
 
Undesirable Elements Thumb From East New York to West Harlem and from the South Bronx to Far Rockaway, witness the jubilant victories, recent discord and distant dreams of coming of age in Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ.

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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