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.

It seems like every single inch of the world North to South to East to West has been explored, but just a little while ago, that wasn’t the case. In our second show of the season, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Mr. Popper dreams of being a global explorer of great renown, but instead he’s a house painter. While painting houses, he has elaborate fantasies of exploring the entire world, from the wild forests to the frozen polar icecaps. 

Do some of the names mentioned in Mr. Popper’s sound familiar? The show includes references to real life explorers! We dive in here to find out more about Mr. Popper's heroes! 

Captain James Cook  
Captain James Cook

"Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go."

Who is he in the show?
Captain James Cook is the namesake of the star of our show, the penguin Captain Cook! The penguin is given to the Poppers by Admiral Drake and soon makes a large splash in their quiet life. 

Who was he in reality?
The Captain (1728-1779) was once at the forefront of British cartography and seafaring navigation. Before he felt the pull of the sea, he was born the son of a farmhand. After educating himself during apprenticeships at sea, he climbed through the ranks of the Royal Navy. After extensively charting the coast of Newfoundland in maps still used 200 years later, he voyaged to the Pacific Ocean three separate times. There he became the first European to make contact with Australia's Eastern coastline and the Hawaiian Islands. On top of that, he was the first individual to circumnavigate New Zealand!

Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake

"There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory."

Who is he in the show? 
Sir Francis Drake inspired the name of Admiral Drake! He jump starts the action of Mr. Popper's Penguins by delivering the penguin, Captain Cook, to the Poppers!

Who was he in reality?
Knight, pirate, slaver and captain have all been monikers to describe Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596). Though not entirely an honorable man, he greatly contributed to the navigation and even politics of his time. He first started his career at sea as one of England's earliest slavers. Spain had outlawed selling slaves to settlers in Mexico and as a result his vessel and crew were destroyed by the Spanish while at port off the coast. After this, he developed a lifelong hatred of the Spanish and became a pirate, attacking their ships. Queen Elizabeth II legitimized him with a knighthood for becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He finally found vengeance against the Spanish in 1588, when he served as second-in-command while the British destroyed the Spanish Armada.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart

"Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

Who is she in the show?
Earhart and the following two explorers, Scott and Shackelton, only have short cameos in Mr. Popper's Penguins. However, it doesn't make their lives any less fascinating! When Captain Cook is sick in the show, Earhart, Scott and Shackleton reach out on the radio, trying to help him. 

Who was she in reality?
You've probably heard of Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) because she disappeared while on her mission to fly around the globe. However, she's so much more than that! She was born in Kansas to a mother who didn't believe in raising "nice little girls." In fact, she grew up wearing pants instead of dresses, to the disapproval of her maternal grandmother. Though she first pursued a degree in medicine, she eventually felt a pull toward the sky and started taking flying lessons at the age of 24. She then became the first woman to fly nonstop across the Atlantic and the first person to fly from Hawaii to California. However, on her second attempt to circumnavigate the globe, she lost radio contact and it is assumed that she was lost at sea.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Robert Falcon Scott

"We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last."

Who is he in the show?
Scott briefly appears as he, Earhart and Shackleton try to help Captain Cook by madaying for help on their radios. 

Who was he in reality?
Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) was another famed Royal Navy commander! The British Scott led two expeditions to the Antarctic region, the Discovery Expedition and the doomed Terra Nova Expedition. He was the first man to discover the Polar Plateau, on which the South Pole is located, while setting the record (at the time) of traveling South to latitude 82°S. He became a national hero, had a successful career in the Navy and began a lifelong feud with the next explorer on our list, Sir Earnest Shackleton. On the second journey, his party discovered plant fossils, proving that Antarctica was once forrested and connected to other continents. While travelling back from the second expedition, a failed meet-up led Scott and his fellow companions to die from a combination of exhaustion, exposure and starvation. 

Sir Earnest Shackleton
Sir Earnest Shackleton

"Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all."

Who is he in the show?
He tries to help Captain Cook by radioing for assistance, along with Scott and Earhart. 

Who was he in reality?
Along with his rival, Captain Scott, Sir Earnest Shackleton (1874-1922) participated in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. In fact, he ended this age with his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the successful crossing of Antarctica. First born in Ireland, he moved to London with his family at the age of 10. His first Antarctic experience was traveling with Captain Scott, during his Discovery Expedition. Though he failed to reach the South Pole on his second expedition, his team reached the furthest point South at the time at 88°S, only 97 miles from the Pole. On this mission, his team also climbed Mount Erebus, Antarctica's most active volcano. He was knighted by King Edward VII once he returned home. Though he was largely forgotten soon after he died, he was 'rediscovered' in the 20th century thanks to the book Endurance and numerous movies! Now, he is renowned for his leadership skills during his dangerous, yet casualty-free Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 

New Victory Thumb Get your Mr. Popper's Penguins tickets to imagine the different ways you can become an explorer! This toe-tapping musical is playing October 14 – 30, so do you best penguin waddle over to the New Vic today. 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Pied Piper Finale SceneThe New Victory Theater presents different styles of puppetry for all ages. This season alone we've had jungle creature hand puppets in Handa's Surprise, monkey rod puppets in Caps for Sale and a variety of dream-like creatures from shadow puppets to Bunraku puppets in The Star Keeper. Our latest show, THE PIED PIPER, features the magnificent work of the Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company.

Carlo Colla & Sons is a family company rooted in history. In the late 1700s, Giovanbattista Colla used marionettes to entertain and educate his children in comedy, drama and the classic arts. Five generations later, Carlo Colla & Sons is still practicing the art form and is one of the most respected puppetry companies in the world. We're thrilled to share this beautiful work of art with school and family audiences and so are our New Victory Teaching Artists! We asked them some questions in anticipation of the show…..

What do you love about puppetry?
I love the idea that as a puppeteer, one can disappear behind, and in service to, the puppet/object one is manipulating. That, and there's something so wonderful and mesmerizing about breathing life into something that was inanimate. – Josh Rice

For me, the most attractive thing about puppetry is that puppetry allows the puppeteers and the audience to see things from a different point of view. I often consider a puppeteer as a cameraman who can provide the audience with a zoomed in view, as close to inside of someone's head; or a zoomed out view, as far as the whole universe. A puppetry world won't exist without the audience's willing suspension of disbelief. To witness something that is impossible becoming possible is thrilling. It frees us from limitation and gives us wings to fly as high as our imagination can go. – Spica Wobbe

Puppets sometimes illuminate the human experience in a way that human performers cannot.  They are also an extraordinary tool for talking about tricky subjects. – Liz Parker

I love puppetry because it blends so many art forms together. Dance, theater, visual design, music and more! – Spencer Lott

Behind the Scenes of The Pied Piper
A look behind the scenes of Carlo Colla & Sons' The Pied Piper. Manager Piero Corbella demonstrates puppetry for a school audience.
What's special about the Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company?
This company is special because they are keeping alive a traditional art form, and have for almost 200 years, all within the same family.  That's older than many things in America! – Josh Rice

The Colla company is special because their storytelling reflects their art form. They use traditional theater techniques to tell traditional stories to modern audiences. Their shows serve as a living history lesson, giving us a glimpse into the evolution of puppet theater. – Spencer Lott

Why is important to keep old art forms like the Collas' alive?
The world is changing every second. The past seems to be moving further and further away from us faster and faster in these modern times. However, nothing can replace a Thanksgiving dinner or the national anthem before a ball game. Traditions ground you and remind you who you are and why you are here. No matter how high tech our world becomes, we have to make sure that the string that connects us to the past is always there. – Spica Wobbe

This week, I had the privilege of trying a virtual reality headset for the first time.   I feared that this experience might show me a glimpse of a future where today's performance arts are obsolete.   Though the experience was spectacular, it actually served to affirm my opinion of the importance and timeless value of performance arts that have been practiced and perfected over generations.  Shows like The Pied Piper invite audiences to take an active leap of the imagination.  While a virtual landscape can submerge us in another reality, the tangible beauty of a hand-carved puppet brought to life by the live talent of a trained human hand... well, that allows us all to see the possibility and magic of our own reality! – Liz Parker



The Colla family has been in the marionette business since the 19th century, spending their first 100 years touring northern Italy. You can follow in their footsteps with the Pied Piper's FAMILY ACTIVITY!

Posted by Beth Henderson
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