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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.
September 21, 2015

What's in a Genre?

Artistic Range in Our 2015-16 Season


Written by Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming and Olga Putilina, Artistic Programming Associate

Every season has its own sense of magic, and 2015-16 is particularly exciting for us. The New Victory Theater’s 20th anniversary season, which we’ve been planning for quite some time, becomes a reality this fall. To celebrate our 20th birthday, we’re honoring artists who have been part of our journey over the years. Each show this season is from a company that has been here in a past season and is now returning, either with the production we’ve previously presented or with a brand new show that will make its New Vic debut.

In the past two decades of bringing award-winning theater to the kids and families of New York City, the companies and artists we’ve presented on our stage have expanded our understanding of what performing arts for young audiences can be. Our seasons—and this one is no exception—are programmed to include shows that appeal to an array of age ranges and feature a variety of genres such as theater, puppetry, circus, dance and music. So, as we say cheers to 20 years, we want to take a moment to honor the diverse genres you’ll see in our 2015-16 season.

Artful Adaptations
Seeing a familiar tale brought to life on stage really resonates in the hearts of viewers who might already be on a first-name basis with the characters from many a bedtime story. Bringing a work from the page to the stage is also a special kind of collaboration with the book’s author, as layers are added to the story in the form of theatrical stagecraft, including the playwright’s translation of the book to theatrical form, the director’s interpretation of the text and the various design elements.

Tall Stories’ THE GRUFFALO, a show best for ages 4–7, is based on the beloved picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Since our last presentation of the show back in 2004, audiences have been pining for the Grr-Grr-Gruffalo and the courageous Mouse. The stage adaptation is true to the original story and is charmingly brought to life through physical theater, music and interactive storytelling.

Unicorn Theatre’s THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, for everyone ages 6+, exemplifies the kind of smart, sophisticated theater-making that we aim to bring to our audiences. Though the story centers on a rabbit, there is nary a fuzzy bunny costume in sight. THE VELVETEEN RABBIT comes to life through subtle acting and creative direction on a breathtaking set that’s full of surprises.

Adventure Theatre MTC’s CAPS FOR SALE THE MUSICAL, also a show best for ages 4–7, is an ingeniously adapted fusion of Esphyr Slobodkina’s acclaimed children’s books: Caps for Sale, Circus Caps for Sale and More Caps for Sale: Another Tale of Mischievous Monkeys, set to be published this year. Bright, fun and with a set that recalls Slobodkina’s inventive collaged illustrations, the books take on new life through original music, featuring big numbers and a Broadway feel.

Imaginative Puppetry
Perhaps we're so enamored with puppetry at the New Vic because, as puppeteer Marsian De Lellis notes in a recent article, puppetry allows people to "witness the artist...oozing raw creativity into a universe they have made with their own hands." Our 2015-16 season offers several opportunities to experience this enchanting genre in one of its myriad forms.

Little Angel Theatre’s HANDA'S SURPRISE (which is also an adaptation of a picture book of the same name by Eileen Brown), best for ages 6 months–4 years, uses puppetry as a way to transport our youngest theatergoers to a sunny day in a Kenyan village. Various animals from the original story are imbued with life as innovative hand puppets, allowing them to have one-on-one interactions with audience members, seated in a circle on the floor around the performers.

Théâtre de l'Œil's THE STAR KEEPER, for everyone ages 6+, visually tells the story of Pretzel, a charming worm with a mission to cross a house of dreams, a spider web and the ocean in his efforts to return a fallen star to the night sky. The company's use of a mix of puppetry styles—shadow puppets, marionettes, bunraku and flat puppets in a specially-constructed black box puppet theater set—lends the production an otherworldly and poetic feel. Pretzel encounters a multitude of offbeat and whimsical characters along the way, including the Bubble Charmer, Maggie Mischief and Cedrick the Centaur, all of whom are made more vivid through the use of puppetry, which as this production attests, offers limitless possibilities to build beguiling worlds.

Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company’s THE PIED PIPER, for everyone ages 7+, is a visual spectacle which tells the Brothers Grimm story of the Pied Piper with the help of the company’s signature intricately and elaborately constructed marionettes. Marionette puppetry, with its carefully controlled strings that must be manipulated just so, is the perfect medium to relay the saga of the town of Hamelin, which loses control when the mayor neglects to pay a mysterious stranger his dues for ridding the town of rats.

Le Clan Des Songes’ CITÉ, best for ages 3–5, uses shadow puppetry, one of the styles seen in THE STAR KEEPER, to wordlessly tell the story of a man on a sun-chasing adventure through a cityscape. Though the chosen art form used to tell the story might be familiar, the resulting show is strikingly unique. Shapes and colors are central to this playful piece, the inspiration for which came from the contemporary art of painter Evsa Model.

Incomparable CircusCircus exposes us to the boundaries of human limitations, defying our expectations and delighting us with the idea that anything is possible. The art form has come a long way since the days of animal circuses under a big striped tent. The two circuses in our 2015-16 are as different as can be from one another, yet they both exemplify the skill, artistry, and innovation of this awe-inspiring genre.

Cirque Mechanics’ PEDAL PUNK, for everyone ages 5+, offers an irresistible steampunk aesthetic that one wouldn’t normally think to connect with circus. There is no one on the circus scene quite like Cirque Mechanics, whose creative director, Chris Lashua, dreams up cool gadgets and then uses them as a springboard to create new shows. In this case, a Rube Goldberg-style mechanical marvel called “the gantry”—a 20-foot high pedal-powered set—serves as the production’s centerpiece. The show’s other elements, including the costumes, lighting and staging, also evoke the feeling of a vibrant technological fantasy world in which anything can happen.

BELLO MANIA, also for everyone ages 5+, returns for its third New Vic installment, this time with even more mania! We’re proud to be the New York home of daredevil and audience favorite Bello Nock, who creates and performs jaw-dropping stunts while managing to maintain his signature up-do. This production features his distinct brand of humor, signature acts (hello, sway pole!), a new cast of characters and an infusion of stage magic never seen in any of Bello’s previous shows.

Compelling Dance
Dance pioneer Isadora Duncan once said, “A dancer…can give to the people something that they can carry with them forever. They can never forget it, and it has changed them, though they may never know it.” Dance offers infinite possibilities for artistic expression. The dance productions in our 2015-16 season include cultural celebration, percussive dance and storytelling through dance.

Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba’s CUBA VIBRA!, for everyone ages 6+, is a vibrant cultural spectacle that is representative of the global scope of our programming. We’ve presented works from dozens of countries over the past twenty years, and delight in being able to honor different cultures on our stage. In light of the recent warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, we're thrilled to bring Cuba’s singular cultural flair back to the New Victory stage, as expressed through Afro-Cuban big band music and a medley of dance styles from the region, including rumba, cha-cha and salsa.

UNTAPPED!, for everyone ages 7+, is an upbeat dance production which blends different styles of footwork to uproarious effect. The company’s unexpected pairings of tap and other percussive dance styles with hip hop, rock and jazz music creates an infectious atmosphere and a show that’s just plain fun.

The Pasadena Playhouse & Crossroads Theatre Company’s FLY, for everyone ages 10+, is a theatrical piece; but it beautifully incorporates a contrasting use of tap dance, along with the actors, to tell the historically vital story of the Tuskegee Airmen. The show features a Tap Griot, a character who appears throughout the production and adds emotional weight to the story’s unfolding events through dance. 

Innovative Theater
Rounding out our 20th anniversary season are four theatrical productions which offer a world of variation in their approach to theater-making. First up in our season is Seattle Children’s Theater’s ROBIN HOOD, for everyone ages 7+, which tells the tale of the legendary hero, employing virtuosic fight choreography, humor, physical theater and featuring just four performers taking on every role. 

Isango Ensemble’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, for everyone ages 9+, is a vibrant spectacle which integrates South African culture and instrumentation into its take on Benjamin Britten’s original opera. 

Catherine Wheels Theatre Company’s WHITE, best for ages 2-5 years, is an innovative and charming piece of theater for our youngest audience members which, following its presentation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a few years back, had flocks of adults clamoring for tickets too. 

NIE Theatre’s MUSEUM OF MEMORIES, for everyone ages 13+, tells a beautiful and emotional story about a young man who took his own life yet lives on in the memories of others. After the performance, audiences are encouraged to explore the production’s set—an actual museum containing elements and mementos reminiscent of life.
 

We hope to see you again and again over the course of the 2015-16 New Victory Theater season to experience all of the cool shows in each of these unique genres. We’ll be there (possibly wearing birthday hats for the New Vic’s 20th year), cheering and clapping along in amazement at the boundless artistic expression of the artists and companies who join us for this most special season.
 
   
Mary Rose Lloyd   Mary Rose Lloyd is the Director of Artistic Programming at The New Victory Theater, curating each New Victory season as well as the Victory Dance summer series, and overseeing LabWorks, the New Victory's new work development program. A staff member since 1996, Mary spends much of her time traveling to see hundreds of shows each year and to attend conferences and festivals as a frequent speaker, panelist or juror. She has served on the Boards of Directors for both TYA/USA and International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and is the recipient of IPAY's Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award. She is passionate about books, family, friends and, most certainly, the performing arts.
  
Olga Putilina    Olga Putilina is the Artistic Programming Associate at The New Victory Theater, where she gets to live in the future by helping to plan New Victory seasons and Victory Dance. Olga holds an MSEd in Educational Theater from City College. She also once held a three-toed sloth, but that's entirely different.
July 30, 2015

Doing Our Victory Dance


By Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming, and Olga Putilina, Artistic Programming Associate

Two young girls enjoying Victory DanceBringing high-quality artists to The New Victory Theater, as you might imagine, is a layered and varied process of seeking out interesting, viable companies who we know will spark the imaginations of our young audiences. Our search culminates in the performers hitting the stage, followed immediately by the palpable joy of kids connecting with live performing arts. This week we’re doing a triumphant jig of our own to celebrate the success of our second season of Victory Dance, a curated series of local dance that unfolds over three weeks in July. We wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the things about this year’s Victory Dance that inspire us to keep shimmying—and to start planning Victory Dance 2016!

Celebrating Local Dance in New York City

Over the past three weeks, we’ve introduced nine NYC-based dance companies to approximately 4,000 New York City kids, offering summer schools and day camps free daytime performances and access to world-class dance talent. Audience members got to experience the diversity of exceptional dance that thrives in their very own hometown, a diversity equal to that of the City itself. And for many of the young people who came to the theater (a number of whom danced their way out after each show), Victory Dance was their first exposure to live dance.

Nine Companies, Many Stories

In case you missed it, the nine companies that comprised this year’s Victory Dance series each presented unique viewpoints, transforming phrases of movement, visual compositions and interpretations of the world into bold, memorable dance. In programming each week of Victory Dance, we aimed to honor each company’s individuality while weaving a cohesive thread through the three groups in each week’s program.

In Program A, Darrah Carr Dance, ZviDance and Urban Bush Women homed in on history, folklore and tradition. Darrah Carr Dance’s traditional Irish step program led seamlessly, with intricate leg and footwork, into an excerpt from ZviDance’s Dabke, a contemporary take on traditional Middle Eastern line dancing. The Urban Bush Women 30th Anniversary Mash-Up connected history to the present day through a powerful compilation of strong, stylized movement and spoken word, referencing themes of struggle, resistance and joy through the visage of underserved and often overlooked communities.

Victory Dance A Talk-Back

The second week of Victory Dance, Program B, unfolded with the expressive dance and rapturous, ecstatic movement of the inimitable Martha Graham Dance Company, the fiery Noche Flamenca and the deeply resonant Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion. Martha Graham Dance Company’s Appalachian Spring Suite (excerpt) revisited 19th century American pioneers, presenting a couple celebrating their wedding day, while Spectre-1914 (excerpt from Chronicle), choreographed in 1936, evoked the chill of war. Noche Flamenca’s traditional flamenco costumes echoed the sensational dress worn in Spectre-1914 and foreshadowed the remarkable gown yet to come in Program C's The Calling, while their passion and emotion reverberated with contraction and release, the modern dance elements made famous by Martha Graham. Excerpts from Kyle Abraham’s The Gettin’ featured dancers in ‘50s-inspired costumes (more beautiful skirts!), while projections transported audience members to apartheid-era South Africa, ending with depictions of hope set to music from We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite.

Victory Dance B Talk-Back

Last but certainly not least, Program C featured Jessica Lang Dance, Max Pollak/RumbaTap, and Parsons Dance, all of whom presented unexpected and emotionally resonant pieces which playfully mixed forms, often with humorous, genre-defying results. Jessica Lang’s pieces explored the interaction between visual art and movement, and how each references the other. The spectacular dress seen in Jessica Lang Dance’s The Calling became inseparable from its choreography, while for the company’s other two pieces, Lang teamed up with Shinichi Maruyama, whose visual artistry became part of the architecture for the dance-on-film White and the excerpt from i.n.k.. Max Pollak’s pieces mixed body percussion, tap and a cappella vocals into a mesmerizing exploration of rhythm, improv, and audience participation. Ingenious lighting design and a well-developed sense of humor were central to the three pieces performed by Parsons Dance, turning The Envelope, Hand Dance, and Caught into theatrical magic. So much so, in fact, that asking the Caught dancer “How did you do it?!” became a recurring question during Talk-Backs after each performance.

Victory Dance C Talk-Back

Inspiring Talk-Backs

Speaking of Talk-Backs, all education and public performances of Victory Dance saw the choreographers and some of the dancers return to the stage after the final curtain. Audience members had the opportunity to pose any burning questions they might have had for the companies. The dancers offered insight into how they became dancers, their processes and practice regimens, their professional goals and personal inspirations; and the choreographers generously shared the ideas behind their creations, each as varied as the companies themselves.

Darrah Carr revealed that Dingle Diwali was inspired by the vocal rhythms of British-Indian singer Sheila Chandra, and the challenge of combining Irish dance with her Kathak vocalizations. Kyle Abraham spoke about how a 2012 trip to South Africa sparked the idea for creating The Gettin’. Martín Santangelo, the choreographer for Noche Flamenca, came across poems written by child refugees, which he translated and then adapted into flamenco songs to create the basis for Cambio de Tercio.

For Jessica Lang, the impossibly beautiful, strange dress in The Calling appeared to her in a vision, which she used as a springboard for creating those ingenious movements. David Parsons said, “I really enjoy light. Light is one of the most fabulous things in the universe... I’m constantly trying to do things with that imagery of light.” If you were fortunate enough to see Caught, you know exactly what he means.

Boy with microphone asks question during Talk-BackOne question was asked again and again. “How old were you when you started dancing?” The answers varied but, in many cases, they were the exact same age as the young people they were addressing—a coincidence that wasn’t lost on those asking the question. At each and every education performance, as the Talk-Back ended and the curtain came down one last time, the auditorium would erupt in a hurricane of waving hands and shouts of, “No! Don’t go!” There were so many more questions, so much that our young audience members still wanted to learn from the artists who had captivated them. For these inspired kids, if only one of them becomes a professional dancer, choreographer, designer or technician, wouldn’t that be a lovely result of this new series at The New Victory? We think so.
 
 
Mary Rose Lloyd   Mary Rose Lloyd is the Director of Artistic Programming at The New Victory Theater, curating each New Victory season as well as the Victory Dance summer series, and overseeing LabWorks, the New Victory's new work development program. A staff member since 1996, Mary spends much of her time traveling to see hundreds of shows each year and to attend conferences and festivals as a frequent speaker, panelist or juror. She has served on the Boards of Directors for both TYA/USA and International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and is the recipient of IPAY's Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award. She is passionate about books, family, friends and, most certainly, the performing arts.
   
Olga Putilina   Olga Putilina is the Artistic Programming Associate at The New Victory Theater, where she gets to live in the future by helping to plan the New Victory Season and upcoming seasons of Victory Dance. Olga holds an MSEd in Educational Theater from City College. She also once held a three-toed sloth, but that's entirely different.
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