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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.
October 20, 2015

Monster Myths of the World


Written by Lindsay Amer, Fall 2015 Communications Apprentice

Forests and mountains and oceans, oh my! Our planet can be a scary place sometimes, and ever since humankind began telling stories, we have invented terrifying mythological monsters that go "boo!" in the night. In THE GRUFFALO, the Mouse invents her own monster to protect herself from the predators that live in the deep dark wood. Made-up creatures can protect us from other scary things, represent something large and unknown in nature or stand in for inexplicable happenings. 

From Sasquatch (better known as Bigfoot), who stomps through the vast and murky forests of the Pacific Northwest, to the dreaded Kraken—fabled to swallow tall ships whole—every culture has its own mythical monsters. We know why the Mouse invented the Gruffalo. Let's see if we can shed some light on the possible origins of these rough beasts...

Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness Monster hoaxed photograph
The four-finned, long-necked Nessie hails from the great Loch Ness in the highlands of Scotland. Vikings in the 6th century were the earliest to record their fear of her, when an attack on a man crossing the River Ness was blamed on a colossal reptile allegedly sighted in the loch. Was he attacked? Did he drown? Loch Ness is enormous. Surrounded by highland hills, it's the second largest and deepest lake in all of Scotland, and the river that feeds it is wide and equally dangerous. The threat of meeting a giant water monster would be enough to keep me from wandering out alone onto the dark, murky water. Spooky!

Yeti

Yeti illustration by Phillipe SemeriaKnown to the Nepalese and Tibetans as the Yeti, tales of the Abominable Snowman living in the Himalayan mountains have warned residents of the dangers of nearby avalanches and the fate awaiting stranded Everest-climbing adventurers. The white-all-over bear-like creature is said to preside over its mountainous home and features in ancient lore of the Himalayan people. It is said to make a whooshing noise wherever it goes, carrying huge gusts of wind along with it. I wouldn't want to get caught in that blizzard; and because of the story of the fearsome Yeti, I won't!

Chupacabras

Chupacabras illustration by Jeff CarterThese terrifying, hairless wolf-like creatures with spikes up their spines are said to hail from Puerto Rico, Mexico and South America. Their Spanish name literally translates to "goat-sucker," coming from their well-known pastime of attacking and sucking the blood of meandering livestock. While sightings of Chupacabras are probably just people seeing funny looking coyotes, how else am I supposed to explain my missing goats at the market the next day? Best to keep a watchful eye on my herd.

Impundulu

Impundulu illustration by artbybluedaisyThere are hundreds of different folkloric histories throughout the continent of Africa with thousands of equally astounding and fantastical monsters. Also known as the Lightning Bird, this lesser known mythical monster comes from the tales of Pondu, Zulu and Xhosa traditions in South Africa. The Impundulu is a human-sized bird which is said to have the magical ability to strike lightning with its claws and suck the blood of its prey. If I lived in the fire-prone drylands of southern Africa, I'd be worried about giant lightning birds, too, blood-sucking or not!

Gargoyles

Notre Dame Gargoyle closeup by Jean-Luc OurlinUgly stone gargoyles famously protrude from the arches and vaults of Paris's beloved architectural landmark, Notre Dame. Practically speaking, gargoyles are actually used to protect the building's stonework from rainwater by diverting it through their spout-like mouths. But during medieval times, the faithful believed that plastering these grotesque figures all over churches would protect the sacred and beautifully ornamented insides from any evil demons that might try to break in and wreck the place.

Dragons

Dragon illustration by David RevoyTales of dragons come from all over the world. The gargantuan fire-breathing reptiles show up in folklore from China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Ancient Greece and in the earliest of all literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia. Many of these cultures depict the otherworldly creatures as powerful, even imperial symbols, representing the great forces of nature. Dragons are more symbolic than forewarning: paragons of animal might with command over earth, fire, air and water. They prove excellent opponents for mythological heroes looking to slay magnificent beasts to demonstrate their valor, and they satisfy our human desire for a mighty creature of legend superlative to any real-world animal. I can't think of a more magnificent monster!
 
   What makes you quake in your boots? Take to Twitter, and tell us @newvictory what creature you'd rather not meet in the deep dark wood. Then, join us for Tall Stories' musical adaptation of THE GRUFFALO, the award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. See you there!
 
 
Lindsay Amer    Lindsay Amer is a Communications Apprentice at The New 42nd Street, where she gets to contribute to social media, PR and marketing for a theater for kids and families! She almost has her MA in Theater and Performance Studies from Queen Mary University of London, and she holds a BS in Theater from Northwestern University. She is currently learning how to play the song from the Pixar short about volcanoes falling in love—Lava—on her ukulele.
Posted by Zack Ramadan

By Lauren Meyer, Spring 2015 Communications Apprentice

April is Autism Awareness Month, and The New Victory Theater is offering autism-friendly performances at both of our April productions, Catch Me! (Attrape-moi) and The Mysterious Hat. As a Communications Apprentice here, I’m enjoying learning about all the ways the New Victory makes theater accessible to everyone. But when I first heard about the autism-friendly performances offered at the New Vic, I had tons of questions. How are autism-friendly performances developed? What makes them different from other performances? I immediately wanted to know more!

Thankfully, I was able to speak with Brandon Hutchinson, a New Victory Usher Corps alumnus who had firsthand experience in the process. Brandon was in his third year as a member of the Usher Corps when he was given the opportunity to shadow the Education Department and work on the first autism-friendly performance at The New Victory. He shared his experiences and insights with me, and in the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, I'm excited to share them with you.

What originally interested you about working on this project?

When I started college I knew I wanted to work in the Education field, but I also knew that I didn't want to leave my performing arts background when I did so. When I learned that The New Vic was expanding their outreach to children on the autism spectrum, I wanted to be part of it. 

The Ushers received special training for these autism-friendly performances. What was this training session like? How did this training help prepare you to assist students and families?

The consultants from Autism Friendly Spaces taught us how they accommodate the sensory, social and communication-based needs of individuals across the autism spectrum. It was incredibly insightful to learn how to talk to these children. It is important to treat them like we would any other child, and not ostracize them if they have an outburst during the show. We were taught how to use concrete language and tools like If/Then cards to quickly and quietly diffuse any situation. Some of the AFS staff present also had siblings who were on the spectrum, and they shared their insights with us.

What did you learn about how to adjust a performance or a space to create a positive, autism-friendly theater experience? 

In learning about the main elements of autism, I learned that there are many different facets and triggers across that spectrum. Some accommodations we made included dimming the interior lights in the seating area rather than turning them all the way off and lowering sound levels in some moments of the show. I was also involved in researching fidgets, tools that can help alleviate some of the pressure a kid might feel in social situations. Fidgets can range from something as simple as a foam ball—something soft in the hands—to a puzzle—something complex that requires focus. A Calming Corner with beanbag chairs and an Activity Area near the live-feed monitor were also set up so if anyone needed to take a break they had someplace to go.

How did this experience at The New Victory influence your current work or studies? And what are you working towards now?

I've always wanted to work with kids who have special needs, and this experience catapulted me into the middle of where I wanted to be. I currently work at an after-school program where there are kids who are on the spectrum, and this summer I'll be working in the Performing Arts division of a summer camp. This camp is an inclusive camp where there are kids who are both on the spectrum and not, and I'll be using a majority of the things that I learned and researched to help the kids gain confidence through the arts.

What do you think is the value of arts organizations providing autism-friendly experiences for patrons?

Kids are kids. They all want to have fun and experience the same things. Some kids need help to get to a comfortable point where they are able to express themselves freely, and it's our job as educators to help them get there. The value of art is universal, and arts organizations have a duty to provide the same kind of open, welcoming feeling to all of the patrons who wish to attend. Autism-friendly performances tell kids who might be bullied or made fun of because they are "different" that there is a safe space. There is a place that they can come to and enjoy being a kid, because all kids, regardless of special need or disability, have the right to experience the power of art.

The New Victory is offering autism-friendly performances for both Catch Me! (April 10 at 7pm) and The Mysterious Hat (April 25 at 7pm). Everyone is welcome to enjoy the show in a sensory-friendly, relaxed atmosphere. 

What to Expect at an Autism-Friendly Performance.
Download a pdf of our "Visiting the New Vic" Social Story.
 

Lauren Meyer is a Communications Apprentice for The New 42nd Street. As a teaching artist specializing in musical theater, she is passionate about encouraging students in the arts and inspiring new audiences. Originally from California, Lauren enjoys exploring New York City, bundled up in one too many coats
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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