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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.

At the New Vic, we help parents introduce the performing arts to kids of all ages and build anticipation for the shows with specially-designed Family Activities. To get ready for Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play, David, a New Vic Teaching Artist, worked with his daughter Emma (age 6) on the Family Activity! Check out their experience below. 
 

1. Tell us about what happened when you did the activity.
Emma Reading
Emma and I read over the activity, and I asked her to take a look at all the storybooks in the living room. She chose one that used to be her favorite before nap time when she was younger, Angelina's Birthday, one of the Angelina Ballerina books. These books inspired her to take ballet classes when she was 2. She has been a ballerina ever since–for over 4 years now! 

From the book, she picked out a moment that I would  never have guessed. In this moment, Angelina's friend Flora gives her a book about dancing, and in the image you see that there is a dessert picnic set up with other presents around. 

She decided on her costume and figured out the set and props first. She was the designer and I was the assistant. She kept using the picture from the book for reference, and we would brainstorm the things that could represent what was depicted in the book. As a parent, I appreciated that she didn't get too hung up on the details. 

For the script, rather than sitting and writing it all out ahead of time, we just played and tried the scene to see what we would say to each other. We started with that and then I asked her how we might say the same thing with less words, and from that we found the lines we liked. We wrote them down to remember, and then we played the scene out!

2. What did you learn about each other when doing the activity? What surprised you while doing the activity? 

Emma and her set.I was happily surprised that she chose a simple moment of kindness between friends over something more dramatic, like a scene where she would get to be funny or speak a lot. I also enjoyed seeing how invested she was in the details of the props and set.

She really wanted to talk about what went into the decisions she made, because before we started, we watched those behind the scenes videos about how Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play was adapted and staged. After we did our scene, I used the camera on my phone, and had her sit in a chair in the middle of the set, and asked her questions about her process, as if it was a New Vic show. She loved that! She started speaking like a grown up, as if she did these sorts of interviews all the time. She would repeat the questions back and make a point of graciously thanking and complimenting her collaborator (me). That cracked me up. It was like she was this tiny professional, trying to promote her work. 

3. Why is it important to introduce your kids to the arts? What is your favorite part about bringing your kids to a show?

 

Emma and the Cast
Emma meets the cast of Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play.
Kids tend to spend a lot of time consuming the arts, whether they think of them as art, or whether they just think of them as the books, albums or shows they want to enjoy over and over again. An activity like this gives them the power to take control of something they love. To see something they might know, like Mo Willems' books, adapted into a live show is a great way to help them understand that there are people and choices behind all the things they love. All of those things they love to read, to listen to, or to watch, started with an artist, or a group of collaborators, trying to figure out the work step-by-step. Seeing live theater especially introduces that idea, because you are watching people work together to make something right in front of you. When you see grown-ups who are not in your family, and not your teachers, and not on a TV screen, show up and perform for you, it really makes a difference. 

Connecting with a story that is being created by real people, in a space you are sharing in real time, creates a level of connection, and empathy, that goes beyond other artistic mediums. There is something about watching people perform, while you share the air with them that is powerful, and can be a kind of arts education! All arts education is empathy education. 

Living in New York City, and having The New Victory Theater (or "Daddy's Theater", as she calls it) in our lives makes us feel very lucky. We have been seeing things there together since before she was 2. She looks at the season brochure, to see what shows are ahead, like she owns the place. It is one of my favorite things we do together.  
Check out Emma's Scene!

We want to thank Emma (producer/writer/director/lead actor) and David (camera operator) for taking part in one of the three Elephant & Piggie Family Activities. Want to see more show related activities? Try out all three before coming to see the show here!

 
New Victory Thumb Check out the Family Activity for Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play and make your own scene!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Ever since they were first created, Mo Willem's Elephant & Piggie books have enchanted both young readers and their parents. Now, the dynamic duo dances onto The New Victory Theater stage in a musical! We sat down with Mo Willems, their original creator and author of the script, to ask him a few questions about theater, his characters and writing a story! 
 

Elephant and Piggie in the Musical1. How did Elephant and Piggie become a musical? 
 
The folks at the Kennedy Center and I started discussing creating a theater piece for Elephant and Piggie while we were producing Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical. Initially, I was reluctant, as I couldn't get a handle on what type of story to tell. But, when the idea of a vaudevillian 'revue' of Elephant and Piggie's greatest came up, I was excited to get the creative team back together and go!
 
2. What does "Love of Theater" mean to you? 
 
Live performances have a unique magic. Every single person involved (the actors, the technicians, the ushers, the theater staff and YOU) decided to show up at the same place, in the same moment to experience the same thing together. So, each show is a dialog between the performers and the audience that can never be repeated. Collectively, we all share a special bond for a short time before we go back home to our normal lives. That's pretty cool.
 
Elephant and Piggie in the Books3. What's the most important aspect of both Elephant and Piggie that you want the two actors to capture in their performances?
 
Elephant and Piggie squabble, have misunderstandings and make mistakes. But, through it all, they are always generous in their love for each other. It's tricky being so silly while keeping a real emotional connection with each other and the audience.
 
5. Do you have a favorite anecdote about an Elephant and Piggie fan? 
 
Once during the "Should I Share My Ice Cream?" section of the play, when Elephant Gerald decides he WILL share his ice-cream a young audience member cried out, "You FOOL!"
 
6. What's your first step in creating a new story?
 
For me, every story is a question I don't know the answer to. I figure that if I don't know the answer, then maybe my audience doesn't either and we can discover it together. I always think of my audience, but never think FOR my audience.
 
7. Do you have a favorite moment or song from Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play?
 
That's easy: the applause at the end of the show! Actually it's not for me to decide what works in the play. YOU get to choose what you liked (and what you didn't like so much). That's part of the dialogue.

© Artwork by Mo Willems
 
Candace Penn Mo Willems is a Number 1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, is bestknown for his Caldecott Honor picture books Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, KnuffleBunny: A Cautionary Tale and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. His Elephant and Piggie early reader series have consistently topped the New York Times best seller lists, been translated into numerous languages and have been awarded two Theodor Geisel Medals and five Geisel Honors since debutingin 2007. Mr. Willems began his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street (PBS), where he garnered six Emmy Awards for writing. His television career includes creating The Off-Beats (Nickelodeon) and Sheep in the Big City (Cartoon Network) and serving as head writer for Codename: Kids Next Door (Cartoon Network). Since leaving television, he has continued to produce short animated films based on his books that have won numerous awards in festivals around the world. As a performer, Mr. Willems has appeared at numerous venues including the San Francisco Sketchfest, BBC Radio and NPR. His first play, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, also a Kennedy Center commission, was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for best new play. Mr. Willems is honored to be working with the Kennedy Center again for this production. Read more here. Banana!
   
Posted by Beth Henderson
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