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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.

So far this year, our shows have included everything from undersea adventure in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to eye-popping African circus tricks in Mother Africa: My Home, but we've yet to see a show quite like Oh Boy! Based on the French book of the same name, Oh Boy! tells the story of Balthazar as he tries to give up his party boy ways to care for his half-brother and half-sisters.

We sat down to talk to Olivier Letellier, the director of this one-man play, about adapting the story, his initial inspiration and ping pong balls!

1. Do you remember the first time you read the book Oh Boy!? What did you think of it?
I was stuck by the rhythm of the story, the sensitivity of the characters, the audacity of the themes and the humor of the author, Marie-Aude Murail.

Balthazar2. Why does this book make such a great play?
The story is bright and full of hope, helping readers to grow and look at the world with enthusiasm. Also, the character of Balthazar is so singular, positive and touching that he becomes an endearing hero. 

3. Why is it important for kids to see shows with mature themes, like Oh Boy!
It’s about emotions that cross their minds and make them question things every day. They may face obstacles so it’s important they realize others share their emotions. It helps them better understand what they're feeling.

4. Why did you decide to make this a one-man show instead of a play with many actors?
Balthazar is a great young man. He can be funny and touching, sensitive and blundering all at the same time. He becomes the audience's ideal big brother while telling us his story.

When the storyteller is alone on stage, addressing each of us, he sparks our own imaginations and the story becomes our own. I find that the audience becomes more active when they visualize the story for themselves.

5. What sight are you most looking forward to seeing while you’re in NYC?
Central Park in the snow!

6. Why did you choose those specific objects to represent the kids?
Each object describes a personality trait of a character. Audiences can understand the spirit of the character, without needing words. The dictionary represents the gifted Siméon, the duck represents the fragile Morgan (by referring to the "ugly duckling") and the book with the heart and glitter instantly tells us about the pretty Venice. These objects have an evocative and emotional power that connects us all because they’re present in our daily life. We all know these symbols since they’re common cultural references.
 
The Ping Pong Ball Drop7. Do you have a favorite audience reaction to the show?
 
In 2010, when we created the show, a teacher told us she had hesitated to take one of her students to see it: his personal story was very close to the one told in the show. He had lost his mother and had never known his father... Back in class, she talked with her students about their respective impressions. She was trying to see if he had any particular reaction. Nothing. After a long while, when her class’s exchange became very animated, he raised his hand to ask a simple question: "So, does that mean I also have the right to be happy?"
 
8. If you had to use one word to describe Oh Boy! what would it be?
Stimulating.

9. How many ping pong balls have you gone through since opening the show?
About 64,000. If you lined them all up, they would almost reach a mile and a half long!
 
Olivier Letellier Trained at the French school Jacques Lecoq, Olivier Letellier acted in his first show, L’Homme de fer, a play for young audiences based on a Grimm fairy-tale, with his company, Théâtre du Phare, in 2004. Three years later he created and interpreted La Mort du roi Tsongor, based on the novel by Laurent Gaudé. In 2009, he staged Oh Boy!, based on the novel by Marie-Aude Murail, for which he received a Young Audiences Molière award in 2010. In 2014, he initiated the Playwriting for Young Audiences project, in collaboration with the authors Sylvain Levey, Magali Mougel and Catherine Verlaguet, which gave birth to three plays in the 2015-2016 season: Maintenant que je sais, Je ne veux plus, Me taire (Now That I Know, I No Longer Want To, Be Silent).
In July 2016, he directed the opera Kalila wa Dimna by Moneim Adwan, commissioned by the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. His latest creation, La nuit où le jour s'est levé (The Night Where the Day Rises), was co-written by Sylvain Levey, Magali Mougel and Catherine Verlaguet, and presented by the National Theater of Chaillot at the Théâtre des Abbesses in November 2016. In January 2017, he adapted his show Oh Boy! (still on tour in France) for the creation of an English version in New York. Olivier Letellier is currently the associate artist at the Théâtre National de Chaillot. 
 

 
New Victory Thumb Experience this audacious and moving story for yourself here!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Noluyanda Mqulwana, Nolly for short, grew up in the township of Khayelitsha near Cape Town in South Africa. Growing up, Nolly saw that many of her neighbors didn't have a plan for their future. To give herself something to work for, she began studying ballet with Dance for All at the age of nine. She knew that dancing would give her the strength to avoid the pitfalls of her peers, but she never imagined the adventures she would find on this career path!

Now, she's coming to New York City to dance in Mother Africa: My Home with a company of dancers, musicians and acrobats from all over Africa! We spoke to her about her inspiring journey...
 
Noluyanda's Headshot
1. In your own words, what was your childhood like? 

Coming from a disadvantaged community, I had nothing to do after school. A lot of my peers didn't care about the future ahead and sat around, doing nothing. Because of this and other bad influences, many sadly fell victim to HIV.

Even at a young age, I knew dancing would both keep me busy and give me strength to avoid getting involved with the wrong crowd.

2. Can you describe the moment when you first fell in love with dance? 

I fell in love with dance when I was about nine. I was always an active kid who liked playing sports, so when I heard that my school would offer dance classes, I got very excited! I really did fall in love at my first lesson.

I was so enthusiastic when I started that I constantly wore my ballet slippers so I could practice all the time!

3. How would your life be different if you weren't a dancer? 
 
I wouldn’t have been as disciplined or driven as I am today. Also, if I didn’t have dance, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school. Since I was raised by a single parent, I would’ve started working at a very young age to help my mother. I still had to work to help support my family, but I was able to both go to school and work as a dance teacher. 

4. What is it like to be a dancer in such a large circus troupe?

Since I come from a classical ballet background, it’s a totally different world for me. Even the music and scenery on the stage are different! It’s been incredibly fun to go from the technical world of ballet to really "get down" with a type of dance called pantsula.
 

 
Another big difference is the amount of stamina involved. I used a certain amount of energy as a ballet dancer, but Mother Africa requires a lot more. Cardio needed to become one of my passions, too. I thank God every day that I’m able to be a diverse dancer!

5. Which act in Mother Africa: My Home is your favorite to watch?

Nolly DancingHonestly, all of them are my favorite, because each artist works with such focus and discipline. If I had to pick, I’d choose the smaller transition moments between each act. In these few minutes, the artists are challenged to find and connect with the idea of "home." When the transitions happen, these artists are given a freedom to move creatively, which helps the whole production grow.

6. When did you start traveling? Do you have a favorite place you've been to?

I started traveling when my professional career was just starting, at seventeen years old. It’s been a dream come true!

It’s hard to have a favorite place. Ever since I started traveling, I've always liked to stay in a country long enough to learn as much as I can about it. Then, if opportunities arise, I move on to the next one. However, Germany stole my heart five years ago, and it’s still my home to this day. So, that would have to be my favorite place... for now!

7. Why do you think it's important to teach kids about dance? 

Back in the day, dancing was ignored since most people didn't think you could make much money as a professional performer. Today, kids have the opportunity to choose something that might not be the most conventional way to earn a living, but gives them joy and happiness. Even if kids don’t pursue dance professionally, it keeps them healthy and teaches them a lot of principles like dedication and discipline. 

8. What's your favorite form of dance?

All dance forms are my favorite! I live my life through movement and, because of that, I have to be ready for all kinds of styles... and I love each and every one.
 
New Victory Thumb See Nolly in action at Mother Africa: My Home. This exciting circus spectacular runs from now until January 1st. Get your tickets here!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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