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.

The jovial and jaw-dropping BELLO MANIA, featuring more mania than ever before, has made a triumphant return to The New Victory Theater! We caught up with Michael Karas, juggler extraordinaire and one of the newest members of Bello’s troupe, to find out how his #LoveOfTheater began. Haven’t had a chance to see Bello and his crew’s crazy antics yet? Check out our trailer, then read on for Michael's interview!

Michael KarasWhat inspired you to get into juggling?
When I was younger, I went to an arts festival in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, I remember watching a guy juggle three wooden mallets and play a song on a xylophone at the same time!  I thought it was the coolest thing, and I was inspired to learn absolutely everything I could about juggling. Not only was juggling fun, but it made people smile!

How did you hone your craft?
I learned how to juggle in a number of different ways. First, I read every book from my local library on how to juggle. The art really came to life for me when I was a child actor; I was in a show with a fellow actor who taught me the very basic skills of juggling. A few years later, another friend of mine taught me how to juggle three clubs. From there I began to teach myself, and often watched video tutorials to master different juggling techniques. I enjoyed juggling so much, it never felt like practice!

How did you conceptualize, and ultimately realize, your solo acts in Bello Mania?
I don't always perform in theaters as large as The New Victory, so right away I knew my acts had to be BIG! I made sure to use extra large rings and balls that would be bold enough for everyone in the audience to see, from the orchestra all the way up to the balcony.  

For the first act, I wanted to do something more along the lines of a "classic" juggling performance, so I chose jazzy music to accompany difficult and flashy tricks with clubs and rings. For the second act, I switched it up and used a mix of popular hip-hop songs to bring some "New York flavor" to Bello Mania. Lastly, I knew that Bello loves to be silly, so I had to bring my puppet act, "Mahna Mahna," to the show!
The tiny puppets of Comet in Moominland encounter a monster
The playful puppetry and detailed sets of Manitoba Theatre for Young People's Comet in Moominland opened our 2007-08 season.

Fred Garbo in an inflatable suit, Naielma Santos and an inflatable dog
In 2002, Fred Garbo and Naielma Santos of Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co. covered our stage with air-filled props, long before inflatable snowglobes were a thing.

We hear you saw Comet in Moominland and Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co. when you were a kid. Both shows played right here at the New Vic! Where did you see them?
I actually saw those shows back home in Pittsburgh where I grew up, but my memory of them has always stuck with me. I remember Comet in Moominland was performed "in the round," meaning the audience sat in all directions around the stage, and the action happened in the center—I didn’t know theater could be done in that way! When I saw Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co., it was on a very big stage; the entire production was so visually-striking, it’s something I’ll never forget.

How do you think your #LoveOfTheater has grown since those early theatergoing experiences?
My parents felt that taking their child to see theater was essential, and I'm so grateful they held that belief. As an adult, I still go to the theater quite often. I try to see around five to ten shows a month! I have always admired how fearless live actors, performers and entertainers are. Now that I’m older, and a performer myself, I understand how important it is to support live theater and entertainment.

In your New Vic Bill bio, you mention that you "LOVE being an audience member." Can you tell us more about that?
As much as I love performing, I also love being an audience member. Having been on both sides of the curtain, I can appreciate, as an audience member, the amount of work that goes into every single show. When I see a show, it inspires me to make my own art. Sometimes just sitting in a theater and watching a performance gives me hundreds of new ideas.

Why should families see Bello Mania?
Bello Mania is a perfect family show. It gets everyone laughing and saying "wow" together!  Kids will laugh at Bello's wacky shenanigans and adults will appreciate how skillful all the performers are. Bello's goal is to bring multiple generations together to laugh and be amazed at the same time. Kids will be inspired to try new feats and adults will re-connect with the curious child inside each of them.  
Bello Mania icon Be sure to catch Michael Karas and the rest of the BELLO MANIA family performing at The New Victory Theater through May 1, 2016. Who knows? Your #LoveOfTheater may begin—or grow—when you witness harrowing high wire hijinks, the show-stopping sway pole or Michael’s jazzy juggling!
Posted by Zack Ramadan

As we celebrate The New Victory's twentieth birthday this season, we're highlighting some of the families who have been a part of our greater New Vic family for many years. For these parents and kids, seeing theatrical performances at the New Vic has become a tradition, and over the years they've shared their love of theater with their extended family and friends. This month, the spotlight is on Julia Levy and Ari Edelson, co-founders of the Culture Craver Kids app, and their son, Eliot!


Julia Levy and Ari Edelson with their two-year-old son, Eliot
Ari and Julia are starting their family theatergoing tradition early with their two-year-old son, Eliot.

Sleeping Beauty by Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company
Julia recalls bringing her niece to the New Vic in 2013 to see Sleeping Beauty by Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company.
"We love The New Victory," says Ari.

Julia agrees. "The standard of the work presented here competes with the greatest in the city. And we love that the productions visit from all around the world."

Ari and Julia, who share a profound #LoveOfTheater, were exposed to the performing arts when they were very young. Ari began staging puppet shows at the age of four, and Julia performed as a green bug at about the same age. They have been attending shows at the New Vic since 1999 and love the medium because "it's a platform for storytelling and idea sharing."

Ari describes theater as "the most collaborative artform, allowing audiences to create temporary communities that are inspired, illuminated or transported."

Because of Ari and Julia's work on Culture Craver Kids, theater is playing a larger part in their family life than ever before. Their son, Eliot, who turns two in May, is already becoming a connoisseur of the arts.

"We have started taking Eliot to some age-appropriate theater, and we want other families to be able to find more culture they'll love," says Julia. "New York City parents like us need a modern guide that knows the city and knows us."

With their new app, Culture Craver Kids, Ari and Julia are solving the discovery problem for families seeking ways to engage with the arts. "Looking at what's available on Culture Craver Kids, we are so excited for what's in store for Eliot," says Julia. "In the meantime, he's spending a lot of time listening to showtunes and visiting the city's museums and outdoor cultural experiences."

"As he grows up in New York City," adds Ari, "we can’t wait for him to see as much art, music, theater, and dance as possible." Of course, there's one obvious place to start. Eliot had his first New Vic experience in January when he and his cousins came to see Handa's Surprise, and they've been humming the fruit lullaby ever since.
Culture Craver Kids was developed in consultation with staff here at The New Victory, where we want families to make a habit of engaging with the arts. Culture Craver Kids makes it easier for parents to find those opportunities and discover new ones. Crave events that excite your family and rate culture you've seen together. Available for iPhone on the App Store. Check it out online at!
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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