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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.

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 week, we turn the spotlight on Sasha Grunberg and her parents, Frank Grunberg and Patty Enright, who have been attending shows here since the late 1990s. Sasha is now twenty years old, a college student, and she’s a New Vic kid through and through.

"The earliest memories I have of The New Victory are my birthday parties," Sasha tells us. "New Vic-wide, I'm known as Birthday Party Sasha." Indeed, Sasha celebrated her January birthday here on multiple occasions, inviting dozens of family members and friends to see a New Victory show—often a holiday circus spectacle. "Because we were here so much, New Vic staff kind of became part of the family, and that's made it so much more special."
 

These birthday party invitations, designed by Sasha's dad, Frank Grunberg, incorporated the artwork for the shows that friends and family would get to see before the party: Circus Oz (2004), Aga-Boom (2005) and New Shanghai Circus (2007).

Sasha's earliest memory of seeing a theatrical performance predates her birthday parties at the New Vic. It was The Wizard of Oz when she was only three years old. "I remember going in the little Dorothy dress with the little ruby slippers. And I remember being so enthralled by these characters that I once saw in a movie or in a book put on a stage. I think that's a great experience for anyone to see, no matter what age."

Sasha's love of theater only grew from there, and her exposure to the performing arts as a kid has had a definitive impact on her. Describing the New Vic as a gateway to stage experience, Sasha credits her personal involvement in middle and high school theater with teaching her lifelong skills in organization, time management and artistic collaboration. "Coming to the New Vic sparked my interest in theater, which ultimately made me a more confident person." 
 
Sasha celebrates her 7th birthday at the New Vic
Patty lights the candles at Sasha's 7th birthday party, here at the New Vic in 2002. Photo: Frank Grunberg

Even before Sasha was old enough to attend shows here, Patty and Frank got involved with The New Victory. Before the theater opened in 1995, they recall receiving a letter in the mail asking whether they'd be interested in supporting high-quality theater for young audiences. Their donation twenty years ago resulted in an ongoing relationship, and they've since joined us for over fifty performances.

"We look forward to helping to support The New Victory's continued good work," says Patty, for whom providing access to affordable, quality programming is an important, personal goal. "My parents made culture a real issue. They exposed me and my siblings to a variety of music, dance, theater and art. I enjoyed every chance I got to be a part of the cultural scene." One of Patty’s favorite memories is of bringing her parents to The New Victory alongside Sasha, expanding their family theatergoing tradition across three generations. They always aimed for Sunday matinees with a family meal afterwards, using theater "as the foundation for time together as a family."

Sasha echoes this sentiment. When she was younger, her parents both had very busy work schedules. "So a show at the New Vic, for us," she explains, "was always a time that the three of us could be together, do something together as a family and all get something out of it." The familial experience extended to friends and neighbors, too. Sasha fondly recalls an elderly neighbor who attended one of her birthday parties that featured a chair-stacking Chinese circus act. The two of them joked for years afterward about how many chairs they themselves could stack. "How many chairs are you up to? I'm on 12!"

Being able to inspire kids like Sasha is why we do what we do at The New Victory, and Sasha recognizes this herself. This past summer she attended Victory Dance, and she saw her own childhood experience reflected in the awestruck faces of kids in the audience. "You never know where that spark is, and you don't know where that kid is sitting in the house. Someone could have the same experience as me, and pick up on something and say, 'Oh, I really loved the Martha Graham performance. I want to do ballet.' Or, 'I loved the sound the tap dancing shoes made. Let me try that.' That's important for kids!"

Where did your #LoveOfTheater start? Let us know on Twitter @newvictory, or snap a selfie for Instagram and tag us @newvictorytheater the next time you're here!
Posted by Zack Ramadan
May 8, 2015

Thanks, Mom!


This Sunday is Mother's Day, and here at The New Victory we'd like to take a moment to say "Thanks, Mom!" When I was little, my mom and grandma would get me all dressed up to attend shows at the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, Ohio. I was so taken with my first show there, The Wizard of Oz, that as we walked back to our car afterwards, I asked if we could go back in and see it again! At five years old, I was clearly hooked. Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Gilbert and Sullivan—all the soundtracks and cast recordings are still in active circulation in my iTunes library, and I have my mom (and her mom!) to thank.

Across so many roles and departments here, many of us at the New Vic were drawn to theater when we were kids, and our mothers certainly helped fan our little dramatic flames. In the spirit of Mother's Day, I asked our staff to share their own stories of moms encouraging an early love of theater. So, without further ado, I give you unfiltered gratitude for moms, more moms, and moms of moms! Happy Mother's Day.
    
In middle school, I was an awkward kid with a huge love for singing and acting. In 8th grade, our choir director quit in the middle of the year and the school cancelled the spring musical, as there was no one to manage it. My mom identified that this was going to be a huge problem for her dramatic daughter (who sang show tunes at every waking moment) and therefore petitioned the school to let her work with one other mom (who also had a musical-obsessed daughter) to produce the spring musical on their own. These two women did not have theatrical backgrounds, had never directed anything before this experience and could not read music—but that didn't stop them! 

My mom and her partner in crime, Connie, worked for months, and at the end of the whole experience put on an amazing version of Li'l Abner, with over 50 kids costumed and singing their hearts out on an intricate, built-from-scratch set. They sold out the entire run. And did I mention the lifelong friendships that started during the production? It was a labor of love for her theater-obsessed daughter, and I still remember it as a highlight of my childhood (and I was a pretty convincing Mammy Yokum!).  Thanks, Mom! — Lindsey Buller Maliekel, Director of Education / Public Engagement
    
From my first Broadway show, I knew theater was my home.  My mom encouraged me in a special way, spending hours with me forming the perfect letter to be delivered to the actors I admired.  Before the show, I would drop the letter with the person working at the stage door.  I'd sit in my seat next to my mother watching the performance, my attention divided by my excitement that the person on stage had already read my handwritten note, seen my name and decided whether I'd meet them! Afterwards, we'd return to the stage door and very often the manager would say, "Yes, so-and-so would like to meet you."  

My mother would then wait for me, sitting on a metal folding chair when she was lucky, or standing in the draft while I would be escorted up, sometimes even crossing the stage, to a dressing room.  My first Broadway star was Yul Brynner.  When he stepped out to greet me and shake my hand I could barely eek out my thank-you-and-congratulations.  I scurried back down the stairs to the stage door where my mom was always smiling, waiting for my story.  Over the years, she did this countless times with me, giving up many weekends to it and helping me to meet many generous theater legends. I would not be the theater lover or the theater professional that I am now without my amazing mom. — Melissa Kalt, Senior Manager, Individual Giving
    
My mother introduced me to every form of art when I was young, and she made it clear that she would support whatever I was interested in. I do not know if she realized at the time how much theater would impact our lives. I grew up performing around the San Francisco Bay Area and I would audition for everything, sometimes for companies up to 2 hours away from home. I was much too young to drive at the time, and my mom could have refused to let me audition at companies based on the commute alone (like many other mothers I knew), but instead she encouraged me to not let the distance stop me from doing what I loved. 

Many evenings we would take the long drive to rehearsal, and although it could be boring, my mom did her best to make the time fun. There was not enough time for her to return home and back again to pick me up, so she would do work at a coffee shop and wait for me, sometimes surprising me with a cookie for the ride home. My mother's sacrifice meant the world to me and taught me that following my passion for theater is always worth it. Our love of theater helps us connect, and to this day, seeing a show is always better with her by my side. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! — Lauren Meyer, Spring 2015 Communications Apprentice
    
When I was twelve years old, I saw Les Misérables for the first time with my mom, and since then attending Broadway shows is still a family pastime. My mom, twin sister and I (a trio affectionately nicknamed "Nancy's Girls" after our trusty GPS "Nancy" who guides us on all of our adventures) have seen upwards of 80 shows together. One of my favorite stories to tell about our outings is when we were seeing RENT, and in true Broadway fashion the theater was extremely over-air-conditioned.  My mom left the theater during intermission to buy us sweaters so that we could enjoy the show without shivering, missing the iconic Act Two opener, "Seasons of Love." I think this story not only illustrates how my mom knows temperature comfort is key to enjoying the theater, but also how loving and selfless she is.  I love you, Mom. Thanks for the sweater and the memories! — Janette Martinez, Education Assistant
    
When I was five years old, my grandmother took me to see Annie. While I do not remember many details from that first performance, I do know that that was the day I fell in love with theater. Walking away mesmerized, I envisioned myself on stage under the lights. No matter that I was a shy, tone-deaf child; I was the only girl I knew with red(ish) colored hair, so the part was, for all intents and purposes, mine!

From that moment on, my grandmother immersed me in theater, much as her father had done with her and her sister. Along the way, she made sure we saw every musical, taught me what "good seats" are (always orchestra, preferably on the side center aisle), how to recognize "our kind of show" (inclusion of big dance numbers and a large chorus) and when speed is necessary to acquire tickets (special shout-out to her skills during the 2004 Tony Awards when she purchased tickets to The Boy From Oz during Hugh Jackman's performance). 

At the same time she nurtured my budding interest in performing. What started as a hobby, became a passion and, before I knew it, morphed into a career. Throughout it all, my grandmother has guided me with outward encouragement, gentle nudges, silent approval and unwavering support. She has sat through more than her fair share of dance recitals, school plays and living room performances, learned about the latest show, actor or trend to spark my interest, driven me to and from one too many rehearsals and been my primary theater buddy for the past 20 years. I am who I am, and where I am, today because of her. And in all of that time, she has never once told me that I couldn't be Annie. Thanks, Grandma. — Bari Lasky, Development Assistant / Special Events
    
My mom has seen me in almost every single play I have ever been in, until recently when, with mobility issues, she finds the space of an "Off-Off" Broadway theater inaccessible. Always supportive and enthusiastic about the work I do in life and on stage, she has traveled far and wide to see me perform. My mom means everything to me, but I don't think she understands how important it has always been to me to know that she is in the audience watching.

For the first play I was cast in, in Kindergarten, I had one line: "Did you eat too many cookies?" She would indulge me as I rehearsed and rehearsed that line, by giving me my cue line and discussing the meaning of it for hours on end. I will never forget when she traveled by Greyhound bus in a snowstorm to see me perform in Dark of the Moon, a very grim play I was in during my junior year in college. Over dinner, we analyzed the play together and she saw meaning in it that I hadn’t even thought of. 

That same year, she won a raffle prize: a weekend stay at the Waldorf Astoria and tickets to Miss Saigon. She could have taken my father, but since I was a theater major, she brought me. We had a delightful weekend, staying in a fancy hotel and attending one of the most moving musical theater productions I have ever seen on Broadway. Again, we discussed the characters, themes, music and connections to real life over dinner afterwards and on the train ride home at the end of a magical weekend. 

My mom is simply the best! — Courtney Boddie, Director of Education / School Engagement
    
My mother took me to my first Broadway show, Cats, when I was 8 years old. I thought the opening number was terrifying—the "cats" were climbing everywhere! But my mom held my hand through it, and by the end of the matinee, I was hooked. I owe my love of the arts to my mother. It's also worth noting that the tri-state area was going through one of the worst heat waves to date on that August day—it was 103 degrees out, but that didn't stop my mother from making the trek into the city with a very sweaty kid. Thanks, Mom! — Christina Macchiarola, Marketing and Communications Manager
    
My mom is a costume designer and would bring me with her to the local community theater after school when I was little. Hiding among the endless rows of dresses, coats, hats and parasols in the costume room was my favorite place to sit and read. If there was a rehearsal going on, I would sit up on the balcony in awe of the magic that was being created down on the stage.

These moments are definitely what inspired me to do what I do today! Thanks, Mom! — Lauren Hood, Artistic Programming Assistant
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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