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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.

Flo Wolston stands out for her glamour and poise, but behind the perfectly done makeup, she is a veritable treasure trove of New York City history. During the 1930s, she saw the rise and inevitable fall of Minsky's Republic. Does that name sounds familiar? Before it became The New Victory Theater, the theater had many names.

In the 1930s, Billy Minsky opened Broadway's first burlesque club, naming our beloved theater Minsky's Republic. The theater facade featured a bold checkerboard pattern with the faces of Minsky's biggest stars, including Gypsy Rose Lee. Inside, black-tie attire was strictly required. Doormen were dressed as French cavalrymen, and the female ushers wore French maid costumes and squirted perfume on patrons as they entered. And famously, down the center of the orchestra, was a double runway that put Minksy's showgirls, including Ms. Wolston, as close to the patrons as possible. 

As she celebrates her 100th birthday on Friday, August 25, we look back with her to a time of a jazz-filled Midtown, after-hours clubs with Liberace, and the perfect corned beef sandwich on rye. Start up a playlist of days long gone and wish Flo a happy birthday with us, here at The New Victory Theater!

Flo on the Marquee!
 
Flo in her 20s
What is the biggest way New York has changed since your time as a Minsky's dancer?
There are less delis, no booking agents and too many big syndicates to count. TV has really changed live entertainment. For instance, there used to be a bunch of small jazz clubs on 52nd St. Now, you can only find large venues in Midtown. 

What was your favorite song to perform to? 
My favorite artist back then was Robert Alda, and I always looked forward to dancing to "Stairway To The Stars" and "Stay In My Arms Cinderella." 

Was 42nd Street as crowded and busy in the 1930s as it is today?
Yes, 42nd St was always this busy. It hasn't changed. I love seeing the theater still in use!

How did the Great Depression affect Minsky's Republic?
The Great Depression didn't affect Minsky's at all. Back then, tickets were only 35 cents, 50 cents and $1.

Minsky's BurlesqueDid you ever meet any celebrities?
I didn't meet any celebrities at Minksy's. But after it closed I worked with Jackie Gleason at La Conga and met actor Ray Milland and his wife. At the after-hours club Spivey's Roof, I became friends with Liberace who you could find playing the piano there most nights. 

Where are you from? What did your family say when you moved here and started performing at Minsky's?
I was born in Philly and moved to NYC when I was four-years-old. I earned $50 a week (about $900 today), so my family didn't mind that I worked at Minksy's at all. In fact, my dad would stop backstage to visit me, and my uncle would even catch a show from time to time. 

What was your favorite place to eat while you worked on 42nd Street? Is it still there?
My favorite place to eat was at the Stage Door Deli on 47th Street near the Gaiety Theater. It's no longer there, but I always used to get a corned beef sandwich with mustard on rye.

What was your audience like? 
Audience members at that time were mostly men. People assume that the audience was wild but, in fact, you couldn't be rowdy or you'd be thrown out immediately. It was all very well controlled. 

Flo WolstonHow was the experience of attending a show different in the 30s compared to today?
Well, the prices today are ridiculous. Also, I miss seeing tap dancing and toe dancing (pointe). You don't see that in most shows anymore. 

What was your reaction to Mayor LaGuardia shutting down Minsky's? Do you think it was the right call?
I was in disbelief when Mayor LaGuardia shut down Minsky's. Absolutely devastated. It took away a steady paycheck, which was not a good time for us performers. Looking at all of the risque entertainment that exists today, I can honestly say it never should have closed.

Tell us about your favorite costume! 
I didn't have a favorite costume. We just wore sparkly underwear!
 
 
The New Victory Theater Discover more about the history of The New Victory Theater here!

 

Posted by Beth Henderson

More summer means more fun! This Summer Field Guide is dedicated to getting the whole family up on their feet and ready to savor the sunshine. Get your blood pumping with the companies of The MigrationBromance and Rennie Harris: Funkedified.

Each show's performers tell a story using physical movement, enthusiastically accompanied by brilliant artwork, funk music and Cyr wheels. Step Afrika!'s The Migration provides a powerful intersection of fine art, live music and dance, the Barely Methodical Troupe of Bromance command the stage with flips and tricks and Rennie Harris: Funkedified celebrates funk and hip hop with infectious beats.
 
Contributed by Ruthie Ostrow, Summer 2017 Communications Apprentice

The Migration

In The Migration, Step Afrika! brings to life Jacob Lawrence's master work The Migration Series, the series of paintings illustrating the movement of African American communities from southern to northern cities. The Great Migration was due to the rise of violent, racist ideologies and Jim Crow laws, as well as the WWI-era industrial booms of certain northern cities. Performers move through The Migration Series with moving choreography and stirring music. 

To connect with Jacob Lawrence, bring his work to you! Print out these selected pictures from The Migration Series, try to find all ten items on the list and talk about how these paintings make you feel.  Look over the paintings and discover:
  • Six birds, flying north
  • A ringing bell
  • A candlestick
  • A girl with yellow ribbons 
  • An empty corner in an empty room
  • A splash of steel being poured 
  • The view from a train car 
  • A crowded bedroom
  • Three men wearing triangle jackets
  • A long line at a voting booth
Explore New York and spot Lawrence's work throughout the city! Many of his paintings are currently on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Also, have you ever noticed a glass mosaic at the Times Square–42nd St station (right next to the New Vic!)? That's Lawrence's last public work New York in Transit!

New York in Transit
 

Rennie Harris: Funkedified

If you can't stop tapping your toes this summer, Rennie Harris: Funkedified is the show for you. The performers pop, lock and groove to the dynamic rhythms of funk. 

Get your body moving to the beat with the music of Soul Train and James Brown. You never know, these tunes might inspire some cool moves, just like they inspired Rennie Harris! 
 

Once you've got your blood pumping, try spicing up the party with a couple of dance games that can be played with two people or two hundred!

Groove and Boogie

Crank up the volume and get dancing! During the song, the leader calls out one of four words and all of the dancers must complete the action associated with them to the beat of the music. The words are:
  • Clap—Clap your hands while dancing
  • Jump—Jump in place
  • Groove—Stomp your feet
  • Boogie—Spin in a circle while shaking your shoulders

For an added twist, try putting a couple of moves together. If the leader calls out, "Clap! Groove!" clap your hands and stomp your feet.

Hip Hop Clip Clap 

Get ready to put your hands together! One person starts by clapping a pattern with their hands. The next person repeats the pattern then adds one of their own. The game only stops when the song comes to an end!

Funky Freeze Dance

Just because the music stops doesn't mean that the FUNk has to! Everyone dances to the beat while one person periodically stops the music. When the song pauses, everyone has to freeze—in their best Funkedified pose! Try throwing your hands in the air or reaching way down low.

Ready to kick it up a notch? Try practicing some of your moves at a free dance event at one of New York's parks across the city.
Contributed by Caroline Dowded, Summer 2017 Communications Apprentice

Bromance

There is no "I" in team. After all, it takes three incredibly talented dudes to flip and fly their way into Bromance. The boys perform show-stopping parkour, hand balancing tricks and Cyr wheel stunts. In short, it's bro-tastic!

Do you have what it takes to be a hopeless bromantic?

Team building games have many benefits such as developing stronger relationships and building trust in others. Games that require group effort help foster creativity, encourage problem solving and increase motivational skills. Grab your buddies and give one of these games a go!

1. Human Knot

 

The Human Knot Our apprentices play a game of the human knot
 
What do you need?
Just yourselves

What is it?
This is a game of twists and turns! Have your group stand in a circle facing each other, shoulder to shoulder. Then, everyone hold out their right hand to someone else's across the circle, forming a giant knot. The trick is to get every player to collaborate with one another and untie the knot without letting go. Here's a fun challenge: Time yourselves for a round, and go back and see if you can beat the clock in a second try!


2. The Silent Game

What do you need?
A timer

What is it?
How long can you or a teammate go without feeling the urge to speak? This game teaches you to communicate nonverbally by forming different shapes with your team while attempting to stay silent the whole time. Your teamwork is put to the test as players attempt to motion (i.e. pointing) to one another to form different shapes, like a square, a pentagon or the whole United States! See how far you can go as the shapes become more difficult each round. Here are shapes for your team to conquer:
  • Triangle
  • Square
  • Kite
  • Pentagon
  • Heart
  • Sun
  • Star
  • The American Flag
  • Question Mark
  • The United States!
Group Juggling Our apprentices try group juggling with their Victor Bees

3. Group Juggle
What do you need?
Five or so balls to juggle

What is it?
With your group, stand in an inward facing circle. Start with one ball to juggle around the circle. Everyone starts with their hands raised and the person throwing the ball calls the name of the person catching. As each person has a turn they lower their hands so everyone gets a turn. As the game develops, more balls can be used to increase the pressure to watch and listen to the whole team.


 
 
The MigrationFunkedified
Bromance
Interested in joining us next season? Learn more about The Migration, Rennie Harris: Funkedified and Bromance here!
Posted by Beth Henderson
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