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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.

Marina Montefusco in RehearsalThe visually stunning and poetic CITÉ brings the paintings of Russian-born New York artist Evsa Model (1900–76) to life for young audiences. While the modern art world might seem a bit inaccessible for little ones, Le Clan des Songes has found a way to stir the imaginations of kids as young as three with captivating visuals and original music inspired by Model's vibrant work.

We wanted to take a second to connect with Le Clan des Songes founder Marina Montefusco over the inspiration behind Cité and the translation of Evsa Model's art into a piece of theater for young audiences. What was her first spark of inspiration for Cité? What, if anything, did she find difficult? What does she love about performing for young audiences? Check out the trailer below, then continue reading for Marina's interview!


What was your initial inspiration behind Cité?  
One day while walking in Paris, I accidentally discovered Evsa Model's painting in the basement of a photo gallery. I observed it for a very long time, intrigued by the mystery it contained and wanting to discover more. I decided to learn more about this forgotten painter!

Why did you think Evsa Model's work might appeal to young audiences?  
Simply, he paints with a child's eyes. He is both poetic and moving at the same time and elicits emotion through colors. And it is very simple for young children to understand his uncluttered style. Because his artwork (and Cité) is visually abstract, it awakens every child's imagination. Often, through their own drawings, they tell us their own story. It is a language they already speak.
 
Projection and Shadow Puppetry from Cité
What were the challenges in adapting visual artwork for the stage? 
There is a movement, a composition, a story in the paintings of Evsa Model. For me it was quite natural to translate it into moving images.

Have you adapted other unusual works for the stage? 
Yes! I have adapted a book, L'Arbre sans Fin by Claude Ponti and the board game Clue into shows as well. 

Why do you create theater for kids as young as three?
Undoubtedly, very young children are my favorite audience. It is easy to connect to them on a perceptive, emotional, and intuitive level. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the name of your company, Le Clan des Songes?  
"Songe" means "waking dream" in French—we are The Clan of Waking Dreams. That's what I wish to offer to the public.
 
 
Be sure to check out CITÉ's Family Activity to re-create the stunning shapes and mesmerizing colors of Evsa Model's artwork as a family. You might have the world's next great painter in your midst!
Posted by Zack Ramadan
HANDA'S SURPRISE book cover
Read the original Handa's Surprise picture book, written and illustrated by Eileen Brown and published by Walker Books.

The story of Handa's Surprise features numerous animals, though if you were to ask Handa herself, she wouldn't know what you were talking about. As Handa walks between villages to deliver fruit to her friend, Akeyo, these furtive fruit-lovers sneak up on her and nab the fruit piece by piece! By the time she arrives—well, let's not spoil the surprise.

In Little Angel Theatre's adaptation of Handa's Surprise, the many animals come to life through the delightful magic of puppetry. These puppets come in many shapes, sizes and varieties, just like the fruit in Handa's basket! And despite their thieving ways, they're all quite charming once you get to know them.
 
 
Monkey – The monkey is a marionette: his head and arms are controlled by strings that attach to a handheld bar. Naturally curious and a born performer, not only will the monkey be happy to make your acquaintance—he'll also do a little dance for you! Like all monkeys he has a taste for bananas, so when Handa's not looking, he absconds with hers. Cheeky monkey.
 
Ostrich – The ostrich is a rod puppet: her long neck is supported by a handheld rod, and a trigger near the rod's handle operates her turned-up beak. Proud and territorial, she will not be all that pleased to meet you. What exactly are you doing here, anyway, disturbing her beauty sleep?! As for that sweet-smelling guava she makes off with, finders keepers.
 
Zebra – The zebra is brought to life by a simple sheet of fabric draped over the puppeteer's back, but she is no simple creature. Quite the contrary, she is one brazen and determined lady! One whiff of the orange in Handa's basket, and she commits herself to its theft—a juicy crime worth celebrating.
 
Elephant – The elephant has ears operated by one puppeteer and a long trunk operated by another. She stomps about, trumpeting a song to herself, and may tickle you with her trunk if you get too close! When she finds the mango in Handa's basket, red and perfectly ripe, it's chomping time.
 
Giraffe – The giraffe's long neck and head are manipulated by a handle behind her ears, and her spindly legs move up, down and side-to-side simply by pivoting a handle on her back. She's a graceful thing, though sometimes she has trouble standing up; and being so tall, she may find your appearance curious. Her curiosity also leads her to the pineapple in Handa's basket! Uh-oh.
 
Antelope – The antelope comes to life through a beautiful mask, but it's drumbeats that give him life! This antelope likes to dance, and he'll show you his moves before making off with Handa's avocado.
 
Parrot – The parrot is a funny guy. Half-corncob, half-shekere, all pride, this bird does not appreciate being teased! Smile at the shaking of his cornhusk tailfeathers, giggle at the rattly twitching of his gourd-shaped head; but stay low and don't cross him, unless you want to end up like that tiny, purple passionfruit.
 
 
  A few other animals appear in the show as well, but seeing as one of them takes part in the titular surprise, we're going to keep them a secret and let you meet them in person when you come to see the show. Handa's Surprise is playing at The New 42nd Street Studios through Sunday, February 21st. Come and meet the animals!
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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