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.

In our upcoming show Chotto Desh family traditions and values take center stage. A thrilling adaptation of choreographer Akram Khan's life, Chotto Desh or 'little homeland' spins the tale of Khan's relationship and struggle with heritage and tradition. We turned to our staff to ask them about their own families.

From traditions to folk tales to unbelievable stories, these eight members of the New Vic shed some light on what their history means to them. Do you have any similar stories? Let us know in the comments!


Zack's Grandparents
Zack's great-grandparents, Clifford and Ola Mae Yockey, circa 1915.
Growing up, we had a beautiful cedar chest in our living room, with perfectly curved sides and a lid that locked. When I asked where it had come from, I learned the story of my great-grandfather, Clifford Yockey, who fell for my great-grandmother when they were only sixteen. His devotion to her was strong and tireless—they were too young to be married, but he was persistent! He made her that cedar chest—a feat of carpentry you would naturally attribute to a professional—in high school shop class! Later, when he was working in Ohio and she had moved with her family to Buffalo, he would take an overnight ferry the length of Lake Erie every weekend to spend time with her. Naturally, his devotion paid off; and from his story I've learned that in life, as in love, perseverance is everything.

—Zack Ramadan, Digital Marketing Associate


Twilight General Store
Mia's favorite general store, Twilight!

Every year, my family and I gather with a large group of our family friends and go on a camping trip to North South Lake in Haines Falls, New York, for Labor Day weekend! We hike, bike, play games around the fire, make s'mores (the 'real' way, where you prep the s'mores sandwich and wrap it in tin foil ahead of time, then roast the whole sandwich over the fire so the chocolate melts into the marshmallow - yum!), go kayaking, swim in the lake and more! We've seen bears, deer and other wildlife, and when we need a taste of civilization, we drive out of the campgrounds to our favorite general store, Twilight, for delicious ice cream cones! Through the years, we've hiked underneath waterfalls, gotten lost in the woods, started fires underneath umbrellas in torrential downpours, seen the beautiful constellations that the bright lights of NYC don't allow us to see too often and most importantly, fostered a tradition that we all want to keep in our family for years to come. Our camping weekend has kicked off autumn for my family since I was born, and I could not imagine a year without it. Here's to the great outdoors!

—Mia Sommese, Education Apprentice



Alice's Parents
Alice's parents, George and Dolly Arias, in 2016.
In our household and in my Ecuadorian parents' generation, there are many proverbs used to get a message across. There's one that my Dad always liked to use when he wanted us to pay attention to his advice. It's "The devil isn't intelligent simply because he is the devil, but because he is very experienced." This is supposed to mean that the advice of an older person should always be listened to, but my siblings and I always thought it meant that my father was a bit of a devil! We always got a kick out of that one. The Arias parents are still smiling to this day with their experience and wealth of knowledge!

—Alice Arias, Controller


Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village circa 1919
My grandmother was born in Greenwich Village during 1910. When she was a child, a warehouse storing both chemicals and toys caught fire a few weeks before Christmas. She and some of her friends were convinced that Santa stored all of his presents in that warehouse so she decided to save the toys! A friend of hers lived in a building next door so in their Sunday best, they took running leaps over the gap between the roof of the apartment building and the roof of the warehouse. Fortunately they all made it across safely and went downstairs to begin grabbing toys. As far as they knew, the fire was under control but, in fact, fire was still smoldering elsewhere in the building and the fire department was still hard at work!

Luckily they were soon interrupted by a rescue party. The warehouse owners were so grateful that none of the children were hurt that they were allowed to keep the toys they had stolen. That's how my grandmother got her pogostick. She loved that pogostick and was still good at bouncing on one well into her early fifties (thoroughly embarrassing my mom as a child.)

To this day, I still believe it's a bad idea to go inside burning buildings, chemicals and toys should not be stored in the same facility, and the best things in life are gained by taking risks.

—Rachel Goddard, Production Assistant, Accounting



Allison's Son
Allison celebrates zhuazhou with her son. He chose the calculator!
On family car trips, we would alternate parents' choice of music with kids' choice of music. Inevitably my parents would always choose Chinese opera or folk songs. One of our favorite songs was actually a theme song to a popular Chinese story about The Butterfly Lovers. My sister and I are romantics and we loved hearing them tell this story again and again. It's about a willful young woman who was able to become a scholar and find love with her best friend because of the support of her father. It's a popular tale that obviously didn't belong to my parents but in the act of telling it to us over and over, we made it one of our road trip traditions.

Another tradition we celebrate is zhuazhou. In dynastic times, babies often didn't survive their first year, but when they did, Chinese people would celebrate the child's potential and play the "birthday grab" game. Koreans celebrate the same tradition because it goes back quite a long time. It used to be that babies would choose from a selection of more traditional items, like an abacus, a green onion, a peanut, a chicken stick or noodles to represent certain values or virtues. Nowadays, people throw in new objects like a stethoscope, a computer mouse or a microphone to reflect potential occupations. 

—Allison Mui Mitchell, Director of Public Relations



Kali's Family
Kali celebrates her 18th birthday with her father and grandfather.
My grandfather sold balloons at the opening of the George Washington Bridge. He was a man of few words, so I don't know much beyond that, but the anecdote has always made me feel very connected to New York City.

When his son, my dad, was about 18 years old, the belts in his sister's car broke and the car wouldn't drive forward. It did, however, still work perfectly well in reverse. Instead of calling a tow truck, my father ended up driving the 10 miles home backward—highways and all. After a few weird looks from pedestrians and fellow drivers, he was nearly home when he passed a police car. The officer either didn't notice or didn't believe his eyes and my dad escaped this escapade without a ticket. Someone recently commented that he was quite adept at backing up. His response? "Well, there was this one time that I had a lot of practice..."and I have never underestimated that particular skill!
—Kali DiPippo, Assistant Director of Artistic Programming


Lilaia and her kids
Lilaia with her two kids.

Although I'm not Italian, in my (Japanese, Greek and Ukrainian) family we had our own version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes... with sushi! We'd have a huge feast of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, broiled eel, mackerel and my favorite, scallops, at my parents' home on Christmas Eve. Then, I could travel to my in-laws' house for a more traditional Christmas dinner the following day. It worked out really well, as both meals were delicious, but very different. I hope to keep the tradition going so there's always a little Japanese flavor to our Christmas celebrations.

—Lilaia Kairis, Director of Digital Services

Christmas Morning
Waiting for Christmas!

Each Christmas morning my dad would always go into the living room first. My mom, brother and I waited and waited in the hallway while he "lit the fire so the room would be warm." Finally he would open the door and we'd get to rush in to see what Santa had left us. This was especially hard to do when my Grandma stayed over for Christmas because she took FOREVER to get up and get ready!  I can still feel that anticipation and in hindsight, I thankfully learned a lot of patience.

—Rhesa Richards, Assistant to the Executive Vice President and Vice President, Operations


New Victory Thumb Want to learn more? Explore an exhilerating evening of dance for the whole family with Chotto Desh

Posted by Beth Henderson
Tags: 2016-17, Staff

At the New Vic, we pride ourselves in bringing exciting theater to the young people of New York City. We couldn't do any of it without the people who broaden and enrich the kids' understanding of the art forms on our stages: our New Victory Teaching Artists. This year we welcome nine new Teaching Artists to the New Vic community! 

You'll be seeing them around the theater at Family WorkshopsArts Express, Talk-Backs and TXT Marks the Spot, so get to know this batch of performers, puppeteers, podcasters and artists below. Make sure you say hi when you spot them at the theater! 

Jamie Agnello

Hello! My name is Jamie Agnello and I'm a theater artist. I spend most of my time acting, puppeteering and devising with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company. I also work as a florist with Stems Brooklyn, where I get to design and play with foliage and blossoms. 

I grew up in Oil City, Pennsylvania, where I wrote a lot of poetry in the woods and was very involved with our community theater scene. I feel so lucky to have grown up in an inclusive artistic town with lots of encouragement as a child. I'm so excited to be in a position as a Teaching Artist where I can foster that kind of creativity in young people. 

I'm so thrilled to work with the Teaching Artist ensemble at the New Vic. Being a Teaching Artist requires us to be so thoughtful about the biggest question of all: WHY ART? Why this show? Why is this important? I love that we get to play and be goofy, deliberate and creative. I'm so looking forward to all the moments of connection and energy that will surely happen with our young audiences this year. 

Carolyn Charpie Fagan

What I love about being a Teaching Artist is the sense of community it brings to my life. At the New Vic, we work together as an ensemble developing lessons and teaching in the classroom and other creative spaces. As a result, the work we do is fun, fulfilling and of the highest quality.

I love that I'm surrounded by artists who teach me their skills in facilitating and performance. From my peers, I've become a stronger teacher, but also a better puppeteer, clown, acrobat, musician, dancer, juggler, actor and more! Because of this community, my life is much richer. 

Steve Cuiffo

I'm an actor and magician who makes solo, as well as, collaborative works with other artists and theater companies. My work incorporates aspects of sleight of hand, misdirection, imitation and re-enactment.

As a Teaching Artist, I like to put myself in the same mindset as the students. I like to encourage curiosity by being curious myself. Similar to the creative process, when making a new piece of art, it's important to facilitate an environment where everyone can be confident and try things they've never tried before and know that it's okay when things don't necessarily go as planned. I'm very excited to start meeting students and help deepen their theatrical experiences at The New Victory!

Chelsea Harrison

The thing I love most about being a Teaching Artist is seeing my students' imaginations blossom before my eyes. Not only do I enjoy teaching my students, I also enjoy learning from them. From them, I learn the true meaning of joy. I witness robust imaginations at play and it lights me up with laughter.

Working as a Teaching Artist infuses my life with purpose and playfulness. Kids teach me every day how to be my bravest and silliest self as I explore the limitlessness of my own imagination. 

Rachel Lee 

My name is Rachel Lee and I am a musical theater practitioner and Teaching Artist.

As a California native, I grew up going to the beach, cooking with my family and doing many jazz hands in local community theater and school productions. I still try to maintain my easy-going west coast mentality here in NYC and I love exploring the calm, outdoorsy spaces the east coast has to offer, in addition to the wackiness of the city. 

My favorite thing about being a Teaching Artist is being able to provide students with their earliest—maybe even their first—experience with the arts. As an artist, my first encounter with the arts had a profound impact on my life, and being able to provide that for students in a safe, welcoming and engaging way fills my own life and practice with joy everyday!

Jose "Esteban" Rodriguez-Alverio

I'm a young actor and director from the Boogie Down (South), Bronx. I recently graduated from the CUNY City College of New York, where I earned my bachelor's degree in Theater. My proudest achievement there was directing the World of Extreme Happiness (2016), a powerful tragicomedy set in modern China. In preparation for this project, I conducted research by not only taking three different Asian Studies classes, but also traveling to China and exploring seven different cities with my Assistant Director, Johnny Wang from Shanghai, to get a more in-depth perspective of Chinese culture and history.

I'm excited to be the first alumni of the New Victory Usher Corps to join the New Victory Teaching Artists! What I love most about working at the New Vic is being able to apply my passion for the arts to bringing young people in New York City public schools to theater.

Jason Vance
Hi there, I'm Jason Vance and I'm a musician, actor and educator with years of experience working with children of all ages.  I've toured schools and libraries all around the US with my one-man band of harmonica, spoons, banjo, bass drum and tambourine.  

Here in NYC, I perform and create immersive and interactive theater with multiple companies such as Trusty Sidekick, Live In Theater and Society for Misfit Puppets, for institutions such as Lincoln Center Education and the New York Historical Society.

I teach pre-school and I'm excited to bring enthusiasm and experience in arts and education to the New Victory teaching ensemble.

Blanca VivancosBlanca Vivancos

When I was a little girl I had a clear idea of what I wanted: I wanted to perform, I wanted to write stories and I wanted to make the world a better place for everyone.

In my early career I explored different professional paths: I graduated as a lawyer, worked in advertising and travelled the world as the director of a not-for-profit organization. On the side, I never stopped writing and training as an actress. Still, I felt the balance was off.

So I went back to my childhood certainties and looked for meaningful ways to connect social justice and the arts. After engaging in different social theater projects in my home country of Spain, I moved to NYC on a Fulbright grant. Since then, I've been lucky enough to have countless opportunities to explore how I could make an impact as an artist.

Through my acting work, my training and my collaborations as a Teaching Artist, I've experienced how art can open our eyes to new realities, enabling us to become agents of change. And I've learned that for that to happen, we—artists, audiences—need to be able to establish a meaningful, personal connection with the art in front of us.

As a Teaching Artist I have the ability to help build that connection and the privilege to witness the magic of every meaningful discovery it provokes. 

Ben Weber 

I'm Ben Weber and I'm delighted to join the New Victory Theater Teaching Artist Ensemble. I'm a performer, writer, comedian and podcaster, who's been performing from a very young age, thanks to the vibrant theater community of my hometown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I'm proud to celebrate my 13th year as a New Yorker, having studied at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study and CUNY's School for Professional Studies, where I hold a Masters in Applied Theater. I've worked as a Teaching Artist at the Children's Museum of the Arts, the Creative Arts Team, the JCC of Manhattan and Urban Stages.

I love teaching artistry because of the genuine exchange of creative ideas that happens between a group of participants and because I get to embody the philosophy "Everyone Is An Artist!" Listen to the podcast Cozy Zone with Ben Weber for all of my thoughts, feelings and notions of coziness.
New Victory Thumb Don't miss out on all of the extra engagement activities we offer! Check out what we're offering this season here.
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