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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.

In A Sky for the Bears, Teatro Gioco Vita tells two moving stories through shadow puppetry, a unique and evocative art form with roots that go back further than you'd think. Get to know this world-class company with five quick facts!
  • Teatro Gioco Vita is nearly fifty-years-old! Founded in Piacenza, Italy, in 1971, they've performed all over the world in countries including Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Japan, China, Israel, Taiwan and Turkey. This multi-generational team of artists has a rich history of telling stories with illustration, light and puppetry. In their half-century existence, they've graced our stage once before in 1998 with their show Firebird
A Sky for the Bears
  • The director of A Sky for the Bears, Fabrizio Montecchi, has been with the company since they first started touring in 1978—when he was only 18-years-old! He started as a performer right out of high school, but soon realized that he longed to work as a director. Slowly, but surely, he became a leading figure in creating captivating shadow puppetry in Europe. He’s now the Artistic Director of shadow puppet productions at Teatro Gioco Vita!
  • The two stories from A Sky for the Bears are inspired by German stories Ein Himmel für den kleinen Bären and Das Bärenwunder from celebrated kids' lit authors Dolf Verroen and Wolf Erlbruch.
Fabrizio Montecchi Fabrizio Montecchi, Photo: Jože Suhadolnik
  • During the late 1970s in Italy, theatrical animation (or "animazione teatrale" in Italian)—the art of using theater games to help audiences connect with a sense of childlike play—began to gain prominence in the theater world. The then-young company, Teatro Gioco Vita, is credited as being one of the first to combine this engaging style of theater creation with shadow puppetry. 
  • Puppetry is an ancient art form with traditions from all over the world, but enthusiasts agree that modern European puppetry largely stems from Italy, home of marionettes and Commedia dell'arte. Shadow play or shadow puppetry—as seen in A Sky for the Bears—is traced back to India's Tholu Bommalata, a tradition from the 3rd century BCE. Though shadow play has South and East Asian origins, Italy was the gateway for its introduction to Europe.
This charming tale of discovering your hearts deepest desires runs at The New Victory Theater from October 28-November 5. Get your tickets today! 
 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Artistic Director of Slingsby Andy Packer gives us the inside scoop on The Young King!
 
1. What were your first steps in creating The Young King?
 
The Young King rehearsal photo
First, we invested two weeks into a creative development process that we call "Paths Less Travelled." This is an exploration of theatrical form, and comes before we even commission a playwright. In late 2015, we gathered together our core creative team of Geoff Cobham (Associate Artist, Design), Quincy Grant (Associate Artist, Composer), Wendy Todd (Designer) and myself, along with Actor Matt Crook and Stage Manager Nichola Keene. Over the two-week development period, our goal was to find the best and most beguiling way to create an intimate experience for our audience out of Oscar Wilde's short story, "The Young King."

Theater is one of the only art forms where the creative team and company have the chance to share time and space with their audience, so we were inspired to make the most of this opportunity for human interaction. The "Paths Less Travelled" process for The Young King commenced with the question,  "How do we make theater the most desirable social act?" Throughout the process we established the following creative manifesto for The Young King:
 

• Our audience is a group of strangers that we want to turn into a community.

• We value the experience as much as the story.

• Our goal is to make adults and kids feel equal and to find the humanity in us all.

• We must discover the story together with the audience.

• Remember, accidents keep the world of the play real.

• Every night is unique.

• Our audience should start and end The Young King at home.


The invaluable knowledge that we gained informed the commissioning of award-winning playwright Nicki Bloom. She even wrote the entry process for The Courtiers—characters the audience meets when they first arrive at the theater. This element of our production adds another wonderful opportunity for connection, as The Courtiers are often local artists from wherever we perform the work. At the New Vic, these roles will be brought to life by Teaching Artists and Ushers. 

2. How did you adapt Wilde's short story into a play? Why did you decide to change what you did?

Nicki Bloom's script for The Young King maintains much of Oscar Wilde's language, but structures it in a way that works for a theatrical telling. The major change that we asked Nicki to incorporate into her adaptation was to shift the end of the story towards a more universal conclusion. Moving the final "blossoming" image to a forest setting creates a broader meaning and an opportunity for us all to understand the opportunity for a new beginning. 

The Young King rehearsal photo3. What will it be like to perform The Young King at The New Victory Theater?

We are very excited by the possibilities of performing at the beautiful New Vic—a wonderful castle in its own right! The architectural structure of The New Victory Theater—with its central aisle and on-stage seating—really allows us to bring the story right to the people of the kingdom (our audience). In collaboration with the clever and patient staff at The New Victory, we have also mapped out some amazing pathways to travel throughout the theater. These are all ways to put the audience inside the frame of the story.

4. If Oscar Wilde were to step into a time machine and travel to 2017, what do you think he would say/quip?

I wouldn't dare venture to ascribe words to the mouth of the brilliant Oscar Wilde, however, here is a selection of pithy prose that many seasons ago did fall from his pen:
 
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

And 

"Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit."
 

Andy Packer
Since completing a BA of Theater Studies at Adelaide University in 1992, Andy's arts career has encompassed many roles including creative producer, ensemble actor, creator and festival director. In 2007, Andy co-founded Slingsby Theater Company as Artistic Director alongside Jodi Glass. In addition to Slingsby, Andy has built a freelance career as a director of opera, musical theater, cabaret and concerts. Most recently Andy directed Vigil, written by Steve Vizard and Joe Chindamo and starring Christie Whelan-Browne for Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2017. Andy has directed for State Theater Company of South Australia, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, State Opera of South Australia, Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival of Arts and Adelaide Chamber Singers. Andy is respected nationally and internationally for creating moments of emotional truth in both intimate one-hander productions and in large operatic and orchestral works, for child, family and adult audiences. In January 2016 Andy became the first Australian to join the Board of Management of IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth). Andy and his wife Jane love living in Adelaide with their three school-age sons and retired greyhound.

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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