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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.
Cirque Mechanics' Pedal Punk and its bevy of bicycles have rolled onto our stage! We checked in with Creative Director Chris Lashua to find out a little bit about how the show was developed. If you haven't seen Pedal Punk yet, take a look at this sneak peak of all the spinning things you'll see onstage, including the enormous Gantry—a 20-foot-high pedal-driven apparatus that frames the show's spectacular performances:
 

Like so many great ideas, every Cirque Mechanics production begins on the back of a napkin. Lashua starts by sketching an elaborate machine—a boiler-trolley, a trampoline-cart, a pedal-driven gantry—and a new show is born.

What exactly do you draw on the backs of napkins?

Yes, this really does happen, although we also draw on backs of receipts and business cards, too! Since inspiration can strike at any time, it really is important to capture ideas and concepts right away. I actually have several Southwest Airlines napkins with marker sketches of the first Gantry and our Trike Rover!

What was the inspiration for Pedal Punk?

We built the Gantry for an outdoor festival and knew right away we wanted to base our new show around it. We have always focused on showing off the relationships between our mechanical devices and the acrobats, and this device is our most ambitious apparatus so far.

What's your favorite part of developing a new show?

Oh, that's a tough one! Creation is the best. Sharing those napkin drawings with my design partner, Sean Riley, and brainstorming which elements to build is great. I also enjoy the fabrication. Prepping the materials at the fabrication shop, cutting and painting; and then introducing a new machine to an artist and watching them discover it and use it—that's fantastic.

The Cirque Mechanics ensemble strikes a pose with the Trike Rover. Chris Lashua just left of center, inbetween the spokes! Photo: Alban Rombaux


What makes the Cirque Mechanics ensemble special?

Our creative team is what makes it all work. This is our fourth production together and we have a range of opinions and approaches. My job is to distill the sometimes opposing views and find the right balance of ideas for the show. Having people on the team who approach the process differently is very important. We get much better results by having a team of individuals that are talented and who respect the other contributors' opinions.

What are your favorite things about performing at The New Victory?

Wow! We love coming here. It really is like coming home, from the moment our truck arrives and our team greets the New Victory crew in the loading dock. We first met many of those crew members when we came here with Birdhouse Factory in 2008. And, of course, being a block from Times Square is about as good as it gets.

All of that is great, but when the house lights dim and the show starts—that is when we really “experience” The New Victory. It's the amazing mix of giggles from young audience members with appreciative nods and cheers from adults, the standing ovations from audiences of children and their grandparents, the seasoned theatergoers alongside families who might be experiencing theater for the first time—all those things are what really make The New Victory our favorite place to perform.

What about Pedal Punk are you most proud of?

I started doing tricks on a BMX bicycle when I was twelve years old, and I haven’t stopped. Bicycles have always been a huge part of my life, so to combine that love with my passion for circus and machines is extremely rewarding.

Why should I see Pedal Punk?

If you love circus or like watching amazing feats of daring; if you are a builder, a maker, a gadget guru; or if you just like to laugh, we think this Pedal Punk is for you! We are having a blast and hope to meet you after the show!
 
Pedal Punk Icon    Cirque Mechanics' Pedal Punk is at The New Victory through January 3. Wacky circus contraptions, acrobats, dance, comedy—it's unlike anything you've ever seen. Be sure to come early to practice your plate-balancing tricks and take some steampunky photos for sharing, #PedalPunk.
Posted by Zack Ramadan
September 21, 2015

What's in a Genre?

Artistic Range in Our 2015-16 Season


Written by Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming and Olga Putilina, Artistic Programming Associate

Every season has its own sense of magic, and 2015-16 is particularly exciting for us. The New Victory Theater’s 20th anniversary season, which we’ve been planning for quite some time, becomes a reality this fall. To celebrate our 20th birthday, we’re honoring artists who have been part of our journey over the years. Each show this season is from a company that has been here in a past season and is now returning, either with the production we’ve previously presented or with a brand new show that will make its New Vic debut.

In the past two decades of bringing award-winning theater to the kids and families of New York City, the companies and artists we’ve presented on our stage have expanded our understanding of what performing arts for young audiences can be. Our seasons—and this one is no exception—are programmed to include shows that appeal to an array of age ranges and feature a variety of genres such as theater, puppetry, circus, dance and music. So, as we say cheers to 20 years, we want to take a moment to honor the diverse genres you’ll see in our 2015-16 season.

Artful Adaptations
Seeing a familiar tale brought to life on stage really resonates in the hearts of viewers who might already be on a first-name basis with the characters from many a bedtime story. Bringing a work from the page to the stage is also a special kind of collaboration with the book’s author, as layers are added to the story in the form of theatrical stagecraft, including the playwright’s translation of the book to theatrical form, the director’s interpretation of the text and the various design elements.

Tall Stories’ THE GRUFFALO, a show best for ages 4–7, is based on the beloved picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Since our last presentation of the show back in 2004, audiences have been pining for the Grr-Grr-Gruffalo and the courageous Mouse. The stage adaptation is true to the original story and is charmingly brought to life through physical theater, music and interactive storytelling.

Unicorn Theatre’s THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, for everyone ages 6+, exemplifies the kind of smart, sophisticated theater-making that we aim to bring to our audiences. Though the story centers on a rabbit, there is nary a fuzzy bunny costume in sight. THE VELVETEEN RABBIT comes to life through subtle acting and creative direction on a breathtaking set that’s full of surprises.

Adventure Theatre MTC’s CAPS FOR SALE THE MUSICAL, also a show best for ages 4–7, is an ingeniously adapted fusion of Esphyr Slobodkina’s acclaimed children’s books: Caps for Sale, Circus Caps for Sale and More Caps for Sale: Another Tale of Mischievous Monkeys, set to be published this year. Bright, fun and with a set that recalls Slobodkina’s inventive collaged illustrations, the books take on new life through original music, featuring big numbers and a Broadway feel.

Imaginative Puppetry
Perhaps we're so enamored with puppetry at the New Vic because, as puppeteer Marsian De Lellis notes in a recent article, puppetry allows people to "witness the artist...oozing raw creativity into a universe they have made with their own hands." Our 2015-16 season offers several opportunities to experience this enchanting genre in one of its myriad forms.

Little Angel Theatre’s HANDA'S SURPRISE (which is also an adaptation of a picture book of the same name by Eileen Brown), best for ages 6 months–4 years, uses puppetry as a way to transport our youngest theatergoers to a sunny day in a Kenyan village. Various animals from the original story are imbued with life as innovative hand puppets, allowing them to have one-on-one interactions with audience members, seated in a circle on the floor around the performers.

Théâtre de l'Œil's THE STAR KEEPER, for everyone ages 6+, visually tells the story of Pretzel, a charming worm with a mission to cross a house of dreams, a spider web and the ocean in his efforts to return a fallen star to the night sky. The company's use of a mix of puppetry styles—shadow puppets, marionettes, bunraku and flat puppets in a specially-constructed black box puppet theater set—lends the production an otherworldly and poetic feel. Pretzel encounters a multitude of offbeat and whimsical characters along the way, including the Bubble Charmer, Maggie Mischief and Cedrick the Centaur, all of whom are made more vivid through the use of puppetry, which as this production attests, offers limitless possibilities to build beguiling worlds.

Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company’s THE PIED PIPER, for everyone ages 7+, is a visual spectacle which tells the Brothers Grimm story of the Pied Piper with the help of the company’s signature intricately and elaborately constructed marionettes. Marionette puppetry, with its carefully controlled strings that must be manipulated just so, is the perfect medium to relay the saga of the town of Hamelin, which loses control when the mayor neglects to pay a mysterious stranger his dues for ridding the town of rats.

Le Clan Des Songes’ CITÉ, best for ages 3–5, uses shadow puppetry, one of the styles seen in THE STAR KEEPER, to wordlessly tell the story of a man on a sun-chasing adventure through a cityscape. Though the chosen art form used to tell the story might be familiar, the resulting show is strikingly unique. Shapes and colors are central to this playful piece, the inspiration for which came from the contemporary art of painter Evsa Model.

Incomparable CircusCircus exposes us to the boundaries of human limitations, defying our expectations and delighting us with the idea that anything is possible. The art form has come a long way since the days of animal circuses under a big striped tent. The two circuses in our 2015-16 are as different as can be from one another, yet they both exemplify the skill, artistry, and innovation of this awe-inspiring genre.

Cirque Mechanics’ PEDAL PUNK, for everyone ages 5+, offers an irresistible steampunk aesthetic that one wouldn’t normally think to connect with circus. There is no one on the circus scene quite like Cirque Mechanics, whose creative director, Chris Lashua, dreams up cool gadgets and then uses them as a springboard to create new shows. In this case, a Rube Goldberg-style mechanical marvel called “the gantry”—a 20-foot high pedal-powered set—serves as the production’s centerpiece. The show’s other elements, including the costumes, lighting and staging, also evoke the feeling of a vibrant technological fantasy world in which anything can happen.

BELLO MANIA, also for everyone ages 5+, returns for its third New Vic installment, this time with even more mania! We’re proud to be the New York home of daredevil and audience favorite Bello Nock, who creates and performs jaw-dropping stunts while managing to maintain his signature up-do. This production features his distinct brand of humor, signature acts (hello, sway pole!), a new cast of characters and an infusion of stage magic never seen in any of Bello’s previous shows.

Compelling Dance
Dance pioneer Isadora Duncan once said, “A dancer…can give to the people something that they can carry with them forever. They can never forget it, and it has changed them, though they may never know it.” Dance offers infinite possibilities for artistic expression. The dance productions in our 2015-16 season include cultural celebration, percussive dance and storytelling through dance.

Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba’s CUBA VIBRA!, for everyone ages 6+, is a vibrant cultural spectacle that is representative of the global scope of our programming. We’ve presented works from dozens of countries over the past twenty years, and delight in being able to honor different cultures on our stage. In light of the recent warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, we're thrilled to bring Cuba’s singular cultural flair back to the New Victory stage, as expressed through Afro-Cuban big band music and a medley of dance styles from the region, including rumba, cha-cha and salsa.

UNTAPPED!, for everyone ages 7+, is an upbeat dance production which blends different styles of footwork to uproarious effect. The company’s unexpected pairings of tap and other percussive dance styles with hip hop, rock and jazz music creates an infectious atmosphere and a show that’s just plain fun.

The Pasadena Playhouse & Crossroads Theatre Company’s FLY, for everyone ages 10+, is a theatrical piece; but it beautifully incorporates a contrasting use of tap dance, along with the actors, to tell the historically vital story of the Tuskegee Airmen. The show features a Tap Griot, a character who appears throughout the production and adds emotional weight to the story’s unfolding events through dance. 

Innovative Theater
Rounding out our 20th anniversary season are four theatrical productions which offer a world of variation in their approach to theater-making. First up in our season is Seattle Children’s Theater’s ROBIN HOOD, for everyone ages 7+, which tells the tale of the legendary hero, employing virtuosic fight choreography, humor, physical theater and featuring just four performers taking on every role. 

Isango Ensemble’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, for everyone ages 9+, is a vibrant spectacle which integrates South African culture and instrumentation into its take on Benjamin Britten’s original opera. 

Catherine Wheels Theatre Company’s WHITE, best for ages 2-5 years, is an innovative and charming piece of theater for our youngest audience members which, following its presentation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a few years back, had flocks of adults clamoring for tickets too. 

NIE Theatre’s MUSEUM OF MEMORIES, for everyone ages 13+, tells a beautiful and emotional story about a young man who took his own life yet lives on in the memories of others. After the performance, audiences are encouraged to explore the production’s set—an actual museum containing elements and mementos reminiscent of life.
 

We hope to see you again and again over the course of the 2015-16 New Victory Theater season to experience all of the cool shows in each of these unique genres. We’ll be there (possibly wearing birthday hats for the New Vic’s 20th year), cheering and clapping along in amazement at the boundless artistic expression of the artists and companies who join us for this most special season.
 
   
Mary Rose Lloyd   Mary Rose Lloyd is the Director of Artistic Programming at The New Victory Theater, curating each New Victory season as well as the Victory Dance summer series, and overseeing LabWorks, the New Victory's new work development program. A staff member since 1996, Mary spends much of her time traveling to see hundreds of shows each year and to attend conferences and festivals as a frequent speaker, panelist or juror. She has served on the Boards of Directors for both TYA/USA and International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and is the recipient of IPAY's Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award. She is passionate about books, family, friends and, most certainly, the performing arts.
  
Olga Putilina    Olga Putilina is the Artistic Programming Associate at The New Victory Theater, where she gets to live in the future by helping to plan New Victory seasons and Victory Dance. Olga holds an MSEd in Educational Theater from City College. She also once held a three-toed sloth, but that's entirely different.
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