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.

New Victory LabWorks was launched in 2012 to bolster the landscape of theater for young audiences created in the United States. We envisioned nurturing the creation of new work by providing New York City-based artists with dedicated rehearsal space in our New 42nd Street Studios and dramaturgical guidance, and then watching the companies soar. We hoped that one day works developed in the LabWorks program would return home and land in a New Victory Theater season. Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom, aka the Acrobuffos, were LabWorks artists in 2014-15. Since then, the Acrobuffos and their beautiful airborne spectacle have, indeed, soared, bringing Air Play to audiences across the U.S. and around the world. We couldn't be more pleased that Air Play is the first show developed as part of New Victory LabWorks to be programmed for The New Victory stage, and we can't wait to see how the other exciting projects developed in LabWorks take off. 

Olga Putilina
Artistic Programming Associate

We were standing on the huge stage of the Palace Theatre in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Seth and I had just turned on our circle of twelve fans and thrown in a single red umbrella when it flew beyond our reach, then kept flying, up, up and further up, far over the theater lights hanging at 50 feet.


Big Balloons     Photo: Florence Montmare
"Uh-oh," said Seth, "We need to call The New Victory Theater. This is a problem."

We knew our props would fly, we just didn't know quite how high. We had been working for months with Daniel Wurtzel, an air sculptor from Brooklyn, who had invented breathtakingly beautiful art out of a ring of fans with fabric swirling above it. He's a big deal—his sculptures are installed in museums all over the world. Check him out here. With Daniel, we were busy making new sculptures unique for the show we were building—a collaboration between him, a kinetic sculptor, and us, the clowns. (Yes, really, we're professional non-verbal, world-traveling clowns, even though we don't wear makeup.)

The problem was that we were soon supposed to begin three weeks of rehearsal as part of New Victory LabWorks, a program that fosters the creation of new work for young and family audiences. The rehearsal space had an 18-foot ceiling. Our umbrellas were dilly-dallying without a care in the world at 55 feet. Oops.

We called the New Vic. "We're so sorry," said Seth, "The show got too big." We kept saying "the show" because at this point, we still didn't have a title. Plus, we still weren't sure just what "the show" was going to be… other than big. Really big.

"We won't fit in your space, even though it's such a generous opportunity. Please give our spot to another artist. We'll have to find somewhere else to rehearse."

Now, what you must understand is, The New Victory is not a place you just turn down. You have to be crazy to not accept help from a theater with such a rich history of bringing modern circus and innovative family theater to the heart of Times Square. Crazy… or just too big. Our "little" show had grown into a giant cyclone on stage with a will of its own. To our horror, it wasn't just the umbrellas soaring above our height limit. Our long fabrics wafted up and got stuck in the lights, our balloons drifted past the curtains and our packing peanuts decided to live up in the rafters. Our favorite large prop, a billowy, gentle piece of fabric, inflated into a massive white monster. (We now call it "Moby." Literar-ily.)


Christina, Seth and Moby Christina, Seth and Moby in rehearsal

"Send me a video," Jonathan, the New Vic's then-Assistant Director of Artistic Programming, said, and we did. "Oh," he said, "That IS big." We sat in silence for a moment, not sure what to say. Before we could apologize, he said, "Give me a week, let me see what we can do."

We kept working. We figured out how to tame our fabrics (except for Moby, he's still a bit feral), we invented a system to control every fan wirelessly, we searched for advanced theater computer programs to handle the cues we needed, we rewrote our comedy, we special-ordered balloons from Italy, we borrowed some temporary costumes, the stagehands made us a template ground cloth to measure our fans and we took as many pictures and videos as we could. It was a big week.

At the end of the week, Jonathan got back to us. "Good news," he said. "We are able to move you into The New Victory Theater to rehearse." We looked at each other. Did he just say…? "We have a week before The New Victory Theater season starts when you could work with our stage crew. Plus, you can bring in your lighting designer." Due to the unexpected scale of our show, we were the first, and so far only, LabWorks artists to be able to experiment outside the New 42nd Street Studios and on the New Vic's historic stage.


Snow     Photo: Florence Montmare
This happened in 2014. After that, the team working on our show kept having big career milestones. Daniel Wurtzel's air sculptures really took off—he was featured at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, in Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna, on Broadway's Finding Neverland and now he regularly works with directors like Julie Taymor, Robert Lepage and Diane Paulus. West Hyler, our director, has, since then, directed for Cirque du Soleil's Paramour, Big Apple Circus, won prestigious awards and has even written, directed and produced his own show, Georama. Our lighting designer, Jeanne Koenig, was installing The Lion King all over the world. And Seth and I? We were still performing internationally with our show Waterbombs! The whole time, we all kept diving back into rehearsal, finagling our calendars, and working on "the show," which found its name that fateful week in Cleveland—Air Play.

It was nice to have a title, but the road wasn't over. We kept rehearsing at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, our first rehearsal "home." We were lucky enough to get another big theater, Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to give us space. Cleveland's Playhouse Square (a connection made for us by Mary Rose Lloyd, the New Vic's Director of Artistic Programming) gave us another grant, and gave Air Play its public premiere in October of 2015.

Since then, Air Play has flown us all over the world, literally. We've performed on five continents, including an opera house surrounded by active volcanoes in Chile, across the river from Big Ben in London, with cockatoos and giant fruit bats flying right outside the theater door in Australia and having tickets scalped for our sold-out show in Shanghai. 

Seth and ChristinaAnd now, a few years later, we're back at The New Victory Theater, performing Air Play at home in New York City for the first time. Put on your seatbelts, it's gonna be a wild ride.

P.S. Please don't feed Moby.

Christina Gelsone works with her husband, Seth Bloom, as the Acrobuffos. Since becoming clown partners in 2006, they have created five shows together, competed in international circus festivals, performed in over 20 countries, juggled on Late Show with David Letterman, headlined at the Big Apple Circus, and were featured in The New York Times. Their websites are and
Posted by Beth Henderson


Sara Zatz Ping Chong + Company's Sara Zatz Photo: Adam Nadel
In the rehearsal room are seven folding chairs with music stands in front of them, arranged in a semi-circle. A poster titled "Community Agreements" hangs on the wall. Seven young adult New Yorkers, in hoodies and caps, stand in the corner, waiting for the music for their entrance. Courtney, the stage manager, starts the sound cue, and one by one, Edwin, Syl, Monica, Porscha, De-Andra, Rafael and Mohammad walk onto the stage and take their seats. It's the opening of a run through of Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ

"You're walking on stage for the very first time!" Sara Zatz, the co-director and co-writer says. "Take your time and really own the space. Don't rush it."

Owning the space, and owning your own story, is at the center of Ping Chong + Company's award-winning theatrical series, Undesirable Elements. Since 1992, the New York-based experimental theater company has created over 50 interview-based theater works that explore issues of culture and identity in specific communities. The basis of the script is in the participants' own words; stories gathered from intensive interviews are interwoven with historical research. While the form—the chairs in a semi-circle, the use of clapping as interludes—is in the same in each production, the results are always vastly different because of the nature of stories told. Sometimes the cast, who are non-professionals, are telling their stories for the very first time. 

For the 25th anniversary of Undesirable Elements, The New Victory Theater commissioned a show that tells the coming-of-age stories of New York City's diverse youth. The recruitment process took over a month: Sara Zatz and artistic collaborator Kirya Traber reached out to over 50 community organizations and schools in New York City, hoping to find 18-21 year olds from a wide range of backgrounds and neighborhoods, willing to share their experiences.


The Performers The performers of Generation NYZ, left to right: Edwin, Rafael, Mohammad, Monica, Porscha, De-Andra and Syl. Photo: Adam Nadel
Thirty people filled out the participant questionnaire, which included questions about personal background and reflections on living in New York. From these packets, Sara and Kirya invited 20 people in for individual two hour interviews. 

"We were thrilled to receive such an enthusiastic response to the call for participants," Sara said. "We knew we wanted the cast to reflect the kaleidoscope of experiences in New York City, and was especially mindful of finding stories across the five boroughs. Choosing the final ensemble was tough—we were originally thinking of a cast of five, but expanded to seven because we met so many amazing young people with important stories to tell." The company hopes to keep in touch with the young adults ultimately not selected, offering acting workshops and tickets to company performances. A few of their voices will also be included in a pre-show lobby installation that can be experienced during the show's run at The New Victory's smaller venue, The Duke on 42nd Street theater. 

There was excitement and some shyness when the cast of seven met each other for the first time. Between them, they know seven languages (including American Sign Language) and hail from all over the city, from East New York to the South Bronx. After a quick introduction excercise, Kirya sat everyone in a circle and asked the group to make a list of community agreements.


Ping Chong and the New Vic Ping Chong + Company in one of their first planning sessions with the New Vic
"Respect each other's boundaries," someone said. Sara wrote it on the poster in marker. 
"One voice, one mic."
"Be open, ask questions."

"Has anyone heard of the yellow zone?" Kirya said, after a pause. Everyone shook their head. She explained, "Green zone is those things you share easily with the world. Like your name, where you're from. Red zone is private stuff that you can't share with anyone. The yellow zone is a space with a bit of risk, things that you don't normally share that make you feel vulnerable." 

For a show that includes personal stories about serious issues like mental health, bullying, LGBTQ+ identity and homelessness, it was important to Kirya and Sara to form a safe, open environment. Before every rehearsal, they check in with the cast—how is everybody feeling? And the Community Agreement poster stays on the wall, which they review. Soon, the stories that the cast has shared with each other in intensive interviews and group conversations will be shared with the world at the Duke on 42nd Street.
Undesirable Elements Thumb From East New York to West Harlem and from the South Bronx to Far Rockaway, witness the jubilant victories, recent discord and distant dreams of coming of age in Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ.

Posted by Beth Henderson
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