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 Nivelli's War, the young, German Ernst is sent away by his mother to ensure his safety during WWII. At the end of the war, Ernst encounters Mr. H, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, who agrees to help the boy return home. Although their differences initially divide them, the two form a strong bond that changes the course of Ernst's life. We spoke to the director of this powerful story, Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney. 


Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney at work
How did you develop Nivelli's War?

Developing Nivelli's War was all about the strong working relationship between the idea that I wanted, and Charlie Way's inspirational writing. Charlie's work is extremely dense and deep in terms of research and thoughtfulness. I got the script, and then I pulled on all my theatrical resources. Aesthetics, look, feel, all of that. Eventually, things came together, and I'm so proud of the result.  

The character, Mr. H, is loosely inspired by Herbert Levin—Nivelli, or the "Magician of the Holocaust." Though you were not aware of it when you first began work on the show, a young man—Werner Reich—was held captive with Levin in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Levin taught him a number of magic tricks—just like Mr. H teaches Ernst. How did you find that connection to the story?

You're right, the Werner Reich connection came really late, long after the show had opened.  In 2014 I discovered a book called The Death Camp Magicians, which detailed the relationship between Werner and Herbert Levin. I wrote an email to the publishers of the book, letting them know that it was an incredibly illuminating read. Then out of the blue, I received a correspondence from Werner. I almost fell out of my chair! Hearing his story was profoundly inspiring.

Can you connect the show to current events?

Absolutely! You just have to look towards Syria, and you can see the connection to Nivelli's War. Tragically, there are many Ernsts and Mr. Hs in the world right now—evacuees trying to piece together their world after suffering through unimaginable circumstances. 

What has been the most inspiring audience reaction to your work?

There's a moment in the show where the audience physically starts to lean forward. The story is so inviting that it demands you lean forward and actively listen. For me, that's when I get really inspired. When I see a young audience member leaning forward—their eyes glued to the stage—that's my favorite moment.


Mr. H and Ernst Mr. H comforting Ernst with a trick
What moment in the show are you most excited for New York audiences to see?

With this show, the audience suddenly realizes that the events we're talking about didn't happen centuries ago. We're talking about a tragedy that people, like Werner, have lived through. Similar events are happening now. There are still children that find themselves in Ernst's shoes. I'm thrilled that New Yorkers are going to get to see those connections so, perhaps, they can empathize with people fighting through those circumstances today.

What's the one thing you want audiences to walk away from the show thinking?

I want them to walk away and think. My goal isn't to make them think about any single thing—it's just to make them think. Some of the best theatrical moments happen on the trip home, when families have a conversation, or when teachers start to work with kids to unpack what they've just seen. For me, it's about how a kid or an adult discovers a new layer to something, and what that means to them in that moment.

How did you find your start in theater?

I actually started out as a drummer. My band and I did three tours in the United States when I was only 17 or 18. Then, I was bit by the acting bug and performed on the stage for many years.  When I was asked to write a piece for a festival back home in Northern Ireland, I fell into theater for young audiences. Eventually, I ended up writing a piece and to get funding for it, I needed to start a company—hence, Cahoots NI was born!

Do you have one tourist destination that you’ll be checking out while in New York City?

My son is very excited to see the Statue of Liberty, so on Saturday we're doing a tour! The Statue of Liberty was the first site many Irish immigrants saw on their way to Ellis Island. I’m very keen to explore that connection. 
Nivelli's War Experience Nivelli's War with your whole family. Tickets are on sale today!
Posted by Beth Henderson

In Something, seven acrobats entertain audiences as they defy gravity, twirl around the stage and perform hilarious dances. We sat down with Mauro Ardenti, one of the performers, and Davide Agostini, one of the company's original creators, to ask them a few questions about how they began their acrobatic careers!

1. What do you love most about being an acrobat? Do you have a favorite act to perform in Something?
MA: To me, being an acrobat means fighting gravity, one way or the other. When I'm doing acrobatics, I feel like nothing exists except my body in the here and now. Everything else disappears—at least until I put my feet back on the ground! My favorite act in Something is my handbalancing solo, but I also have a lot of fun with the final "Panels" act, too!

2. Why is Something special to you?
DA: Something is very special to me and to the rest of the company because we created the first incarnation in just three weeks. It was right after we failed to get into a festival, so the fact that we're now performing it at The New Victory is incredible. Also, it's very fun to perform!

3. When did you start learning tricks? 
MA: When I was five years old, my sister was doing rhythmic gymnastics. One day, I went with her to the gym and I saw some of the other girls training. I remember it like it was yesterday—one of them did a cartwheel and I thought it was the most amazing, beautiful thing I had ever seen. I immediately started practicing cartwheels everywhere, including at my school and our church! My mom eventually surrendered when I was seven years old and took me to a gym so that I could start doing artistic gymnastics. 

DA: I've always been interested in circus. My background is in artistic gymnastics, so everything related to acrobatics catches my attention. My first experience as a performer was in an athletic dance theater company, but after that I wanted to go beyond dance, and also beyond circus. Thus, Liberi Di… Physical Theater was born!
The Something Cast The cast of Something

4. Mauro, your character is always reading a book in Something, do you have a favorite book?
MA: I haven't had a lot of time lately, but I love reading anything from the back of a cereal box to a biology essay about breeding tropical frogs. Choosing my favorite book is tough... at the moment the Harry Potter saga sits right at the center of my bookshelf. I've read each of the seven books four or five times, and I love it every time!

5. Do you have any advice for kids who want to become acrobats?
MA: Being an acrobat looks fun (and it is!) but it's also very hard. It requires constant hard work and a lot of endurance. If that's what you want, go for it. Don't give up, no matter what! 

6. How did you first get involved in Liberi Di…Physical Theatre?
MA: The company was founded in 2007 and I joined the following year. At the time, Liberi Di... didn't have a training facility, so they were using the circus school where I was training and teaching. One day, Davide told me that he wanted me to be a part of their first theatrical production, Inverni. I was so nervous the day of the premiere, but the show was great and the audience loved it. That's one of my favorite memories.

DA: Liberi Di... was created by me and three other people—Stefano Pribaz, Valentina Marino and Giulia Piolanti—in 2007.  The four of us had spent the previous seven years as artists in another company. We wanted to be the creators of our own art and free to do anything we could imagine. As a matter of fact, "Liberi Di..." in Italian means "free to..."
Mauro Ardenti Mauro Ardenti began practicing artistic gymnastics at seven years old. After graduation, acrobatics were just a hobby for him. However, a school soon asked if he would teach full-time in 2005. Ever since then, he's worked as a professional artist. He joined Liberi Di… Physical Theater in 2008 and has been a regular member of the company ever since. In the summer of 2015, he performed with Cirque du Soleil at the Expo Milan 2015 show Allavita! Through acrobatics and circus, he explores the worlds of dance and physical theater. His specialty is hand balancing, but he also performs aerial acts, hand-to-hand and physical theater.
Davide Agostini Davide Agostini's career in artistic gymnastics started when he began competing at six years old. He attended the University Institute for Motor Science in Padova, while joining the athletic dance company Kataklò Theater. As a part of this company, he toured around the world for seven years, even performing at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin. He also studied dance with several internationally renowned teachers such as Sonia Bianchi, Gus Bembery, Dmitri Chabardin, Anna Rita Larghi, Paola Corio, Gaetano Petrosino, Michele Oliva and many more. After a number of new experiences, he founded Liberi Di... Physical Theatre to pursue his own creative vision. He's now also a choreographer and teacher at some of the most prestigious schools in Italy.
Posted by Beth Henderson
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