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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.

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

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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