New Victory Arts Break: Get into Character

We’re excited to be presenting Jabari Dreams of Freedom, a First Woman production written by New Victory LabWorks Artist Nambi E. Kelley. This week and next, we’ll explore some of the art forms the artists in the show use to tell the story of 10-year-old Jabari, who travels in a dream back to the Civil Rights Movement and learns lessons of courage from young heroes of the time. First up, we’ll explore what it means to get into character and embody a hero!

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New Victory Arts Break: Get into Character

Some of the videos in this Arts Break were filmed at the New Victory Theater. We acknowledge that New Victory resides on the seized homeland of the Lenape people and the intertribal territory of many First Nations. We celebrate and pay deep respect to all Indigenous peoples, past, present and future.

Guess the Hero

When investigating characters from history, historians and actors alike rely on one key tool—research! In this activity, let’s research our heroes and put our new-found knowledge to use in a guessing game. Can your family and friends guess the heroes you’ve selected based on your findings?

Step One: Pick one to three heroes that you look up to, from the past or present, and do some preliminary research on them. Check a book out of the library, plug some words into a Google search, interview friends and family, or jot down all the things you already know about them.

Step Two: After completing your research, fill out the template below for each of your heroes. You can print out the template or take some time to sketch on a blank piece of paper. As you draw, include details that answer the following questions:

  • What does your hero look like?
  • Where are they?
  • What do they have to say?
  • What are some of their favorite things?

Guess the Hero worksheet

Step Three: Share your drawings with your family and friends! Ask everyone to take turns looking over the information you included and guess who each hero is. Maybe they’ll be inspired to do their own research and take a crack at it!

Looking for inspiration? New 42 Youth Corps member Mana Kurozumi drew her father, a composer and conductor of classical music:

Drawing of Mana's father, a conductor, wearing a tweed jacket and holding a baton and sheets of music

Becoming Your Hero

Whether a character is fictional or historical, actors preparing for a role on stage need to spend time getting into character. Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Melle Phillips as she chooses a hero to research and gets to work… with character work!

Let’s follow Melle’s lead and get ready for our own heroic debut.

Step One: Think of a person you respect—someone from the real world who is a hero in your eyes. They could be someone from history, someone who’s famous right now or someone in your community whom you admire.

Step Two: Once you have that person in mind, think about their appearance. Do you already know how they look or dress? If not, ask questions and do a bit of research. Then look around your space and choose or craft one accessory your hero might wear. It could be a scarf, reading glasses, gloves… anything!

Step Three: Now let’s think about what your hero might carry around. Maybe they are very smart, so they carry around a book. Maybe they write, so they always have a pen. Flex your imagination and research muscles to choose an object your hero would hold that represents them.

Step Four: You know a lot about your hero now. Are you ready to perform in character as them? How do they move? What do they sound like? You can review recordings of them, or use your imagination based on your past research. In their voice and body language, practice delivering a simple line:

Hello! I’m  . It’s nice to meet you!

Practice a few times and try delivering the line in different ways until you find the voice and performance style that fits your hero best.

Ana Cantorán Viramontes and her sock puppet
For more vocal inspiration as you find your hero’s voice, play along with New Victory Teaching Artist Ana Cantorán Viramontes (and her sock puppet) in our Character Creation Arts Break!

BONUS: Keep expanding your performance. You could write and perform a monologue for your hero, or create an entire scene with a friend. You could even stage a play or make a video!

You’ve got the looks, the props and the vocal chops—you’re ready! But remember, your research is never done. See what new things you can find out about your hero as you practice performing. There are endless ways to honor our heroes through performance, so dig deeper and have fun!

You Are the Hero

Heroes are amazing people! Big or small, acts of heroism can change the world. And in our imaginations, heroes can do absolutely anything! In this activity, we’ll create a fictional hero who can handle any problem.

Step One: Think about something happening in today’s world that you wish you could do something about—a cause you want to fight for. Maybe it’s combating climate change, promoting peace or battling hate. Brainstorm a few ideas and then pick one that feels the most important to you. This is the cause your hero will fight for!

Step Two: It’s time for your hero to get to work. But what will they wear?! Let’s design costumes for our heroes. Think:

  • What color outfit would represent your hero?
  • What accessories would they wear? A cape? A mask?
  • Does your hero have a logo?
  • What objects does your hero carry around?

Using the template below, draw your hero’s super outfit!

Here are some of our original heroes, labeled with the causes that they will fight for.

Hero with purple hair and rainbow cape fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights through music and tap danceSamurai Mana who fights against Asian hate

Need help designing your hero? This animated tutorial from Skyship Entertainment’s Super Simple Draw! series breaks down how to draw a hero step by step.

Step Three: Finally, create your hero’s name and slogan! Their name should contain something related to their cause, and their slogan should be a rallying cry to inspire others. For example, a hero fighting for clean drinking water could go by Water Warrior and marshal like-minded people by shouting “Clean water in abundance for all!”

BONUS: Using your drawing as inspiration, become your hero! Don a heroic outfit and proclaim your slogan in your hero’s voice.

Have fun creating as many heroes as you like. Before you know it, you’ll have a league of amazing people ready to change the world. And who knows? Maybe you’ll grow up to be one of them.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council,and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.