New Victory Arts Break: Art Outside the Box

Don’t raise that cup of kindness just yet! As you gather with loved ones at the end of the year, why not get creative together? We’ve collected a series of playful Arts Break activities to welcome everyone in on the fun. With a mix of everything from puppetry and dance to clowning and comic strips, each activity offers a new way of thinking about a familiar art form. It’s Art Outside the Box—let’s unwrap it!

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New Victory Arts Break in playful multi-colored text, surrounded by colorful arrows and cutout photos of New Victory Teaching Artists posing in orange t-shirts

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, and we encourage you to learn more about these vibrant communities.

Play with Performance Art
A little bit of planning plus some playful randomness can result in a one-of-a-kind performance! Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Lauren Sharpe as she approaches the enigmatic and task-based world of performance art through play, using a special device you may have seen before!

Lauren used a decider (sometimes called a fortune teller) to introduce the element of play into her and her friends’ performance art happenings. To create your own performance art decider, grab a piece of paper and follow along with Emily from Inner Child Fun.

On the inside of your decider’s flaps, write down eight different options for your performance. You can create your own or use the bank below for inspiration. If you start running out of space when writing, feel free to reduce your ideas to just a few keywords!

  • Waddle like a penguin.
  • Pretend to eat a never-ending with lots of extra Ps
  • Run and jump over hurdles in place.
  • Pretend that you are in a clear glass box. Use imaginary tools to get yourself out!
  • Pretend to climb up a tall rope with something amazing at the top!
  • Pretend to be a ballerina, but the floor is slippery.
  • Eat an imaginary meal with only your hands.
  • Drink something that turns you into a friendly (or not so friendly) giant.

Great work! Now you are ready to use this special decider to create a spontaneous piece of playful performance art just like Lauren, Siobhan and Melissa.

Craft a Paper Puppet of Yourself
Anything can be a puppet, including you! Follow along with Teaching Artist Renata Melillo Townsend as she uses a few simple materials to create a tiny paper puppet version of herself.

Materials: Paper, scissors, markers, cardboard or sturdy paper (like a cereal box), glue or tape, a dowel or chopstick

Step One: Print out a picture of yourself or doodle a version of yourself on a blank sheet of paper. Whether you’re drawing or using a photo, try to capture your whole body—you don’t want your puppet to be just a head!

Step Two: Cut out your tiny self and trace its shape onto a piece of cardboard or study paper. This will serve as a backing to keep your puppet from flopping over. Cut that out as well and glue or tape the two together.

Step Three: Finally, tape a dowel or a chopstick to the back of your puppet self. Ta-dah! Now you can go on all kinds of puppet adventures.

Puppet Renata wearing sunglasses on a Maui beach

Life as a Dance
Every day, you perform lots of routine actions—tying your shoes, crossing the street, having a drink of water. These everyday movements are a sort of personal choreography, and they make for the perfect dance inspiration! Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Dwayne Brown and Melissa from the New 42 Youth Corps as they each choreograph a dance based on a task from their morning routines.

As Dwayne demonstrated, dance inspiration can come from anywhere at any time—even in the shower! Are there other tasks from your everyday life that you could dancify? And how can you make your sequences more inspired or interesting? Grab a friend or family member and work together to craft two decks of choreography cards to introduce a little chance into your dance.
Materials: Blank flashcards or cutout paper rectangles, markers, your dancing shoes!
Step One: Divide your flashcards in half to form two decks. Deck #1 will contain tasks from your daily routine, and Deck #2 will contain choreographic tools to elevate your dance sequence to the next level.

Step Two: For Deck #1, the daily routine deck, use a marker to fill your flashcards with the names different tasks or actions from your everyday life. You can pull from your own experience or use one from the following bank:

Walking the dog Getting dressed Making a sandwich
Having a glass of water Folding laundry Packing a backpack
Washing the dishes Writing a letter Making a phone call

Step Three: For Deck #2, the choreographic tools deck, fill your flashcards with different ways that you might move or dance your tasks. For example, you could perform your task as though…

  • You’re sneaking around and must be very small and quiet
  • You’re a broken record and repeat your movements
  • You’re trying to get someone’s attention at the far end of the room
  • Everything is moving in fast motion
  • You’re out of control on roller skates
  • Everything is moving in slow motion

Dwayne shows a card from his deck of choreographic tool cards that reads "Do it BIG."

Step Four: Now that you have both of your decks, draw one card from Deck #1 to determine your task. Try breaking down your task into three movements! If your task was brushing your teeth, you could (1) brush, (2) rinse, (3) spit.

Step Five: As you perform your movements, have your friend or family member draw one card from Deck #2 and shout it out to inspire your choreography. Whatever card they pull, see if you can adjust your performance in real time.


Repeat Step Five in a rapid-fire round. Keep adjusting your choreo as your partner draws new cards from Deck #2. Then turn the tables and draw choreographic cards as they perform their movements!

The Element of Surprise
For clowns, surprises are an incomparable performance tool for making comedy magic. Let’s join professional clown and New Victory Teaching Artist Sarah Petersiel as she teaches us two different types of surprises we can use in our very own funny performances.

Let’s dive into each type of surprise that Sarah demonstrated and get some practice putting together bits of our own.

Surprises with Objects

Using objects—or props—you can surprise an audience by setting an expectation and then breaking it. Surprises with objects could involve:

  • A surprising object from a regular place, like a flamingo from a backpack!
  • A regular object from a surprising place, like a waffle from the sky!
  • A regular object that does something surprising with size and weight, like a telescoping fork or a tiny bag that’s surprisingly heavy!

Let’s practice the backpack bit that Sarah showed us!

Backpack bit with assorted objects on table

Step One: Grab a backpack and a few random objects of all different sizes. Sit behind a table or surface that you can cover with a tablecloth so that, when you set the backpack down, no one can see it.

Step Two: Pre-load all of your objects behind the table, hidden from your audience. Wherever you place your objects is where you’ll need to place your backpack.

Step Three: Perform!

  • Enter the stage while wearing your backpack
  • Step behind the table or surface you prepared.
  • Show the backpack to your audience and tell them you are looking for something that is probably in your backpack. Sarah chose a notebook.
  • Place your backpack on the floor near your pile of objects.
  • Unzip your backpack, and start to grab the different objects and show them to your audience. Do this several times with all of your objects until you run out.
  • Finally, at the very end, discover the object you said you were looking for!

Surprises with Costumes

You can also surprise an audience with the costume that you’re wearing. Costume reveals are a great way to do this. For example:

  • A costume that’s regular on the top and surprising on the bottom, or vice versa, like a t-shirt paired with a mermaid tail.
  • A costume that’s regular in the front and surprising in the back, or vice versa, like an unexpected beard when you turn around.
  • A surprising costume under a regular costume, like a tiny hat under a normal hat.

Let’s try the costume reveal gag that Sarah showed us!

Costume reveal of mermaid tail

Step One: Get dressed! Put on something you would normally wear on your top half and something you wouldn’t normally wear on your bottom half! Maybe a blazer on top and a tutu on the bottom, or a regular shirt up top and a silly costume piece down below, like Sarah’s mermaid tail.

Step Two: Set up your stage! You can use the same surface or table as before. Make sure that, when you stand behind it, the bottom part of your outfit cannot be seen.

Step Three: Perform! Call in your audience and use this script to introduce yourself.

Hello! My name is  . Nice to meet you! Thank you for joining me today. I would like to tell you a little about myself.

Now come out from behind the surface and reveal your costume! Stay serious and don’t break character as you continue introducing yourself.

My favorite color is  . My favorite season is  . I love  .

Step Four: Take a bow and exit the stage as your audience applauds and giggles uncontrollably.

This is only one way to surprise an audience using costumes. Can you think of other ways to reveal silly costumes?

Create Character Voices
Anything can be a puppet, and every puppet needs a voice to suit their character! Imagine your nightlight whispering mysteriously, or your favorite stuffie crooning in a rich baritone. Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Ana Cantorán-Viramontes, and explore different ways of creating voices for the puppet characters in your life!

Step One: Pick your puppet! It could be a sock puppet, a stuffie or any safe household object.

Step Two: Do your warm-up, stretching your face muscles and repeating “mee!” and “maa!” sounds. You can also play with different pitches and vocal qualities in your warm-up, paying attention to your body’s natural resonators—your head, chest and pelvis bowl—just like Ana demonstrated.

Step Three: Look at your puppet and think about its personality. Is your puppet friendly? Timid? Edgy? Dreamy? Based on the personality you choose, create a voice! Practice the voice with a line or two. Here are a few lines for inspiration:

  • “Oh jeez. There’s a hole in the bathtub!”
  • “I know I look good!”
  • “What a day!”

Step Four: As you practice saying your line, play with the voice you’re creating. Here are some different ways you can adjust your voice to give it more personality:

  • Tempo: Is your puppet a fast talker, or do they take their time?
  • Volume: Does your puppet whisper? Shout? Why?
  • Texture: Is your puppet’s voice breathy? Raspy? Gurgly?
  • Rhythm: Does your puppet speak in short, rhythmic bursts? Pause for effect? Lilt like a poet?

Have fun creating an ensemble of puppet friends with all sorts of unique voices. Looking for more inspiration? Check out this GMA interview with four of the original Muppeteers as they describe the origins of some of their characters’ voices and personalities.

Sketch a Comic Strip
Every picture tells a story—and so does every series of pictures! Our brains are constantly connecting the dots between images and imagining the stories in between. The artists behind comic books (and comic strips!) rely on their readers’ imaginations to fill in the gaps between their illustrations. Let’s join New Victory Teaching Artist Alberto Denis as he breaks down a story into moments and sketches an original comic strip!

Materials: Paper and pencil

Step One: Draw a series of boxes on your paper—four is a good number to start with! In comics, these boxes are called panels. You could also print out the template below

Grid of four blank rectangular panels

…or take inspiration from some more complex panel layouts, originally designed by legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby:

Example panel layouts from three to nine in different sizes and configurations

Step Two: Think of the story that you’d like your comic to tell and break it up into as many moments as you have panels. A simple story is the best place to start, like a nursery rhyme, a song, or your favorite scene from a book or movie.

If you’re stumped, you could use Alberto’s story of the runaway meatball, inspired by the song “On Top of Spaghetti.” Here are the lyrics:

On top of spaghetti
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed!
It rolled off the table
And onto the floor.
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door!

Step Three: After picking four key moments from the story, draw them in your panels! Keep in mind that each image should help the reader piece together what is going on, one moment at a time.

Four panel moments from "On Top of Spaghetti": The sneeze, the fall, the floor, the door

Step Four: Show your comic to someone! Can they understand the story? What do they imagine is happening in between the panels?

Could you have told your story in fewer panels? How much more of the story could you tell with more panels?

BONUS: Break your story into lots and lots of short moments and create a flipbook! Follow along with Ryan as he uses a light box (you can also use a window) to create a simple flipbook animation on Ryan’s World.

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