New Victory Arts Break: Create with nicHi douglas

Last week, we met New Victory LabWorks Artist nicHi douglas and discovered some of the things that inspire her theatermaking, from cartoons to neighborhood bookstores. This week, we’ll explore all the choices artists get to make during the creative process, first with a closer look at nicHi’s process, and then with some activities that cast you as choicemaker-in-chief!

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New Victory Arts Break: Create with nicHi douglas

Process and Play

Play’s the thing! nicHi is currently working on an artistic collaboration called Mimi and Rita’s Magic (Half) Hour, and her goal is to make the joy and freedom of play accessible to people of all ages. As part of her creative process, she and her collaborators check in with each other, play games and enjoy a fun snack! Take a look:

Take out your New Victory Notebook and respond to these reflection questions:

  • What are some activities that you love to do with friends?
  • What do you think is fun about being a kid? What do you think is fun about being an adult? What are some cool things you associate with getting older?
  • What is your favorite space to play in? What favorite things do you like to be surrounded by?

All in the Mix!

nicHi knows what goes into a healthy collaboration. One major element? A yummy snack! It’s time to make your first big choice with collaborators of your own. Bold and thoughtful choices will set your team up for success, so remember to make choices that feel right to you while also remaining flexible and open to other people’s ideas!

Step One: Chat with one of your friends or family members and find out three of their favorite snacks that might be good in a mix—cereal, small candies and nuts are just a few examples. We love cake as much as the next person, but for this activity let’s think tiny and dry! Grab your New Victory Notebook and jot down the snacks they list.

Step Two: On the same page, make a list of some of your favorite snack combinations. Maybe it’s Reese’s Pieces and raisins. Maybe it’s Teddy Grahams, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Encourage your friend or family member to do the same for themselves. Have them write down your three favorite tiny snacks as well.

A handwritten list of favorite snacks

Step Three: With your friend or family member, agree on one favorite snack combination and collect the ingredients. Maybe you have them around the house, or maybe you can take a trip to the store to get them. As best as you can, gather all of the things on your list.

Step Four: Get together and eat your snack! What do you think? Talk through with your friend or family member what you think about your new snack mix. What would you change? What else does it need to make it amazing? If you had to give this new creation a name, what would you call it?

So Many Different Hats!

A whole lot of work goes into devising new works of art, and sometimes you have to play more than one role in the process. nicHi wears a lot of different hats when creating. Sometimes she’s the writer, the director and a performer! Let’s learn a bit about the many roles in theater-making from New Victory Teaching Artist P. Tyler Britt and make some choices about what theatrical roles we would like to play.

Artist check-in! Which role was your favorite? You can pick more than one! Remember, you can wear as many hats as you want when you’re a theater-maker.

Four individual Images of Teaching Artist P. Tyler as a writer, director, stage manager and performer

Four individual Images of Teaching Artist P. Tyler as a sound designer, props designer, lighting designer and costume designer

Once you’ve chosen your preferred role (or roles!), reflect in your New Victory Notebook:

  • What skills do you think you need in order to be in this role?
  • What other roles in the theater does this person work closely with?
  • What is the most fun part of this role?
  • What other theater roles would you be interested in learning about?

Quick Change

Each role in the creation of a performance is an important one. nicHi and P. Tyler are both multidisciplinary artists, wearing many different hats all at one time. Now it’s your turn to put on a show, trying on as many hats as you can.

Step One: Take all of the roles from P. Tyler’s video and jot each of them down on slips of paper. Fold and mix them up.

Small pieces of paper with various theater-making roles written on them

Step Two: Think of a story you would love to see told on stage. Maybe it’s a play you’ve already seen, or a story from a movie, book or TV show you would like to reimagine. It could also be a story from your own imagination! If you have a friend or family member nearby to collaborate with, pick a story you’re both familiar with.

Step Three: Now pick up one of the slips of paper! Read it out loud. That’s your main role on the project! What choices would you make in that role to make your show a success? You have 15 seconds to make as many choices as you can think of.

Are you the writer? How would you tell the story? Costume designer? What will the characters wear? An actor? What character will you play, and how will you interpret the role?

Step Four: Keep going and take turns picking out roles. Want more to do? When you run out, pick a new story and play another round.

BONUS: Are there ways for you to bring your choices to life? Try it out! Put on some costume pieces, create a set, sketch out ideas and put some of them on their feet.

Have fun imagining all the ways you can contribute to a project while wearing as many hats as possible!

And scene!

As a writer and theater-maker, nicHi explores story and character through research, play and collaboration. That same spirit of collaborative play extends to the actors playing the characters in her stories. Acting is reacting, so when actors rehearse a scene together, they have to know who they are and what their relationships are to each other. Let’s see how changing the relationships can change this scene between Character A and Character B:

A: Hello, how are you? Nice day we are having.
B: It is a nice day.
A: Well, what do we do now?
B: I don’t know.
A: Let’s just go out and enjoy the day.
B: Are you ready?
A: I was born ready!

Step One: Find a scene partner and decide who will play Character A and Character B. Pick one of the relationship pairs from below and act out the scene. After rehearsing the scene a couple of times, try switching roles!

  • Siblings
  • Parent and child
  • Best friends
  • Student and teacher
  • Boss and employee

Can you think of other relationships? Take out your New Victory Notebook and jot down a few more that you think might be fun to play. Here are a few that we came up with:

A handwritten list of some types of relationships

Step Two: Now that you’ve practiced stepping into these roles, try to get really specific about your scenario. Think:

  • How do these two characters feel about each other? Are the siblings arguing? Are the parent and child celebrating?
  • Where is this scene taking place? In an office? By the beach? On the way to the theater?
  • What happened right before this conversation? Are they running late to their first day of school? Did the rocketship just land?

See how the scene changes when the circumstances change. Make big choices and have fun!

Step Three: Gather an audience and perform the scene. See if your audience can guess the circumstances of the scene and what your relationship is.

BONUS: Instead of a human scene partner, pick any household item (a chair, a spoon, etc), choose your given circumstances, and try to act out the scene with that inanimate object. How can you show that the household object is sad? Happy? Friendly? Mean? How does your acting change when you have an inanimate scene partner?

Choices, choices! The creative process is simply full of them. Next week, we’ll continue playing with nicHi’s inspirations and create some wild and wacky characters. We’ll also meet another of this season’s New Victory LabWorks Artists! See you then.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by 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 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New Victory LabWorks Supporters

New Victory LabWorks is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by grants from the Madeleine L’Engle Fund of the Crosswicks Foundation, The Ford Foundation and the Howard Gilman Foundation.