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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.

This post was written by Candace Broecker-Penn, co-founder of Hands On.
Candace Signing
Candace interpreting Mother Africa: My Home.


While The New Victory Theater was still being renovated in 1995, the organization knew they wanted families with Deaf or hard of hearing parents or children to enjoy their seasons of shows. They reached out to us at Hands On, a service organization committed to providing access to the arts for Deaf and hard of hearing people here in New York City. The rest was history! For 21 years we have been working hand in hand providing sign interpreted performances for every show. 

Every season, we start our work the spring before when we meet with the New Vic staff to pick the interpreting dates. We also discuss the specific needs and challenges of each individual show. We’re some of the first people outside of the New Vic to see the scripts and get a glimpse of the wonderful upcoming shows, lucky us! While I interpret many of the shows myself, I often need a ‘team’ to help me out, so I make some calls to the talented interpreting community. Last year we had 14 interpreters working with us and our Deaf advisors! 

Porscha SigningOver the years the number of families who come to the New Vic has grown immensely and we now have a fantastic, dedicated audience. We greet each family in the lobby, and enjoy talking to audience members before and after the shows. There are often fun activities in the lobby and opportunities to meet the performers afterwards for autographs and pictures. We found a whole new audience this past fall when Hands On interpreted one of the autism friendly performances of Mother Africa: My Home. Hands On was asked by a Deaf mom, who has an autistic son if there was a way to combine both special nights. The New Victory and Hands On worked together on this opportunity and the whole family had a great time enjoying the circus together. We left the theater smiling, when a young girl, who was on the spectrum, shared her excitement about the interpreting because–as she proudly announced–she knew signs as well. It was a terrific experience for the whole audience and we look forward to repeating it in the future!

To help us coordinate all of these exciting initiatives, we have many amazing ushers who help us. Recently, we’ve been thrilled to see that many of them have expressed an interest in the Deaf community. Some, like Shamar Pelzer and Porscha Rippy, have learned ASL and gone out into the community to learn and volunteer. Shamar is even thinking about becoming a sign language interpreter! Having a direct conversation–whether it’s getting a ticket scanned or asking for a booster seat–helps to make the New Vic a place that everyone feels welcome. 

A mother and daughter at the ASL performanceBesides working with the wonderful Usher Corps, we also get the opportunity to work with the New Vic’s stellar group of teaching artists when they conduct classroom workshops at The Lexington School for the Deaf. When the TAs work with Deaf high school students on pre- and post-show workshops, we get to interpret! I love getting to see teaching artists begin to pick up signs from the students over the months they work together. 

The New Victory has something for everyone in the family. We’ve interpreted shows for infants as young as six-months-old to high school students to grandparents as old as ninety. It’s wonderful to see families with Deaf parents or Deaf kids watching, laughing and wanting to come back. It’s an honor and pleasure to work here and we at Hands On look forward to 20 more years!


 

ABOUT ME
Candace Penn I am Candace Broecker-Penn, co-founder of Hands On and a certified American Sign Language/English interpreter. I sign many (many) shows on Broadway – but I will admit that my favorite times are here at the New Victory because this is where children learn to love theater like I did when I was a child.

My parents are Deaf and I grew up as a bilingual child using both American Sign Language and English. In college, I studied theater then worked with The National Theatre of the Deaf. As one of their speaking actors I toured the US and around the world presenting theater in ASL. Some of my favorite memories are performing Derek Walcott’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight at the Kennedy Center’s Imagination Celebration, touring Our Town to Japan, taking Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to Trinidad and performing on Sesame Street
 
ABOUT HANDS ON

We interpret theater, publish a monthly calendar of events for the Deaf community and do workshops and training for theater interpreters. We’re small, but active - interpreting shows at many theaters in NYC – among them Roundabout, Radio City and Shakespeare in the Park. Beth Prevor is the Executive Director. 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Play with illustration, pantomime and adapting a story into a show in this Family Activity especially created for 4-7 year olds! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past Family Activities on our blog and at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.    

Draw Piggie
Did you know that the show Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play! is based on the famous children’s books by Mo Willems? Learn how to draw Piggie from the illustrator himself! 
 

BONUS: In the show, Elephant and Piggie don’t look like they do in the books (see picture below). In that spirit, pick a favorite animal and find clothes in your closet that are the same color as that animal. Maybe you could be a crocodile and wear a green shirt or be a flamingo and wear a pink dress!
 
Elephant and Piggie

Playing with Pantomime
 
In the play, Elephant and Piggie realize that anything is possible. In this activity, discover if anything is possible for your family too. 

Materials: Slips of paper, writing utensil, bag or hat

Step One: On slips of paper write down some action words or activities. Use this list as inspiration or write your own!

The Actions

Step Two: Once you have your actions written down, put them in a bag or hat and pull them out one by one and do that action. 

Step Three: Now try doing more than one at at a time. Can you skip AND play ping-pong WHILE wearing silly hats? Elephant and Piggie can! It becomes even more fun if you make sound effects that go along with the actions. 

From Story to Stage

Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play is an adaptation of the popular storybooks written by Mo Willems. The Kennedy Center then took those stories and turned them into a musical! If you were to make a show based on a storybook, what would it be?

Write Your Script!

The first step in adapting a story for the stage is turning the text into a script.

Materials: Downloadable script template, writing utensils

Step One: As a family, choose a favorite storybook. Ask yourself these questions: 
  • What makes this story so special?

  • What memories do you have reading this story together?

  • What is your favorite part of the story and why?
Step Two: Go through the book and create a list of all the characters in the story.

Step Three: Next, using our script template, write down the lines the characters say in the story. This is your script!

Script Template

BONUS: Adults – watch the video below from Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences On Tour and hear about the writing and creation process of the show. 
 
Cast Your Characters

Now that you have lines, it’s time to cast your play and get into character! 

Materials: Downloadable casting template, writing utensils, costuming materials

Step One: Think about each character in the story. What are their personalities like? Is one particularly grumpy? Maybe that part goes to Grandpa! Decide on which family member will play each role and assign the roles using our casting template.

Casting Template

Step Two: Practice performing your lines in different theatrical ways. Try:
  • Changing your voice

  • Playing with a new posture

  • Walking the way you think your character would walk
Step Three: It’s time to add costumes. A costume piece helps an actor get into the spirit of the character. Choose something that you think your character would wear, or a color that represents who they are.

HINT: If you are playing an animal, try to find an article of clothing that looks like fur or scales (depending on the animal of course!).

Step Four: Have a fashion show and show each other what you chose to wear for the play. Try doing this in character!

Create Your Set

There are many elements that make storytelling theatrical, including the set, sound and lighting. Theatrical design helps to establish the mood of the characters’ world and it provides hints for the audience to understand what they are watching. How can you transform your living space into a theatrical world?

Materials: Furniture, blankets or sheets

Step One: Look around your room to decide where the stage should be and where the audience will sit. 

Step Two: Talk about the world of your play and the elements that it contains. Does it take place in an ocean? A bustling city? A forest? On the moon?! 

Step Three: Transform the room using furniture and tables as set pieces. Get creative and drape fabric over chairs to create different shapes. 

Step Four: Once you have your set in place, rehearse the story you have created.

Step Five: Perform your play for your family and friends. Don’t forget to take your bow! 

BONUS: Adults – watch the video below from Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences On Tour  and hear from the people who created the look and feel of the show. 

 
Family Activities

We invite you to share a giggle, try some new moves and deepen your understanding of the performing arts with our Public Engagement Activites, Arts Express, TXT Marks the Spot and Talk-Backs! 
 
Twitter   How did your drawing turn out?
Share a photo of it with us on Instagram or Twitter, #OhBoyNewVic.
Facebook   What was it like to try out different actions?
Like us on Facebook and tell us what you think!
Posted by Beth Henderson
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