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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.

Play with juggling, create a splatter paint masterpiece and experiment with gravity in this Family Activity!  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.



Learn Juggling

Water on Mars is full of experimental juggling with everyday objects–like water bottles and rolls of toilet paper! We visited New Victory Teaching Artist and professional clown, Billy Schultz, in his home so he could teach us juggling with everyday objects.

 


Splatter Time

The jugglers of Water on Mars are some of the best in the world. Not only do they have some of the best technical juggling skills; they're also known for their artistic visuals and risk-taking. In this activity, make a piece of art inspired by the design of the show!

The Cast of Water on Mars
Materials: Cardstock paper, paint (we used acrylic but any paint can work), paintbrushes, painter's tape, markers
 
Warning: This can get messy. Make sure to do it over another piece of paper or a plastic tablecloth, and wear clothes that you don't mind getting paint on.

Materials
Step One: Using the painter's tape, make an interesting design on your cardstock. 

Step One

Step Two: Pick one color to paint over the paper. Pick other colors to splatter over the solid color. HINT: If you add a little warm water to the paint and mix is around you can make better splatters.

Step Two
Step Two
Step Three: Wait for everything to dry. Then peel off the painter's tape!
 
Step Three

Step Four: Water on Mars is a show about discovering new things. In the white lines (created from the painter's tape) write down things that you have recently discovered about yourself. Maybe you've discovered that you're a really excellent dancer, or that you love a new type of food.

Step Four
Freeze Frame

In Water on Mars, the creators/jugglers are fascinated by the shapes that thrown or juggled objects make when suspended in the air—different objects create different visual images. In this activity, experiment with what visual images you can make at home! 

Materials: Camera, light household objects (e.g. toilet paper rolls, plastic bags, scarves, etc.)

Step One: Look at the pictures below for inspiration.
 
Juggling Freeze Frame example with rings Juggling Freeze Frame example with pins Juggling Freeze Frame example with balls

Step Two: Clear a space in your home and collect objects that you want to throw in the air. Experiment with:
  • How things look while they are suspended in the air 
  • What shape your body can make after throwing the object
  • The most interesting way to catch the object
  • The speeds at which you throw each object 
  • A combination of different weights, textures and sizes

Step Three: Once you feel "picture-ready," position yourself in the cleared space and have another person take your photo as you throw the objects in the air. If you're using an iPhone, you can hold the shutter button or volume button down to capture a burst of photos to choose from. 
 

 
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 splatter turn out?
Share a photo of it with us on Instagram or Twitter, #WateronMarsNewVic.
Facebook   Are you now a juggling master?
Like us on Facebook and share with us!

Photos: Patrik Rio Monko, Einar Kling Odencrants
Posted by Beth Henderson

Written by Michael Karas, Professional Juggler

My name is Michael Karas and I'm a professional juggler. You may have seen me last season in Bello Mania at the New Vic! I love juggling, but most people don’t know that much about it. Since the next show at The New Victory Theater, Water on Mars, is all about juggling, I wanted to take a few seconds to talk about four things you think you know about juggling—and show you why they're completely wrong. Check out the trailer for Water on Mars below and read on for some juggling mythbusting!

1. Juggling is for clowns.

For some reason, most people tend to think of clowns when they think of juggling. It's true that many clowns know how to juggle, but they often know how to do tons of other things, too. Clowns in the circus are often called upon to be multi-faceted performers, a fancy way of saying they're "jacks of all trades." However, most hardcore jugglers take juggling very seriously and rarely wear anything resembling a clown outfit. The jugglers in Water on Mars appreciate contemporary fashion and wear clothes that are comfortable and that make a statement. They dont consider themselves clowns, or even circus performers. They are jugglers, plain and simple. Their primary job is to make great theater using the art of throwing and catching objects.
 

2. Juggling is all about DANGER!

Michael Karas Juggler Michael Karas
Not true at all! As a juggler, I can tell you that juggling seven balls is way harder than juggling three knives or even four burning torches! While audiences seem to like the thrill of dangerous items being thrown around, the truth is that most jugglers can learn to juggle three knives or three torches in about a month. The juggling in Water on Mars, however, has taken decades to carefully craft, and these three gentlemen are certifiably the only trio who can do what they do. Thousands of jugglers can handle knives and torches; but Wes, Tony and Patrik have invented thousands of new tricks that never existed before they came along.
 

3. Jugglers always juggle the same stuff—balls, rings and clubs.

Or so you think! While many jugglers tend to stick to the three standards (balls, clubs and rings), contemporary juggling is questioning all those old ideas. Jay Gilligan, the juggler who trained Wes, Patrik and Tony, started a company called Renegade Design Lab that partnered with Renegade Juggling to research and create props that have never been used before. New ideas have emerged that will surprise you: clubs with cups for holding balls, interlocking rings that roll and even balls that spray water as they’re juggled! When props are needed faster than the manufacturing process allows, Wes tends to get out rolls of duct tape and tape props together, thus creating what I call "Frankenstein props" (some of which you’ll see in Water on Mars.) If you make it, they can juggle it! What are some things lying around the house that you can juggle? An apple, a toothbrush and a plastic plate, perhaps?
  Frankenstein Props
Tony, Patrik and Wes often use taped-together "Frankenstein props."

4. Juggling is boring.

I hear this all the time, "I like juggling for a couple minutes, but then I get bored." Most people think juggling is basically one or two patterns. Either you’re juggling objects in a circle or in a figure eight. Then you add another object… and rinse and repeat. If this is your view on juggling, I would beg you to reconsider and check out Water on Mars. These three guys are known and respected all over the world (yes, I happen to be a major fan) for their incredible invention of new ways of juggling. They're always teaching special workshops at juggling conventions about creative new tricks you can do, utilizing new techniques and mind-blowing body contortions. The reason I think this group is so special is that their show is, most importantly, fun and accessible to all audiences. They perform incredible feats, while simultaneously not taking themselves too seriously.

Juggling is my life—I've been doing it for 20 years. I've seen hundreds of jugglers from all over the world and I can tell you honestly… Water on Mars is a unique treat, and I will be in the audience more than a few times to witness this spectacle for myself. It's not often that New York City has the opportunity to play host to not one but three of the world's top jugglers. If you think you have a good sense of what juggling is, think again! These guys are taking the art of tossing and catching to new heights. Drop everything (pun intended) and come check out this crazy show! 

If you have any questions about juggling as an art, hobby or profession, comment below! I’d love to hear from you. If the question is "Should I learn to juggle?" then I'll save you some time. The answer is "YES! Start today!"
 
New Victory Thumb Put your newfound juggling knowledge to good use and come to see Water on Mars! Get your tickets today.
Posted by Beth Henderson

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how the young people in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from our Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory Blog. Today we're talking to third-year usher Aniyah Carr from Brooklyn.
 

Aniyah CarrWhat has been your favorite show at the New Vic?
My favorite show was Fly because it has to do with black history, and I love anything that has to do with black history. 

The thing I like most about being an usher is…
Meeting a lot of new people, especially kids. I love kids!

My favorite memory from working as an usher was…
My favorite memory was the time when a patron came to an Autism-Friendly performancewith her son and I greeted them on the steps. As soon as the young boy saw me, he asked if he could look at the finger puppet that I had on. I let him look at it and then he jumped up and hugged me. That was such a touching moment for me because nothing like that had ever happened before. 

My dream job would be…
I’d like to be a professional dancer and own my own business. I want to open up a dance studio for kids and adults so they can do what they love.

My love of theater started…
I did not get to see a lot of live theater when I was younger, so my love of theater started when I joined the Usher Corps!

Who inspires you?
My mom and dad inspire me because they always encourage me to do better and be successful. One day I hope to get them a big house and buy them everything that they want.

What’s your favorite subject in school?
Science is my favorite subject because I always like to know how things work and how they are made.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
I like to hang out with my family and friends.

Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
I would say it's dealing with the many different personalities of my fellow ushers.

Describe your dream vacation
My dream vacation would be to travel the world.
 

 
New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
There's juggling and then there's THIS. In the New Vic's first ever all-juggling show, Wes, Tony and Patrik take to the stage to perform jaw dropping, giggle inducing, eye popping stunts that you have to see to believe. We had a chance to ask them a few questions about their juggling journey!
 

 

Water on Mars From left to right: Patrik, Tony and Wes
When did you first start juggling?

We all started juggling very young. At the ages 5, 7 and 8. It's never too early, though. Some jugglers start at age 3!

What is the strangest thing you've ever juggled? 

The strangest thing we have juggled would have to be ice cream cones or cactuses. You have to flip them in a weird way so you don't get jabbed by the cactus!

Tell us more about the name Water on Mars. What does it mean?

Water on Mars, to us, represents the idea of an exciting discovery! When we juggle, we're constantly researching new tricks and new ways of juggling. Remember the wonder mankind felt when water on Mars was discovered? We want to have that kind of amazement fill every aspect of our juggling. 

Do you have any advice for kids who want to start juggling?

Talent is such a small part of being a good juggler. If you want to be a juggler, just start practicing and never stop. YouTube has thousands of great tutorials to get you started! 

What sets your show apart from other juggling acts?

Our show is different because we took three completely different and unique jugglers and combined all of our skills, ideas and brainpower to come up with something that brings out the best in us. 

How did you guys first meet?

We all come from very different backgrounds. Tony studied musical theater and dance; Patrik studied acrobatics and circus; and Wes learned juggling from his father, who was also a juggler. We met at the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm, Sweden.

What is the best part of being a professional juggler?

We get to juggle toilet paper for all kinds of people all over the world! 

How high can you juggle?

We cannot toss or juggle anything as high as Mars... but we're working on it.

What do you hope kids and families will take away from Water on Mars?

Our goal is to push the boundaries of the art form and your understanding of what it means to juggle. We hope this show sparks a sense of exploration of curiosity to invent something new!
 

Wes Peden (USA) won a Bronze Medal at the 33rd Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain. He has performed in 18 different countries, including shows for the King and Queen of Sweden on three separate occasions. Wes graduated from the University of Dance and Circus with a degree in juggling and lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

Tony Pezzo (USA) is one of the most creative minds ever to pick up juggling props. With his fingers on the pulse of youth culture and his eyes on the prize he calmly turns the world upside down with his mind-bending catches and physics-breaking throws. As an American, Tony subscribes to the idea that no matter how much tap dance you performed as a child you can still move to Sweden and make the cover of Vogue for juggling.

Patrik Elmnert (Sweden) was born in Uppsala, Sweden in 1989. He started performing at the age of nine, dressed in a tailcoat and a glitter top hat. Patrik has spent most of his time this past decade researching and specializing in ring and club juggling. Since his graduation from the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm, Sweden, he has performed on five of the seven continents on this planet. 
 
 
New Victory Thumb Drop everything and come to see Water on Mars! Get your tickets today.
Posted by Beth Henderson

Play a game with your family, create subway art inspired by your life and craft a time capsule in this Family Activity! 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.


Get Your Gears Turning

Aging Magician tells the story of Harold, an aging clockmaker near the end of his unusual life. What are your memories? What are your aspirations? How do you want to be remembered?  In this activity, use your memory and imagination to answer questions about each other's past and future.

Materials: Printable template, markers, scissors, brad fastener

Step One: Print out a copy of this two-page template for each member of your family.

Gear Template
Step Two: On the gear template, draw memories from the past in three random triangles.

Step Three: Draw three aspirations for the future in the three remaining triangles.

Step Four: Fold the paper in half on the dotted line and cut out the gear. Then cut out the wedged circle from the second page of the template and attach the two shapes together with a brad fastener.

Template pieces assemble with a brad fastener through their centers
Animation of completed gear turning
Step Five: Take turns spinning the wheel to a random drawing—keep whether it's a memory or an aspiration a secret! Ask each other these questions:
  • What are you feeling in this drawing?
  • Why did you decide to draw this specific moment?
  • Who's with you in this drawing? 
  • What happened right before this moment?
  • What happens after this moment?

Step Six: After you have talked about each of your gears, reveal which drawings were memories and which were aspirations. Were there any surprises? Were there any patterns? Were there any similarities between each other's gears?

Next Stop-Allegory!

As the story of the Aging Magician unfolds, we visit many subway stops on a journey to Coney Island. In this activity, think of your commute and create an allegory for your family to decorate your subway stop. 

Step One: Aging Magician is an allegory on time, youth and the peculiar magic of ordinary life. Accompanied by a string quartet and members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Aging Magician is brought to life by a team of multidisciplinary artists who combine music, theater, puppetry, instrument-making and scenic design to create this work of opera-theater.
HINT:  What's an allegory?
  al·le·go·ry  \ˈa-lə-ˌgȯr-ē\
  noun (plural allegories)
    A story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.  

Watch this trailer for Aging Magician from Beth Morrison Projects and have a conversation about where you see symbols, stories, poems and pictures. What do you think the hidden meanings might be?

 

Step Two: From mosaics to stained glass to sculptures, there is artwork throughout the New York City subways. Here are some examples below. Have you seen these pieces of art? Why do you think they are in the subway?

Subway Art
Top to bottom: 72nd Street (N/Q), Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue (D/F/N/Q), 14th Street (A/C/E)

Step Three: Choose one of the examples above or pick your own. Think about these questions:
  • How does this art make you feel?
  • What do you think inspired the artist to create this piece of art?
  • Why did they choose this piece of art for this specific subway stop?
  • Could this piece of art be an allegory? Is there a deeper symbolic meaning? What is it?

Step Four: Design a piece of subway art that is an allegory for your family's life. What symbols represent who you are as a family? Use art supplies around your house to design your family's piece. 

BONUS: In Aging Magician, a string quartet and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus help Harold uncover his legacy as the New Victory stage is transformed into a living, breathing instrument. Create a music playlist for your commute. Choose a song for each subway stop. While you ride, listen along!

Family Time Capsule

One of the major themes in Aging Magician is time. Create a family time capsule to capture this moment in time!

Materials: Printable worksheet, pens, paper, container (a shoebox, an envelope—it depends on what you decide to put inside!)

Step One: Have a conversation with your family using these questions as prompts:
  • What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
  • What kind of person do you hope to be by the end of this year?
  • Think of an object you own that has a significant memory attached to it. Why did you choose this item?
  • If we were to create a family time capsule (with an expiration date of one year), and we could only choose three things to put inside, what would those three things be?

Step Two: Go around your home and collect things you would want to include in your time capsule.

Step Three: On a piece of paper, write a letter to your future selves. Include the goals and aspirations that you discussed in Step One. These letters will be included in your time capsule, too!

Step Four: Print and fill out this worksheet for inclusion in your time capsule:

Worksheet
Step Five: Decide on a container that will fit the objects you have chosen to include. Place the objects inside and seal it up. Then write the "Do Not Open Until" date on it: one year from the day you do the activity. Set a calendar reminder as well!
 

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 and Talk-Backs!
Twitter   What did you put inside of your Time Capsule?
Share a photo of it with us on Instagram or Twitter, #NewVic.
Facebook   How did your allegorical subway art turn out?
Like us on Facebook and share with us!
Posted by Beth Henderson

Create a furniture-rocket, discover a new planet and make a new friend in this Family Activity!  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.

Furniture Rocket

In The Way Back Home, The Boy flies all the way to outer space using his bed as an airplane. In this activity, invent your own furniture-mobile and fly all the way to the moon!

Materials: Paper, crayons/markers, a flashlight

Step One: Choose a piece of furniture in your house that you would use to fly to the moon (maybe your bed? Your chair? Your pillow?) and name your spacecraft. 

Step Two: After you choose your spacecraft, turn off the lights as outer space is very dark. Grab your flashlight, a grown-up and get ready to fly to the moon on your furniture-rocket! 

Step Three: Pretend you're flying and imagine all the sounds you may hear. Try to use only sound effects (no talking!) on your way there. Use your flashlight to find your way. Shine it on different things in the room and pretend they're flying through space.
  • What sound does your spacecraft make as it blasts off? Is it a loud motor? Does it make a whistling noise?
  • As you leave Earth and enter outer space, what does it sound like? Is it quiet? Is it loud?
  • Woah! A shooting star just whizzed past you—what did that sound like?
  • You're making a turn around the Sun to get a full view of our solar system—can you hear noises from faraway planets?
Step Four: You finally made it to the Moon! Explore the ground.
  • What does it feel like when you walk on the Moon? Can you float? Can you jump?
  • What colors do you see in this new place?
  • Imagine what you see when you look at the sky from the Moon. Can you see the Earth?
The Best Place in Space

Did you know that outer space is so big, we don't even know how big it is? In this activity, be your own space explorer and discover a brand new planet in outer space. 

Materials: Downloadable template, crayons/markers

Step One: Use these questions to start a conversation about planets:
  • What is a planet?
  • Are all planets the same? What makes them different?
  • Which planet do humans live on?
  • Are there other creatures that live on other planets?
If you don't know the answers, do the research together to figure it out. Go on the internet and look up pictures of space and planets! 

Step Two: Download and print this worksheet. 

Planet Discover

Step Three: Take your furniture-rocket (from the previous activity) and travel to your new planet! 

Alien Puppet

If you were traveling on a big trip to outer space, you wouldn't want to do it alone! Make a creature that you think would live on the planet you just discovered. 

Materials: Two paper plates, clear tape, scissors, stapler, clear plastic cup, paper, crayons/markers

Materials
Step One: Trace your plastic cup on the piece of paper to get a sense of how big you should make your alien. Draw an alien inside of the shape and cut it out. 

Step One
Step Two:  Design and decorate your alien. Make sure to do both sides! 

Step Two
Step Three: Now it's time to make your spaceship. Put two paper plates on top of each other with their edges touching and staple them together. Using scissors, cut a slit in the top of your spaceship.
 
Step 3
Step Four: Slip your alien into the slit and secure it with tape. Then, decorate your ship!
 
Step Four
Step Five: Put four small pieces of clear tape on the bottom of the plastic cup. Secure the plastic cup to the top of the spaceship on top of the alien.

Step Five
Step Six: Take your spaceship on a flight! Where can it land?

Step Six

 
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 and Talk-Backs! 
 
Twitter   What piece of furniture did you turn into a rocket?
Share a photo of it with us on Instagram or Twitter, #NewVic.
Facebook   How did your alien and planet turn out?
Like us on Facebook and share with us!
Posted by Beth Henderson


The New Victory Theater is dedicated to creating opportunities for you and your family to play together. We invite you to share a giggle, try some new moves and deepen your awe and understanding of the performing arts by participating in our celebrated public engagement programs with your family. With every visit to the theater, join in the fun of exploring the art forms presented on our stage. Our lobbies aren't just a place to wait for the show to start–they're an important part of your family's trip to the New Vic.

As the Assistant Director of Education/Public Engagement I oversee and create age-appropriate content specifically focused on engaging families in the art forms and themes of the show. I love being able to watch the shows and collaboratively create with our teaching artists and staff, activities that families may want to play with and explore before or after a performance. Every Monday morning after a weekend of shows I eagerly open the post-show surveys to see if anyone has mentioned the public engagement events. In December we received a glowing note in the post-show survey about the Arts Express before Mother Africa from Joanna. We reached out asking if she would write a more detailed account of her experience with her two kids. I hope you enjoy it and that you join us in the lobby for a pre/post show arts express!


See you at the theater,
Renata Melillo–Townsend
Assistant Director of Education/Public Engagement


Joanna's Daughter
This winter, before the Mother Africa show, my family and I escaped the cold and arrived at the New Victory as the doors opened. We grabbed a free locker and stored our coats and bags and my seven-year-old stowed her unfashionable rain boots, swapping them out for more fashionable glittery slippers. Now the family is unencumbered and she feels properly adorned. We're free to enjoy the transformed downstairs lobby. This magical space of friendly people and activities beckons the family as soon as we enter into its orbit. 

This is just the beginning of a New Victory Arts Express event and there is something for everyone. For the visual artist, grab a marker, design your own quilt square and pin it up or take it home. For the musician, come make some beats with the drums. For the athlete, you can hula hoop your heart out or, you can hit the juggling station, lay on your back, stick your feet in the air and try to juggle a pillow with your feet. Do you have a willing adult whose arm you can twist? Get them to crawl on all fours on some cushioned mats as the kid tries to balance on your back (with a New Victory staff member aiding and spotting). While each New Victory Arts Express event is different, there's always an enticing mix of activities that appeal to many different learning styles and comfort zones. 

Different kids and adults, staff members and visitors were all exploring and experimenting, dipping a big toe into the waters of what we were about to see on stage with Mother Africa. My extremely intellectual assessment was: "This is great! The kids are getting their wiggles out." I have to confess, the awesome and enthusiastic staff member with whom I had been conversing, looked a bit crestfallen. All this effort to imagine an engaging arts workshop, and it's about… wiggles? However, there is something to be said for getting your wiggles out right before a show.

Mother Africa DecorationsArriving at a theater often means you only watch others get to move and sing and dance–that's just unbearable for some kids–mine included. And that said, these events really do encourage so much more than just wiggles. Audience members get to meet and interact with other audience and staff members. Kids get invited to play and stretch their imaginations with music, art, stories and dance. I don't have to start my night out with my family with an endless stream of, "Please be quiet, no you can't eat, please be still." Instead, I get to say, "Let's play, imagine and create!"

Of course I want my kids to appreciate watching art, but I also want them to have a toehold on making, creating and doing. We don't always have the time or money to allow the kids to do all the creative exploration we would like. However, I'm glad they get that opportunity with The New Victory Theater. 


 
New Victory Thumb Learn to juggle at the Pre-Show Activities for Water on Mars! Get your tickets today.
Posted by Beth Henderson

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how the young people in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program here!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from our Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory Blog. Today we're talking to third-year usher Dylan Christou from Astoria, Queens.  
 
Dylan Christou
My favorite show at the New Victory was…
I really liked The Old Man and the Old Moon because of the folk music in the show. Also, the set and lighting were very impressive.

The thing I like most about being an usher is…
I like being exposed to a variety of theatrical genres.

My favorite memory of working as an usher was…
I liked going to a school in the Bronx to speak to kids about the Usher Program. It made me feel like a leader and proud to be a part of such a great organization. 

My love of theater started…
When I saw shows at the New Victory with my sister when we were little.

What was your favorite story as a kid?
I really loved the Captain Underpants series because of all of the humor. It also had the Flip-o-Rama, where you turned the page really quickly and the pictures became animations!

What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite class right now is Marketing because I have a teacher who makes it very exciting.

What’s your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
I like to hang out in SoHo and Astoria. SoHo is a prime location. It is very lively and active and full of people. Astoria is home.

Describe your dream vacation.
I would love to go on a road trip across the country from New York to California. 

 
New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

This interview was previously seen in the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Newsletter. 

The Grammy Award–winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus is gearing up for the New York premiere of Aging Magician right here at The New Victory Theater! The creative masterpiece of composer Paola Prestini and librettist/performer Rinde Eckert, Aging Magician is a composite of sonic and visual elements that paints an allegory on time, youth and the peculiar magic of ordinary life, and, perhaps, the ordinary magic of a peculiar life.

Accompanied by the Attacca Quartet, Aging Magician moves us along with Harold from the surgical repair of a timepiece to the magic show of time itself, lives and deaths, appearances and disappearances. We asked composer Paola Prestini and director Julian Crouch about what to expect from its New York debut. 
 

 

Paola Prestini Paola Prestini
Can you walk us through Harold’s journey? What is it that makes him so interesting?

JC: Basically Harold is writing a book about an aging magician who, in turn, is searching for a young boy to pass his knowledge on to. Harold takes a physical journey which follows the F train to Coney Island but simultaneously through his memories.

Are there any specific sources of inspiration for Aging Magician?

PP: I was listening to Triplets of Belleville, and a wide roster of influences: music from Tunisia, folk music from Mexico, some of the grand musicals from the 40-50’s...and of course all the operatic work I love!

What can audiences expect from Aging Magician and from the character Harold?

PP: Audiences can expect an interdisciplinary journey of music, theater, opera and puppetry led by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus into the life of our ordinary and wonderful lead, Harold.

What was your (Julian and Paola’s) collaboration with each other–and Rinde–like?

PP: We worked together on concept, story, and we have our ebb and flow. For example, with Rinde, we’ve gone back and forth—where sometime I write music and he fills in text. Julian is exquisitely sensitive to music, and he understands structure innately, so he often comments and helps on that end. 
 

 

Julian Crouch Julian Crouch
JC: As far as the writing goes, Paola and Rinde do the hard work (music and libretto) while I act as a kind of dramaturg, focusing mainly on theatrical structure. As director and co-designer, I am also responsible for the staging and the visual cohesion of the piece with collaborators Mark Stewart (instrument designer/sculptor), Amy Rubin (co-designer) and Josh Higgason (projection and lighting design).

What was designing for Aging Magician like compared to your other work? 

JC: To be honest, every piece of work has its own character. However, the main joy of Aging Magician and what makes it unusual for me is the opportunity to take advantage of a conducted chorus, not just as a musical element but also as mass image generator.

What does the chorus represent in Aging Magician?

PP: The chorus was inspired by the gondolier Charon the Ferryman, who crosses the souls across the river Styx. The chorus ushers, cajoles and helps Harold on this ultimate journey of a lifetime. 
 

 

The Puppetry in Aging Magician Choristers from Brooklyn Youth Chorus in a moment of puppetry with Harold, portrayed by Aging Magician librettist Rinde Eckert
Julian, your work often features puppetry or live animation. Does the show have any puppetry?

JC: There nothing in this show that someone would call a conventional puppet. But certainly objects and materials are manipulated using puppetry skills. So puppetry, but no puppets. 

What is the most challenging aspect of working together on Aging Magician

JC: Coordination of calendars…We are all busy people. Other than that, just the usual challenge of artists trying to create an extraordinary piece.

PP: I loved it all. The challenges, as always, are the time each discipline takes and making sure everyone’s process is respected. I couldn’t ask for a more extraordinary cast of characters and collaborators.
 
New Victory Thumb Experience the peculiar magic of Aging Magician today!
Posted by Beth Henderson

Written by Auriane Desombre, Spring 2017 Communications Apprentice

The New Victory Theater prides itself on its interactive activities and enriching programs for kids and their families. However, it's rare that we get to see kids performing up on our stage. This season is the exception with 26 kids under the age of fourteen taking their bows in Aging Magician! Narrating the opera-theater work, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus joins Harold onstage as he reflects on his unusual life. Giving us the inside scoop are two members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Mariana (12) and Andrei (13).

Mariana"Aging Magician—it's complicated." Mariana says. "It's about this man who has a heart attack on the subway, and throughout the show he goes between being in reality, and being in a story he is writing. He remembers things from his childhood and rediscovers the magic of his life. There are so many different aspects to discover."

"It fills me with a sense of both melancholy and joy since it's a very profound piece," Andrei tells us. "It’s a beautiful piece of music that combines songs with theater and even puppetry to illustrate a man reflecting on his life, memories and aspirations."

Mariana wholeheartedly agrees, "It's just an amazing show that I love a lot."

Joining the show as part of the chorus comes with a lot of challenges, and requires a whole new way of thinking about your performance. "When you're working in an ensemble, you always feel that you have to be more reliable," Andrei says. "You not only think about if what you’re doing will help you, but how will it affect the larger ensemble." Of course, as members of a chorus dedicated to artistic innovation, these performers are more than up to the task.

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus has been working on Aging Magician for three years, so bringing the show to life has been a long process. Being a part of that creative journey can be the most rewarding part of the performance, though. As Mariana says, there's nothing like seeing the results of your creativity coming together to make you feel inspired.

Andrei"I feel like the show is a puppet in itself. You're putting it together, creating its personality, and creating the way that it moves and speaks," Mariana explains. "The way we do that makes me feel like I have a part in that 'puppet' and its way of life."

Taking that "puppet" and performing in front of a live audience might sound daunting to many, but Mariana and Andrei feel right at home onstage. "The stage is like a home away from home,” Mariana says. "It just brings a familiar feeling to me that I love."

The New Victory stage certainly feels like home to Andrei. When he saw a show at the New Vic for the first time, he was so enthralled by the performance that he told his dad,  "Wow, I'd really like to do that when I grow up!" Andrei is thrilled to be living out his dream on the New Vic stage, where he was first inspired to become a performer.

For Mariana, the New Vic stage comes with another ingredient—the audience. "The fact that we’re performing for kids that look up to us makes it even better. To see the wonder on their faces—I can't wait."

Neither can we! Come see Aging Magician next week to catch Mariana, Andrei, and the rest of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus in action on the New Vic stage.
 
 
New Victory Thumb Auriane Desombre studies English at NYU, where she's wrapping up her senior year with an honors thesis. Outside of her classes, she reviews theater for Stagebuddy, and has written for Cracked and Urbanette. Her favorite writing collaboration thus far, though, would be the time Lin-Manuel Miranda replied to one of her tweets.