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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 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, #ElephantandPiggie.
Facebook   What was it like to try out different actions?
Like us on Facebook and tell us what you think!
Posted by Beth Henderson

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

On Monday, January 9, actor and arts education advocate Ben Vereen presented our Director of Artistic Programming Mary Rose Lloyd with the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence and Sustained Achievement in Programming. Mary received this honor from her peers at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, the world's largest forum of international presenters, artists, managers, agents and arts leaders. We applaud her remarkable achievement in redefining quality performing arts for young people through her 20 years of spirited, revelatory and bold curatorial work at The New Victory Theater.‚Äč These are her remarks on the importance of quality theatrical programming for kids. 
 
Mary Rose Lloyd at APAP
L to R: Laurie Anderson, Mikki Shepherd, APAP Board Chair Dr. Michael Blachly, Mary Rose Lloyd, APAP President and CEO Mario Garcia Durham, Laura Colby, Michele Roberge

I am, on behalf of the entire New Victory Theater team, so deeply honored to receive an artistic programming award from this group who I revere so much and with whom I've been a part since my grad school days in the 90s. (When I was 14 of course.)

Back then I didn't really know what a presenter was until I was lucky enough to get to work with Joe Melillo at BAM and learn from the absolute very best. As a mentor, Joe opened my eyes to the possibilities of curating wonderful work for specific spaces...matching artists to venues & communities, both nationally and internationally. My experience as a presenter grew even more meaningful when I was hired by the remarkable Cora Cahan, President of the New 42nd Street. The New Victory Theater is one of seven historic theaters located between 7th and 8th Avenues, theaters which comprise the whole of the "New" 42nd Street, here in New York. Cora and the Board of the New 42 had the original vision to establish, in one of those theaters, what was–incredibly–missing from the landscape of New York culture–a theater dedicated solely to presenting the very best work from around the world for young audiences and families.

Now, here, well over 20 years later, it means so much to us, and to the entire field of live arts for young people, that the New Victory is being honored for our artistic programming in this incredibly important field. As a matter of fact, this whole week there has seen a swelling of passionate conversation around the importance of quality performing arts in the lives of children. From the APAP/IPAY pre-conference workshop last Thursday led by the inspiring Sarah McCarthy and Boomer Stacey, to the 6th annual conversation on theater for young audiences led by the indomitable Monique Martin on Friday, to the weekend symposium on #CreatingQualityTYA co-hosted by the American Alliance of Theater Educators and the New Victory, topped off today, where focus is placed on artistic excellence in programming for young audiences. I have collaborated with this tribe of indefatigable heroes and advocates for the creation of compelling performing arts for people of all ages.
 
Mary Rose Lloyd with Ben Vereen
Mary Rose Lloyd with Ben Vereen

Here's the bottom line: it is our job to support, make and/or present bold, extraordinary, visionary work for young audiences. Work that tells their stories and reflects their worlds. Every child has the right to have access to this work now, I'd offer, more than ever. It is vital the we champion the building of and caring for our children's humanity, their ability to feel empathy and to be curious about their fellow, global citizens of this world. The platform of theater is a great way to do this. Not only to create "future" audiences, but to also respect the intelligence and the imaginations of young people now, and make work for them to absorb now. We must reflect in this work the diversity of our children, celebrate our differences, so that everyone, every child over these next few years, whether gay, straight, trans, black, white, Latino, mid-western, southern, east or west coast feels they have an equal place in this world and can utilize the power of artistic expression to fight ignorance. So spread the word. Encourage our best, brightest, most incendiary artists that there need not be a demarcation line between the quality or the intensity of work made for adults as that made for young people.

In closing, I'll just say that you’re most likely a fan of the New Vic because when you were young you were either a part of a show, in an audience of a show or were part of a family who provided cultural experiences for their children. Don't lose sight of that child you once were. Take that child into the great, good work you do and connect with the youngest folks in your audiences to the end of your–and their–imaginations and back.

 
Mary Rose Lloyd Read more about Mary Rose Lloyd in a blog celebrating her 20 incredible years at The New Victory Theater!
 

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 Donovan Molina from the South Bronx. 
 

DonovanWhat has been your favorite show at the New Vic?
My favorite show was Fly. Fly focused on the untold story of the Tuskegee Airmen and was aimed at young audiences. It made me feel the same raw emotion as the actors did on stage.

The thing I like most about being an usher is…
I like the fact that I am a part of some kids' first experience of theater and that I get to see them experience many different genres of theater here at the New Victory.

My favorite memory from working as an usher was…
My favorite memory was seeing my family have fun watching an Autism-Friendly performance with my nephew who is autistic. Just seeing how happy he was to be at the show made me feel special and honored to be a part of the usher program.

My dream job would be…
To be a teaching artist in New York. The arts bring out the best and most creative part of me and I want to share my experiences and feelings towards the arts with everyone.

My love of theater started…
When I played a nurse's aid in my high school’s first play One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Who inspires you?
I'm inspired by my high school English teacher Mr. V, who directed all of our school plays. He made me see that theater was about something more than just acting. It’s a true artform where you can express yourself in fun and creative ways.

What’s your favorite subject in school?
Both Math and History are my favorites. Both subjects are easy for me because I’ve always been good at math and I find history to be very interesting.

What’s your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
My favorite place is Pelham Bay Park. I like to go there and enjoy nature or relax with my friends.

Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
Sometimes it's tricky trying to make sure patrons don’t record the show.

Describe your dream vacation.
My dream vacation would be to visit my family in Florida and go to Universal Studios.

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

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Ever since they were first created, Mo Willem's Elephant & Piggie books have enchanted both young readers and their parents. Now, the dynamic duo dances onto The New Victory Theater stage in a musical! We sat down with Mo Willems, their original creator and author of the script, to ask him a few questions about theater, his characters and writing a story! 
 

Elephant and Piggie in the Musical1. How did Elephant and Piggie become a musical? 
 
The folks at the Kennedy Center and I started discussing creating a theater piece for Elephant and Piggie while we were producing Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical. Initially, I was reluctant, as I couldn't get a handle on what type of story to tell. But, when the idea of a vaudevillian 'revue' of Elephant and Piggie's greatest came up, I was excited to get the creative team back together and go!
 
2. What does "Love of Theater" mean to you? 
 
Live performances have a unique magic. Every single person involved (the actors, the technicians, the ushers, the theater staff and YOU) decided to show up at the same place, in the same moment to experience the same thing together. So, each show is a dialog between the performers and the audience that can never be repeated. Collectively, we all share a special bond for a short time before we go back home to our normal lives. That's pretty cool.
 
Elephant and Piggie in the Books3. What's the most important aspect of both Elephant and Piggie that you want the two actors to capture in their performances?
 
Elephant and Piggie squabble, have misunderstandings and make mistakes. But, through it all, they are always generous in their love for each other. It's tricky being so silly while keeping a real emotional connection with each other and the audience.
 
5. Do you have a favorite anecdote about an Elephant and Piggie fan? 
 
Once during the "Should I Share My Ice Cream?" section of the play, when Elephant Gerald decides he WILL share his ice-cream a young audience member cried out, "You FOOL!"
 
6. What's your first step in creating a new story?
 
For me, every story is a question I don't know the answer to. I figure that if I don't know the answer, then maybe my audience doesn't either and we can discover it together. I always think of my audience, but never think FOR my audience.
 
7. Do you have a favorite moment or song from Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play?
 
That's easy: the applause at the end of the show! Actually it's not for me to decide what works in the play. YOU get to choose what you liked (and what you didn't like so much). That's part of the dialogue.

© Artwork by Mo Willems
 
Candace Penn Mo Willems is a Number 1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, is bestknown for his Caldecott Honor picture books Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, KnuffleBunny: A Cautionary Tale and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. His Elephant and Piggie early reader series have consistently topped the New York Times best seller lists, been translated into numerous languages and have been awarded two Theodor Geisel Medals and five Geisel Honors since debutingin 2007. Mr. Willems began his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street (PBS), where he garnered six Emmy Awards for writing. His television career includes creating The Off-Beats (Nickelodeon) and Sheep in the Big City (Cartoon Network) and serving as head writer for Codename: Kids Next Door (Cartoon Network). Since leaving television, he has continued to produce short animated films based on his books that have won numerous awards in festivals around the world. As a performer, Mr. Willems has appeared at numerous venues including the San Francisco Sketchfest, BBC Radio and NPR. His first play, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, also a Kennedy Center commission, was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for best new play. Mr. Willems is honored to be working with the Kennedy Center again for this production. Read more here. Banana!
   
Posted by Beth Henderson

At the New Vic, we help parents introduce the performing arts to kids of all ages and build anticipation for the shows with specially-designed Family Activities. To get ready for Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play, David, a New Vic Teaching Artist, worked with his daughter Emma (age 6) on the Family Activity! Check out their experience below. 
 

1. Tell us about what happened when you did the activity.
Emma Reading
Emma and I read over the activity, and I asked her to take a look at all the storybooks in the living room. She chose one that used to be her favorite before nap time when she was younger, Angelina's Birthday, one of the Angelina Ballerina books. These books inspired her to take ballet classes when she was 2. She has been a ballerina ever since–for over 4 years now! 

From the book, she picked out a moment that I would  never have guessed. In this moment, Angelina's friend Flora gives her a book about dancing, and in the image you see that there is a dessert picnic set up with other presents around. 

She decided on her costume and figured out the set and props first. She was the designer and I was the assistant. She kept using the picture from the book for reference, and we would brainstorm the things that could represent what was depicted in the book. As a parent, I appreciated that she didn't get too hung up on the details. 

For the script, rather than sitting and writing it all out ahead of time, we just played and tried the scene to see what we would say to each other. We started with that and then I asked her how we might say the same thing with less words, and from that we found the lines we liked. We wrote them down to remember, and then we played the scene out!

2. What did you learn about each other when doing the activity? What surprised you while doing the activity? 

Emma and her set.I was happily surprised that she chose a simple moment of kindness between friends over something more dramatic, like a scene where she would get to be funny or speak a lot. I also enjoyed seeing how invested she was in the details of the props and set.

She really wanted to talk about what went into the decisions she made, because before we started, we watched those behind the scenes videos about how Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play was adapted and staged. After we did our scene, I used the camera on my phone, and had her sit in a chair in the middle of the set, and asked her questions about her process, as if it was a New Vic show. She loved that! She started speaking like a grown up, as if she did these sorts of interviews all the time. She would repeat the questions back and make a point of graciously thanking and complimenting her collaborator (me). That cracked me up. It was like she was this tiny professional, trying to promote her work. 

3. Why is it important to introduce your kids to the arts? What is your favorite part about bringing your kids to a show?

 

Emma and the Cast
Emma meets the cast of Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play.
Kids tend to spend a lot of time consuming the arts, whether they think of them as art, or whether they just think of them as the books, albums or shows they want to enjoy over and over again. An activity like this gives them the power to take control of something they love. To see something they might know, like Mo Willems' books, adapted into a live show is a great way to help them understand that there are people and choices behind all the things they love. All of those things they love to read, to listen to, or to watch, started with an artist, or a group of collaborators, trying to figure out the work step-by-step. Seeing live theater especially introduces that idea, because you are watching people work together to make something right in front of you. When you see grown-ups who are not in your family, and not your teachers, and not on a TV screen, show up and perform for you, it really makes a difference. 

Connecting with a story that is being created by real people, in a space you are sharing in real time, creates a level of connection, and empathy, that goes beyond other artistic mediums. There is something about watching people perform, while you share the air with them that is powerful, and can be a kind of arts education! All arts education is empathy education. 

Living in New York City, and having The New Victory Theater (or "Daddy's Theater", as she calls it) in our lives makes us feel very lucky. We have been seeing things there together since before she was 2. She looks at the season brochure, to see what shows are ahead, like she owns the place. It is one of my favorite things we do together.  
Check out Emma's Scene!

We want to thank Emma (producer/writer/director/lead actor) and David (camera operator) for taking part in one of the three Elephant & Piggie Family Activities. Want to see more show related activities? Try out all three before coming to see the show here!

 
New Victory Thumb Check out the Family Activity for Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play and make your own scene!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson