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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.

March is here, and on our stage Adventure Theatre MTC is bringing their musical adaptation of Caps for Sale to life, monkeys and all! Last year, we pitted the greats of Kids' Lit against one another in a March Madness tournament, from which Peter Pan emerged victorious. This year, in honor of all the artful adaptations we've presented on the New Victory stage this season, we bring you Picture Book March Madness.

Illustrations enrich so many beloved storybooks, so it wasn't easy to narrow the pantheon of picture books down to a bracket of thirty-two. But we managed it somehow. This year, eight picture books from four conferences will face off, two-by-two, until a champion rises from the pile. Will it be a Caldecott Medalist, an Animal Tale, an Enchanting Newcomer or a Colorful Classic? Check out the bracket below to see the match-ups, then cast your votes in the embedded form.

Caldecott Medalists   Enchanting Newcomers

This Is Not My Hat

 

 

 

Elephant & Piggie: We Are In A Book!

Make Way for Ducklings

A Ball For Daisy

The Snowy Day

 

 

The Day The Crayons Quit

The Polar Express

Giraffes Can't Dance

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

 

 

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

Madeline's Rescue

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Where the Wild Things Are

 

 

Waiting

The Little House

Peanut Butter & Cupcake!

 

 

Animal Tales Colorful Classics

Corduroy

 

 

The Lorax

Curious George

The Little Prince

Mr. Popper's Penguins

 

 

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Gruffalo

Caps for Sale

Handa's Surprise

 

 

The Giving Tree

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Goodnight Moon

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

 

 

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Frog and Toad Are Friends

Are You My Mother?




Next week, we'll announce the winners of this round, along with some words of wisdom from some New Vic parents about why their kids love particular titles. Let the games begin!
 

The first battle is over, and sixteen beloved picture books have survived the fray! Many of the matchups were neck-and-neck up until last night's closing of the polls. A certain cookie-loving mouse out-hopped Frog and Toad across the finish line, while Are You My Mother's baby bird just couldn't flap his little wings hard enough to keep up with Harold and his purple crayon. Other races weren't so close. The Very Hungry Caterpillar slithered past the animals of Handa's Surprise, who were too distracted by all that fruit to notice; and Maurice Sendak's beloved Wild Things leapt over The Little House with ease.
 

Gil delights in the world of The Snowy Day with his grammy, Pat Buller Pearson.

Lindsey Buller Maliekel, our Director of Education / Public Engagement, checked in with her three-year-old son, Gil, about his Round One favorites. "I love it so much," he said of The Snowy Day. When asked why, he pointed at the bundled-up little boy and said, "Gil!"—proof, as Lindsey puts it, that all three-year-olds are a wee bit narcissistic. But, then, what kid wouldn't dream of enjoying a vicarious snow day?

For her part, Lindsey admires The Snowy Day for its artistry. "The illustrations are simple and epic simultaneously," she says. "They resonate with my own experience of childhood and with the experience I'm watching my sons having. I love them because there is a lot of room to create story and to attach the story to our own experiences."

Now it's time for the second round! How will Robert McCluskey's ducklings fare in the knee-deep drifts of The Snowy Day? Will Dr. Seuss's ecological masterpiece suffer the same fate as Mr. McGregor's rabbit-ridden garden? The choice is yours to make. Examine the pairings in the bracket below, cast your votes in the embedded form, and spread the fever of March Madness to all your bookwormy Facebook friends!

Caldecott Medalists   Enchanting Newcomers

Make Way for Ducklings

 

 

 

Elephant & Piggie: We Are In A Book!

The Snowy Day

The Day The Crayons Quit

Madeline's Rescue

 

 

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Where the Wild Things Are

Waiting

Animal Tales Colorful Classics

Corduroy

 

 

The Lorax

Mr. Popper's Penguins

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

 

 

The Giving Tree

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Harold and the Purple Crayon




Next week, we'll learn the identities of the Elite Eight, and we'll hear from yet another New Vic family about their favorite titles. Vote early, vote often!
 

The Tuskegee Airmen, whose story of courage and resilience is currently being brought to life on the New Victory stage in Fly, were the first African American military aviators in U.S. history. The airmen faced tremendous prejudice and skepticism from their own government—our nation and military were still segregated at the time, and the War Department of the United States had in 1925 decreed that black men were mentally incapable of operating aircraft. Overcoming these prejudices and proving their determination and worth as pilots and military men—as citizens—became part of the cause of the war for them. They fought for what they called Double Victory—victory over America's enemies abroad, and victory over American segregation at home.

Between 1942 and 1946, 992 pilots trained at Moton Field at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The airfield and training facilities are now a National Historic Site, and Phoebe and Genevieve, two young New Vic correspondents ages 10 and 11, recently visited it during a family vacation. They took plenty of photos and wrote up an account of their trip for us. Take a look!

 
Genevieve and Phoebe at the Tuskegee Airmen National History Site
Hi! This is Phoebe and Genevieve, and we just visited the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. It was really cool!
 
Genevieve and Phoebe crouch in front of a trainer plane with their arms outstretched
We saw two trainers—planes that were used to train the pilots. The seat in the back was for the flight instructor.
 
Genevieve and Phoebe try on oversized military uniforms
We got to try on the uniforms the pilots wore. They were a little big.
 
Genevieve and Phoebe explore materials in a reading room
We visited a room in which the pilots studied aircraft silhouettes and caught up on wartime news.
 
Genevieve and Phoebe try to fold parachutes
We tried to fold parachutes, which is way harder than it sounds.
 
A map of the lower 48 states labeled with the number of airmen who originated from each
We saw a map that indicated what parts of the country the airmen hailed from.
 
Genevieve and Phoebe stand dwarfed beneath a red-tailed aircraft suspended from the ceiling
We also saw a red-tailed plane that was flown in battle!
 
Genevieve and Phoebe overlook the Tuskegee Airmen National History Site
These amazing pilots changed our country and are still remembered and honored today.
Big thanks to Phoebe and Genevieve for sharing all they saw and learned! If long car rides aren't your thing, visit the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site's website for videos, exhibits and more—a virtual journey through African American military history.

 
Catch the uplifting story of Fly at the New Vic through Sunday, March 27. To learn more about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, check out our Family Activity for Fly. And if you're planning on attending the 3pm performance this Sunday, March 20, remember to stay afterwards for the Talk-Back!
Posted by Zack Ramadan
And then there were eight. The results from the second round of voting are in, and it was a nail-biter. Instead of making way for ducklings, we should probably have made them some tiny flipper-shaped snowboots! The Snowy Day was just too much for them. The Giving Tree managed to erase Harold and the Purple Crayon from the running—a waxy chore—but The Day the Crayons Quit made up for it with their colorful victory over Elephant and Piggie. Meanwhile, The Very Hungry Caterpillar gobbled up the mouse and his cookie, and The Lorax out-witted The Tale of Peter Rabbit. That, or bunnies are allergic to Grickle-grass.

Lilaia Kairis, our Director of Digital Services, sat down with her five-year-old son, Nico, to find out which Round Two winner he'll be rooting for in Round Three.

 

Nico smiles while reading The Day the Crayons Quit
Ready for bed in his rocketship pajamas, Nico reads aloud from his March Madness pick, The Day the Crayons Quit.
"I like all the books that I have," he said, feigning impartiality. Despite having read The Very Hungry Caterpillar "a hundred times" and chuckling with amusement at the memory of Corduroy's escalator-ride, his favorite seems to be The Day the Crayons Quit. "It's funny, and I love it!" he exclaimed, before giggle-reading the whole thing using distinct voices for each crayon. Nico also heartily recommends its sequel, The Day the Crayons Came Home

"Even though we've read it countless times now, it still makes him laugh out loud," says Lilaia. "What's better than that?" Of Oliver Jeffers' illustrations, Lilaia extols their ability to support the story and convey character. "They really make you feel like you're seeing Duncan's artwork and getting to know him a little bit." Sentient crayons aside, it's also a relatable story. "In our house, some crayons are definitely more overworked than others, so a lot of the humor rings true for us!"

Are you ready for the third round of voting? We're down to the Elite Eight—it's time to declare a winner in each conference. Which Caldecott Medalist will shine brightest? Which Animal Tale will roar loudest? Which is the most Colorful Classic? And which Enchanting Newcomer will bind us in its spell? Examine the matchups in the bracket below, and cast your votes in the embedded form.
 

 

Caldecott Medalists   Enchanting Newcomers

The Snowy Day

 

 

 

The Day The Crayons Quit

Where the Wild Things Are

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Corduroy

 

 

The Lorax

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Giving Tree

Animal Tales Colorful Classics



Cast your vote and share the bracket far and wide. By this time next week, we'll know the identities of the Final Four! See you then.
 

FLY, playing through March 27 at the New Vic, lets audiences experience firsthand the anguish, failures, fears and triumphs of the Tuskegee Airmen, who flew through the skies over Europe and North Africa fighting for freedom abroad—and at home—during World War II. Take a quick look at our sneak peak of this high-flying theatrical action-adventure about the first black military aviators in U.S. history. 
 

This amazing story comes to life through  stunning projections, vibrant lighting and a Tap Griot, who acts as a modern Greek chorus-like figure, expressing the extraordinary perseverance and determination of these courageous men through dance. Fly director and co-author Ricardo Khan sat down to tell us about the inspiring journey of bringing Fly, which he calls “a story that needs to be told and shared and loved and embraced by all of us,” to the stage.

What inspired you to make dance so central to Fly?

The cast of Fly rehearsed in The New 42nd Street Studios in January of this year.

I was looking for a way to tell this story in a way that didn’t sound, smell or feel like a history lesson.  Like “the river we stand in,” this part of our history is alive in the contemporary experience, as is the Hip Hop culture and aesthetic. So tap, our way, became the needle and thread to tell the parts of this story that words could not express, and the bridge for us—living in a contemporary world—to feel the emotions that these 1940s characters must have been feeling, but were not allowed to express, back then.  Since making the choice to use tap, it’s been about listening to the voices in my head, sharing those voices with Omar Edwards during the six years of the show’s development, and employing imagination and our “non-worded” results into the storytelling style of Fly.

What inspired you to create the Tap Griot?
There had to be a great level of rage swelling up in these young men, equalled by the same amount of joy and exuberance from being able to fly. I needed a way to show that, because I knew that mere words could not get us there. The Tap Griot is a storyteller—referred to in the western African traditions simply as a Griot. To draw from the ancestral path, through a young, contemporary vehicle was my goal, bringing the two worlds together in an artistic expression of our story, indescribable through words,and leaving imagination up to those who see it.

How important was music in the creation of Fly?
Music is always important to me. It’s critical to telling any African American-rooted story, because music has been so very crucial to our survival and sanity. I use drums in rehearsal because, as a director, I take many paths to get into the pulse and rhythms of a play and its characters. There are the actors’ voices, the actions of the scene and there is the music, the beat, the connection to their place and purpose in the universe. It’s not just contextual.  Music is everything—it’s just that sometimes music can be used in ways far different for me than most would imagine.

The four main characters seem incredibly connected to each other. How did those relationships take shape during the rehearsal process?
There are rituals I incorporate into the rehearsal process in order to bring focus to that particular circle of people. They need to become that circle if the work is to be lifted the way it needs to.  Especially in this particular play, a sense of ensemble is essential. That and mutual respect for artists, our art and our heroes. So, in the process, collective energies, spirit, ancestral awareness and heart surround the making of the work.

 


Ricardo Khan (center) and the cast and crew of Fly worked with Dr. Roscoe Brown (right of center), Tuskegee Airman and Commander of the 332 Fighter Group, during the rehearsal process.
Why did you and your co-author, Trey Ellis, choose to create a theater piece to tell this story?
Theater is magic to me. It’s what first brought excitement, awe and the power of imagination to my life in a way television and film never could have. So, my life and love is theater. It always has been. Where else could something live be experienced in such a way by an audience—made up of people from many different paths—and be appreciated for the impact it has had on that particular audience? Changing lives through a living experience of the arts—that’s why.

Where did your #LoveOfTheater start?
It started when I was a kid growing up in Camden, New Jersey.  We traveled on a bus to New York as part of the monthly outings that a local social group had organized. The plan was to see the Broadway show, Hello, Dolly! I hadn’t thought that much of it prior, except for the fact that it was about going to New York and that was pretty cool. But in that theater, when the lights went down and the curtain went up, something extraordinary happened in me. It was Hello, Dolly!, all right, but with an all-black cast, led by Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway! My eyes lit up because I saw people on stage, on Broadway, who looked like me. It was telling me that I could do whatever it was that I wanted to do in life.  So I did just that.

What is something you hope New Victory audiences will take away from this production?
Love for self, pride in our history, respect for others and the realization that nothing is impossible and no mountain is too high to climb. Strive for excellence in everything you do and you will naturally be the best you that you can be.
 
 
What story or event from U.S. history would you like to see told through theater and dance? Let us know with #Fly on Twitter @NewVictory, or in the comments below! FLY is playing at The New Victory Theater through March 27. Come see the story of the heroic Tuskegee Airmen unfold before your very eyes!
Posted by Zack Ramadan
March 21, 2016

Faith and Truth and Right

 

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black servicemen to serve as military aviators during World War II. At the time, there were about 40,000 African Americans enlisted in the military. By 1945, this number had increased to 1.2 million, with black men and women serving on the homefront, in the Pacific and in Europe. Between 1942 and 1946, 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee Army Airfield, with 450 serving overseas in either the 99th Fighter Squadron or the 332nd Fighter Group. They were supported by hundreds more servicemen in additional all-black companies.

We were fortunate to speak with one of the Tuskegee Airmen, Dabney N. Montogmery, about his experience during World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. Now 92 years old, Mr. Montgomery served in the 1051st Quartermaster Company, supplying the airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group during their deployment in Southern Italy in 1944. He sat down with us for an interview this past January and recounted one harrowing night in particular.


"We were stationed—my outfit, that dealt with food and clothing—downstream from Mount Vesuvius. And Mount Vesuvius decided one night to blow its top. Smoke was coming up, and the wind was blowing smoke and ash and dust right down in our direction. Everybody in my company, 1051st Quartermaster, had to put on gas masks. Now, that was a tough night, because we had to wear those gas masks for twelve hours, and then after the gas masks we had to clean up—you see these people cleaning the snow up around New York City right now? This is what we had to do with that ash that came down from Mount Vesuvius. And that was indeed a tough night, when we stood up, in spite of all of this, and said, 'We will fight.'"

 

Dabney N. Montgomery, Tuskegee Airman
Dabney N. Montgomery, Tuskegee Airman, served in the 1051st Quartermaster Company of the 96th Air Service Group, attached to the 332nd Air Fighter Group in Southern Italy. He is 92.

Dabney N. Montgomery, speaks at a Talk-Back
Mr. Montgomery speaks at a Talk-Back for Fly on the New Victory stage. He was joined by his wife, Amelia Montgomery, who serves as president of the Tri-State Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.
After the war, Mr. Montgomery received a degree in Religious Education from Livingstone College in North Carolina, and later trained in classical dance at both the Boston Conservatory of Music and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet here in New York; but the moral call to return to his native Selma, Alabama and break the segregated law was unwavering—a constant voice in the back of his head. "The pressure was so hard on me, it wouldn’t leave," he said, comparing it to the clenched jaw of a predatory animal. He answered the voice in May of 1957, returning to Selma and breaking the law by drinking from a whites-only drinking fountain inside the Dallas County Sheriff's Department!

The Selma community, Mr. Montgomery's family and childhood friends and neighbors, were not ready for that brand of activism just yet. Fearing retribution from law enforcement, they attributed his law-breaking to post-war "shell shock" and asked that he head back to New York. He would not return to Alabama until 1965, when he wound up serving as a bodyguard to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the march from Selma to Montogomery! "It was terrific, exciting and... sometimes heavier than the Tuskegee Airmen and Southern Italy," he said.

When we asked him what he'd like our young audiences to know about his life experience, as both a Tuskegee Airman and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, he spoke of his and his peers' perserverance and moral tenacity. "In spite of all of the difficulties," he said, "we had faith and truth and right, and we stood up for that faith and truth and right." And whether he's visiting a local high school or attending a Talk-Back here at The New Victory, Mr. Montogomery consistently delivers that inspirational message, along with one other mantra:

"When the laws of the state conflict with the conscience of man, the laws of the state must be peacefully broken."
 
 
To hear more about Mr. Montgomery's experience, follow us on Instagram, where we're posting longer excerpts from our interview. And don't miss the uplifting story of Fly, on the New Victory stage through March 27.
Posted by Zack Ramadan

 

Pretzel
This week, we welcome Théâtre de l'Œil's The Star Keeper to the New Victory stage! With their whimsical and endearing puppets, they tell the story of Pretzel the worm, who goes on a fantastical journey to return a fallen star to its place in the heavens. 

Théâtre de l'Œil has described the show as "immersed in the magical universe of children's dreams." So we asked our staff to recall the places their dreams and imaginations took them as kids!

I spent lots of time under my family's forsythia bush next to our deck. Under the bush, I laid out a very detailed floor plan of my house that included a kitchen (with stick silverware and rock plates), a bedroom and a bathroom corner. I have incredibly fond memories of eating lunch in my forsythia house with my dog, Chloe (she wasn't imaginary). — Renata Melillo Townsend, Education Programs Manager

I was playing on the playground at Kiddie Kampus, where I spent my afternoons waiting for my mom to pick me up. I'd conquered the jungle gym, monkey bars and balance beam. I'd wowed and amused my fellow Kampers, playing and dancing to songs by the Beastie Boys and Huey Lewis and the News on my jambox. Then, without warning, I found myself flying. I was soaring over the playground, dipping downward and darting back upward, and locking eyes with the other Kiddies. It was exhilarating. Then, I woke up. Twenty-nine years later, I remember every image of that dream, and I recall it from time to time. It's a reminder of what my imagination is capable of—a reminder to keep dreaming. — Christopher Ritz-Totten, Public Relations Associate

My parents built our house on old farmland, so when I was a kid there were various remnants from the farm that were perfect settings for different adventures. One year at Halloween, the long path through the woods in the front yard became a haunted trail. In the winter, after it had snowed, we carved the spaces behind the aging rock walls into trenches as we went off to war and ate hardtack (circus peanuts, of course!).  And come spring, we morphed into archaeologists behind the garage where the farmers had long ago discarded old glass Coke bottles, classic marbles and more—trash to them but treasures to us! — Kali DiPippo, Assistant Director of Artistic Programming

I recall a dream in which I fetched Estelle Getty her newspaper! After thanking me, she pointed into the distance and warned, "Watch out for the wolves." A pack of wolves then chased me into the house, where, by means of an otherworldly incantation, Estelle transmuted them into a harmless baby Frankenstein. What can I say? I was six years old, The Golden Girls was still on the air, and I had seen Beauty and the Beast in theaters five times. — Zack Ramadan, Digital Content Producer

When I was turning ten, I was obsessed with having a horse.  For that whole summer, three of the other neighborhood girls and I played "Hero Horses" almost daily. We shredded old sheets and towels to create tie-on manes and tails, and sometimes we’d decorate them with ribbon, buttons and charms. Then we would set up pretend perilous scenarios with other neighborhood kids. They would go off and hide, act out their "scene" and eventually call out for help from the Hero Horses. We would hear their shouts and gallop off as a herd looking to save them. Then they would jump on our backs, piggyback style, to be carried to safety in another yard, and we’d all break for Kool-Aid… which we drank out of loaf pan troughs! — Rhesa Richards, Assistant to the Executive VP and VP of Operations

For years, as a kid, I had a recurring dream. I would be riding on a roller-coaster, and just as it flipped upside-down I would suddenly shrink to six inches tall—too small to stay in my seat. I would start falling to the ground! But not to worry—I always had a tiny parachute! I would float down into my sister's hand, and she would carry me around in her pocket for the rest of the day. — Lauren Hood, Artistic Programming Associate
 
 
Do you have a magical childhood dream or make-believe adventure you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments below, and don't miss Théâtre de l'Œil's The Star Keeper, playing at The New Victory Theater April 1–3.
Posted by Zack Ramadan
Tags: 2015-16, Staff

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 Judy Wu from Queens.

Third-Year Usher Judy WuWho inspires you?
​My parents inspire me because they overcame many obstacles to come to this country to make a better life for my family.

What's your fondest childhood memory?
My fondest childhood memory was experiencing a new world of adventure and excitement at Disney World.

What was your favorite story as a kid?
My favorite book as a kid was Matilda by Roald Dahl because she was a precocious child with magical abilities who found a voice in stories and herself.

What's your favorite subject in school? 
My favorite subject is English because I've always loved reading and the art of storytelling.

Describe your personal style.
My personal style is minimalist and classic.  

What's your favorite song right now?
My favorite song right now is "Here" by Alessia Cara. 

What's your favorite place to eat or grab food near the theater?
My favorite place to eat around the theater is Schnipper's because they have a variety of comfort foods.

What are your favorite things to do when you're not at work?
My favorite things to do outside of work are reading and exploring different places in NYC.

What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
My favorite places to hang out in NYC are museums. One museum I particularly like is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan because they have a vast collection of artwork and exhibits.

What's the most challenging thing about being an usher?
The most challenging part of being an usher is providing a unique and personable customer service experience for patrons.

What would be your dream vacation?
My dream vacation would be exploring the culture, food and language of Japan.
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan

Welcome back to Picture Book March Madness! We've sorted the ballots and tallied the votes from Round Three's Elite Eight pairings. Who made the Final Four, you ask?

It was a brutal contest. Max and his Wild Things trounced The Snowy Day with 90% of the vote, seizing the title of Favorite Caldecott Medalist. For once, though, it's fair to say that the contenders in this category are all winners. The Day the Crayons Quit, meanwhile, has assumed the mantle of Most Enchanting Newcomer after garnering 82% of the vote in its matchup against Rosie Revere, Engineer. Could last week's enthusiastic endorsement of Oliver Jeffers' illustrations have tipped the scales? Maybe, but we never promised equal time.

Despite a strong showing when the polls opened, Corduroy was ultimately overtaken by The Hungry Little Caterpillar, who captured 61% of the vote to win the Animal Tales pennant. But the closest match by far was the clash for the Colorful Classics crown. The Giving Tree and The Lorax duked it out in a botanical battle for the ages, a green guerre d'escadre among devotees of Seuss and Silverstein. In the end, though no trees were left standing, The Lorax pulled ahead with 55% of the vote.

Now it's time for the Final Four to face off! Will it be a storied Medalist or a stalwart Animal tale? A debonair Newcomer or a dependable Classic? Examine the matchups in the bracket below, and cast your votes in the embedded form.

Caldecott Medalist   Enchanting Newcomer

Where the Wild Things Are

 

 

 

The Day The Crayons Quit

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Lorax

Animal Tale Colorful Classic



Will those sassy crayons scribble all over Where the Wild Things Are? Will The Lorax's message trump the Caterpillar's metamorphosis? Share this Final Four bracket with all the passionate readers in your life, and tune in again next week, when we'll announce the two final opponents. The Championship draws near!