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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.

These activities and discussion guides have been created so that families can use X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation as an inspiration to discuss power, legacy and the nature of leadership. 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.  



In His Own Words

Malcolm X was known for his passionate speeches and interviews. In this activity, watch the video below and discuss your thoughts afterwards. 
 
 

After watching the video, discuss these questions as a family:
  • What did you notice about Malcolm X?
  • What points do you think Malcolm X was trying to convey?
  • Why do you think Malcolm X became so influential?
  • Does he remind you of anyone in current events today? Who? Why?
  • Who do you think he's trying to influence in these speeches?
  • If Malcolm X were alive today, where do you think he would stand on the current U.S. political climate?
Making Meanings

Malcolm X spoke of equality and inclusion in the 1960s. Many of the things he spoke about are still relevant today. In this activity, connect his quotes to current day events.

Materials: Newspaper, magazine or online news source

Step One: Read the Malcolm X quotes listed below and choose one that you connect with and want to explore further. Think about why that quote resonates with you.
 
"So, early in my life, I learned that if you want something you had better make some noise."

"We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity."

"Whether we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences." 

"We can never get civil rights in America until our human rights are first restored. We will never be recognized as citizens there until we are first recognized as humans."

Step Two: Look through today's newspaper, a recent magazine or an online news source for a picture that connects to the quote you chose.

HINT: Go to the actual news website rather than social media to get a larger variety of photos to choose from. Also, try Google image search!

Step Three: Once you have chosen your photo, discuss these conversation prompts:
  • Why did you choose this photo?
  • What connection do you see between the quote and the photo?
  • Why do you think you are able to connect a quote from 60 years ago to a photo in today’s current news?
Step Four: Turn the photo and quote into a meme using Meme Generator. Post it on social media using #NewVic.

What Could Have Been

The play X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation is a work of historical fiction. Historical fiction is a genre in which real life events are portrayed within a fictional framework. The plot is based on actual events and features fictional characters who are inspired by real people. Historical fiction can also include imaginary characters, events or settings. For instance, X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation, takes place in a courtroom at an unknown place and time and features a fictional trial between the Nation of Islam and Betty Shabazz. The playwright is able to show what could have been. In this activity, be the playwright and imagine a conversation between two visionaries based on what you know about them and what impact they have had on the world. 

Materials: One printable timeline template per person, pencil/pen

Step One: Read this excerpt from the script of X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation. In this scene, Louis X and Malcolm X have just learned that JFK was assassinated. This is the conversation Marcus Gardley wrote for them: 

Excerpt

Step Two: Discuss these questions as a family:
  • What elements in this scene do you think are historically accurate?
  • What elements in this scene do you think are fictionalized?
Step Three: Now, choose two people from history who you would like to imagine having a conversation with each other. Look below for suggestions of interesting pairings, but feel free to choose your own. We would want to be a fly on the wall for any of these!
 
Group 1
Group 2
Group 3

Step Two: Write a ten-line scene between these two people using this template.

Worksheet
BONUS: Discuss this question with your family: If you could have a conversation with anyone in history, who would it be and why?

Online Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these resources!  

Family Activities
We invite you to deepen your understanding of the performing arts with our Public Engagement Activites, Arts Express and Talk-Backs!
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Posted by Beth Henderson

Use Julius Caesar as an inspiration to discuss the nature of leadership, costume design and Shakespearean meter. 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.  


What Shakespearean Leader are You?

There are many leaders in the play, Julius Caesar. Take our quiz to find out which character your leadership style most resembles!

 

To-Ga or Not To-Ga

That is the question...for a costume designer. Shakespeare is one of the most produced playwrights in the classical theater canon. One of the reasons Shakespeare’s plays are produced so often is because of the flexibility and artistic license directors and designers can take with the classic, well-known scripts. In this activity, look at how the costume designer chose to dress the actors and consider how you would design for your own version of Julius Caesar

Step One: Look at select costume sketches by Jennifer Moeller and Christopher Metzger from ACT I of The Acting Company’s Julius Caesar

Act I
Step Two: Look at select costume sketches from ACT II of Julius Caesar.

Act II
Step Three: Discuss these questions with your family:
  • What do you notice in the costumes from Act I?
  • What do you notice in the costumes from Act II?
  • When you compare the costumes from Act I and Act II, what do you think happens between acts? Why?
Step Four: Read the synopsis of Julius Caesar

Step Five: If you were to direct and design a version of Julius Caesar, where would it be set and what would the characters wear? 

The Beat Goes On

Most of Shakespeare’s plays are written in verse, which was normal for English drama at his time. Different playwrights would write using different meters for their verse. The one Shakespeare chose is called iambic pentameter. In this activity, hear and feel the beat of iambic pentameter in different ways. 

Clap It! 
Do a series of five soft claps, and then repeat it a few times.
  • Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap
Now do a series of five hard claps, and repeat it a few times.
  • Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap
Now combine those soft and hard claps into sets of two and repeat a few times.
  • Clap-Clap Clap-Clap Clap-Clap Clap-Clap Clap-Clap
This rhythm is iambic pentameter. Each pair of claps is an iamb, and there are five pairs!

Gallop It! 
One of the reasons Shakespeare chose iambic pentameter for the verse lines in his plays is that it has a driving beat that moves the actionforward. To feel this energy, try galloping in place as you speak the meter. Like this!

How-To Gallop

Gallop around as you speak, keeping the words connected to the steps.
  • Ta-Tum Ta-Tum Ta-Tum Ta-Tum

Suit the Meter to the Word 
Now try to connect the meter we have learned to verse lines from Julius Caesar. In Act 1, Scene 2, Cassius is trying to convince Brutus that Caesar has grown too powerful and dangerous, and must be removed from power. He argues that "I was born free as Caesar. So were you." Try that line in your normal speaking voice.
  
Pay attention to the meter. Speak the line again, stressing every second syllable. How does that sound?
  • I was born free as Caesar. So were you.
Now look at a larger section of text from later in that same Cassius speech, in which he argues that if Caesar is becoming too dangerous to Rome, it is because people like himself and Brutus are letting it happen. He says:
  • Men at some time are masters of their fates:
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Try that speech a few times to see what words you naturally emphasize.
Now, try using the meter!
  • Men at some time are masters of their fates:
    The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Discuss the following questions as a family:
  • What words does the meter seem to suggest are most important?
  • What do you notice about the words or syllables that were stressed? 
  • How does the meter improve the line or change your understanding of it?
BONUS: Stressing every second syllable, feel out these famous Shakespearean lines. For bonus points, pick a line you like, and try to speak it with a gallop, moving around the room!
  • But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? (Romeo & Juliet 2.2.2)
  • A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! (Richard III 5.4.7) 
  • If music be the food of love, play on. (Twelfth Night 1.1.1)
  • Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff. (Macbeth 4.1.73)
  • Two households, both alike in dignity (Romeo & Juliet P.1)
FINAL HINT
Sometimes really important lines in a play break the rhythm on purpose, to catch the audience’s ear. "To be, or not to be, that is the question" from Hamlet is one of those—the final iamb is left incomplete, the final syllable missing to emphasize the unknowable nature of the question. Listen for lines like this when you watch Julius Caesar.

Family Activities
We invite you to deepen your understanding of the performing arts with our Public Engagement Activites, Arts Express and Talk-Backs!
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Posted by Beth Henderson
 

 

The Way Back Home Puppets A still from The Way Back Home, Photo: Teater Refleksion
As the Arts Enrichment Coordinator at LearningSpring School, a school for students on the autism spectrum, I make it a priority to create opportunities for my students to experience the New York City cultural community. 

Our Magnolia class (kindergarten), will see The Way Back Home at the end of March. Early experiences of theater can shape students’ understanding of the world and the New Vic provides theatrical experiences that challenge what theater is and can be. If young children are presented early on with varied and imaginative examples of theater, they're more likely to explore varied possibilities and experiences in the future. Bringing young students to the theater is also critical for the development of their imagination. Theater is imagination come to life, and if children experience it in this way at a young age, they are opened up to possibilities before their worldview begins to form. The possibilities are endless! 

Developing and stretching students' imaginations through theatrical experience allows work in the classroom to be equally exciting, creative and inventive. As a teacher, I try to meet this challenge by building the show into our curriculum and our work in the classroom. For my young students, this not only prepares them to see the show, it allows them to fully experience the show by enacting artistic elements, diving into the story and connecting the experience of the show to their everyday adventures. In preparing to see The Way Back Home, we engaged in many adventures in the classroom:
 
Experimenting with the form:
When I start to teach a show, I usually begin with the element of the show that is the most foreign to my young students. In the case of The Way Back Home, we began with sounds. In watching the trailer, I noticed the unique soundscape created by the puppeteers as they told the story. We started by listening to sound effects and making movements to go with what we think the sound effects may be (riding an airplane, walking on the Moon, meeting a martian).  

 


The Way Back Home Puppets Aliza Greenberg's puppet making activity
Experiencing the story:
Small objects and puppets are used to tell the story in the play. We created small, puppet versions of ourselves, using pipe cleaners, tape and paint. We then went on a journey with our puppet-selves! This activity challenged us to use our imagination to see objects in a new light. We used dollhouse furniture to model what happens in the show, thinking of all the things the furniture could be and using sound and movement to bring the action to life. 

Stepping into the world:
The Way Back Home includes a trip to the Moon, so we physicalized our own walk on the Moon in our classroom! We used pantomime to fly to the Moon and explore, practicing spacewalks and soil experiments.  Students shared what they might see on the Moon and who they might meet. Sitting and watching theater can be hard for the very young, but given the opportunity to act it out ahead of time, the action on stage can be better understood and more interesting to watch. 

Preparing to see the show:
The book on which the play is based also provided an excellent way to explore and prepare for the show. We read the story several times, sometimes physicalizing different moments. For every show we go to at LearningSpring School, I create a social story, a story about what to expect on our trip. We read the story to help us prepare to go to the theater. After reading about the trip and learning about the show, the students can't wait for their theatrical experience!

Last year, I took my youngest students to Handa’s Surprise. They still sing the music from the show. Seeing a show at The New Victory Theater was a very memorable moment for them and I have no doubt seeing The Way Back Home will have a big impact on this new class of students.  
 
 
Aliza Greenberg Aliza Greenberg is the Arts Enrichment Coordinator at the LearningSpring School, a school for students on the autism spectrum, where she teaches the arts and coordinates cultural partnerships. Aliza is also the Project Leader for Supporting Transitions with the Museum Access Consortium and a consultant with Trusty Sidekick Theater, CO/LAB Theater, and other arts organizations. B.A., Bryn Mawr College; Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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 teens 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 Jaixa Lopez from Harlem, New York.  
 

What has been your favorite show at the New Vic?
My favorite show was Museum of Memories because it opened up a dialogue about an important issue for our younger audiences in a concise and beautiful way. It touched me deeply.

What show are you most excited for this season?
I'm looking forward to both Julius Caesar and X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation because I'm curious to see how the two shows will relate to one another.

The thing I like most about being an usher is…
Introducing children to the arts is number one for me, but it's also exciting to meet and talk with all of the amazing artists in the process.

My favorite memory from working as an usher was...
I can't think of one specific memory. I just love all of the memories of being with my fellow ushers. Some of my favorite moments are our potlucks, or anytime between shifts when everyone is having a good time in the usher area. The New Victory is one of those places where it doesn't matter how awful I might feel before coming in, once I'm there it all melts away. That is because of the amazing people who work here and their incredible kindness. 

My dream job would be...
I would love to be a makeup artist. For me, it's the most versatile and artistic way to express yourself. I like how happy people get when I do their makeup. 

My love of theater started…
My love of theater started because of my aunt who went to Repertory High School. I saw her in shows like The Odd Couple, Pippin and Cabaret. I remember being in awe of her and thinking that performing looked like fun.

Who inspires you?
I'm inspired not so much by specific people but by what I see people do. Seeing someone's work ethic in action usually inspires me much more than the person themself can. 

What was your favorite story as a kid?
Is Your Mama a Llama? was my favorite. I don't remember having a concrete reason for loving it so much, I just remember always asking my mom to read it to me before bed. It probably had something to do with all of the animals!

What’s your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject is science. I love the way that it can give you an answer for almost anything.

What’s your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
Woodside, Queens because it’s where my mom lives.

Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
The most challenging thing about being an usher is learning to anticipate problems and deal with them proactively. 

Describe your dream vacation
My dream vacation is an all expenses paid trip 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

During the 1960s, the United States was fraught with racial tensions as the African American Civil Rights movement pushed back against years of oppression. One of the most controversial and misremembered figures of the time, Malcolm X, gets a second life through Marcus Gardley's new play X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation. Exploring Malcolm's life through his relationships, X dramatizes his rise as a Civil Rights leader and his eventual, tragic fall through the lens of a fictional courtroom drama. We asked Marcus Gardley about his playwriting process and about finding justice for a man, so often vilified in history.

 

Marcus Gardley X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation playwright Marcus Gardley
Why did you write a play about Malcolm X at this moment in history?
Sometimes a play finds a playwright. I didn't think "Yo, write about Malcolm X, that's timely." I wish I was tapped into the pulse of the contemporary zeitgeist in that way. I am not. This play found me. Ian Belknap, the genius director of the production approached me with the idea of writing an adaptation of Julius Caesar using the story of Malcolm X's assassination and I knew instantly that I had to do it. He is the most underrated American hero and his story needs to be told many times. He hasn't gotten the honor that his legacy deserves, so I felt that it was my responsibility to tell his story. This play is not about his death, it's about his life.

What kind of research did you do in order to create this work?
I read anything and everything that I could get my hands on. Then I re-read it. Then I watched everything that I could get my eyes on. Then I talked to people. Some people I ran into—ironically. Everyone told me "to tell the truth." I searched for truth in all of my research. Truth cannot be denied. I wanted to put people's versions of their truth on the stage. I wanted to raise the question: who was Malcolm X?
Betty Shabazz Chelsea Williams as Betty Shabazz


Can you tell us about the playwriting process? How many drafts did you write?
Oh man, I wrote so many drafts of this play that I thought for a time that I was writing in circles. I discovered that the play was in fact a circle in terms of structure. The play wanted to revisit a question, answered by many voices. The play needed to come back to this question and then ultimately give it to the audience. All in all, I wrote about 18 different drafts. And they were total rewrites. It was painful. It was a trial, but also a great adventure.

To be a playwright is to be a keen listener. Stories unravel when they unravel. One must be patient and let it unfold, and then—like the flower that finally blossoms—you get to witness the beauty of a play's nature.  Then you get to write it all down and take credit for what ultimately is just an epiphany, but it's a great one. You know when you know that you know. Until then you are putting on a brave face, writing to keep from crying. You tell everybody that you are close when you have no clue as to what close even looks like, hoping for at least one line that is worthy of stage time. 

Why are you interested in telling this story within a fictional framework?
I always knew this story needed to be told in another universe because that was the only way for Malcolm to truly receive the justice that he deserves. I put the play in a fictional time and in a fictional courtroom because in a realistic situation the truth would never have its day. In fact, justice was never served in the actual trial pertaining to his murder. I didn't want to revisit the actual trial because who wants to see a sham on stage? Sometimes, only in the reflections of our reality can we truly see ourselves.
 
Why do you think it's important for young audiences to see this play?
This is a play for everyone, especially young people. I think older generations have done a poor job of talking about the complexities of Malcolm X's character. For many older people, he is seen as a 1960s icon who was simply an angry militant. Yet young people are not turned off by his message in the same way, nor are they frightened by race and revolution. I think they have the eyes and the ears to receive Malcolm X in a different way and challenge the notion that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a loving leader and Malcolm was not. Moreover, I think young audiences can carry Malcolm's legacy and philosophy into the future as a means for positive social change in our world.

 

Malcolm X Jimonn Cole as Malcolm X and Gabriel Lawrence, William Sturdivant, N'Jameh Camara, Austin Purnell, Joshua David Robinson, and Kevis Hillocks in X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation
What conversations were had, during the rehearsal process, around the themes of the show?
There were many conversations in the rehearsal process around themes for the show—in particular we talked a lot about how the faith of Islam should be portrayed. We wanted to not only respect the beauty and themes around brotherly love but we also wanted to show how Malcolm used his faith to inspire thousands of people. We also talked a lot about betrayal and what does it mean to betray one's brother for his own good. And lastly, there were many discussions about tone. I didn't want to write a conventional play. I wanted to use humor, dance and music to delight the audience and eventually drench them in a world of deep pain. 
 
If you had to give one piece of advice to NYC teens, what would it be?
I think young people deal with a lot of pressures these days. There are pressures to be liked, to fit in, to succeed, be the best, look the best and/or to be the most talented in various things. I think we forget to tell our young people the importance of simply being a good citizen. What does it mean to be a good person: one who cares about all people genuinely without judgment or ignorance. My advice to young people is to actively pursue the art of being a good, global citizen. The world is getting smaller. People are suffering. Life is short. All we have is each other. Why not love and defend those in need? It costs absolutely nothing and the benefits are priceless.  
 
X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation Experience the truth for yourself at X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation from March 17-25!
Posted by Beth Henderson

Ciao! Prepare to be dazzled, surprised and awestruck as you witness Liberi Di... Physical Theatre, the incredible ensemble of Something. With no safety net, these stunning acrobats and dancers display extreme trust and fearless talent as they climb, leap and tumble. Are you ready to explore balance and shape 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.  



The Tallest Tower

In Liberi Di... Physical Theatre's production of Something, the company employs acrobatics and dance as a means of spectacle and storytelling. In their most recognizable act, the performers create a tower by climbing on top of each other! Compete to create your own towers with a twist.

Something Tower

Materials: One box of uncooked spaghetti, one bag of mini marshmallows

Step One: Divide the sticks of spaghetti and marshmallows evenly among whomever is brave enough to compete.

Step Two: Set a timer for five minutes.

Step Three: Once the timer starts, each person creates a structure using the spaghetti sticks and marshmallows. The goal is to make the structure as tall as possible.

Step Four: At the end of the five minutes, measure the heights of the towers. The player with the tallest tower wins!

Bust a Move

The seven-person ensemble in Something works as a team throughout the show. Each member of the group has a signature style when dancing, even though they may be dancing the same moves. What is your signature style?

Materials: Music player, music, piece of paper, writing utensil

Step One: As a family, brainstorm dance moves that you can do and write them down. Maybe your dad is great at disco or your grandmother can bust a move while breakdancing.

Step Two: One by one, teach each other a move that you consider to be your signature dance move. HINT: Keep it simple–your move can be anything!

Step Three: Play the music and experiment with transitioning from one move to the next with the beat of the music.

Step Four: You are starting to build your family dance! Work together to incorporate some of the following choreographic elements:
  • Repetition: Repeat some of your dance moves.
  • Style of movement: Vary how fast you move—try moving super fast and then try dancing in slow motion.
  • Synchronization: Choose a moment where you all move in unison.
  • Levels: Work together to lift one family member completely off the ground at least once during the dance.
Step Five: Choose a closing pose and then share your whole dance from the beginning.

Bonus: Capture your family dance on video so you can see how it all comes together!

Do Something

Challenge One: Balance Something

The performers in Something demonstrate extreme focus and balance in performing their tricks. Test your balance and see how much you can handle under the pressure of this challenge.

Materials: Timer, variety of household objects, such as books, fruit, toys, rolled up socks, plastic bowls—anything you can hold that won’t break if you drop it.

Step One: Challenge each other to balance one of the objects on a body part, trying to create the most exciting balancing act for your competitor (e.g. "I challenge you to balance that book on your knee!"). HINT: If you can balance it for more than ten seconds, the challenge might be too easy!

Step Three: Repeat with different body parts and objects.

Bonus: Can you balance more than one object at a time, or while standing on one foot?

Challenge Two: Recreate Something

Liberi Di... Physical Theatre comes to The New Victory all the way from Milan, Italy. Bring the spirit of Italy to your home!

Step One: Study the images of Italian landmarks below. Can you name any of them?*

Italian Landmarks

Step Two: Individually create the shape of each building with your body. Pay special attention to line and symmetry.

Step Three: Now, recreate the shape of each building as a pair or trio. If you're feeling adventurous, try creating the shape with only one person touching the ground.


 
(Clockwise: The Colosseum, The Milan Cathedral, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Trevi Fountain)
 

Family Activities
We invite you to deepen your understanding of the performing arts with our Public Engagement Activites, Arts Express and Talk-Backs!
Twitter   How tall was your tower?
Share with us on Instagram or Twitter, #NewVic.
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Like us on Facebook and share with us.
Posted by Beth Henderson

Written by Leah Drayton, Spring 2017 Communications Apprentice

Throughout my life, Martin Luther King, Jr. loomed large over the history of the Civil Rights Movement. However, focusing solely on King when discussing racial inequality in America would be a mistake. Thanks to the powerful writing of Marcus Gardley in X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation, our audiences have had the chance to further explore the life of another hero of the period, Malcolm X. As Malcolm X said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today." Here are twelve other cultural icons who seized the future by working to make their present a place of equality and education.
 
Rosa Parks Rosa Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African American activist who was best known for being one of the people who resisted public transportation segregation. In 1955, a bus driver ordered Parks to move to the back of the bus to the "colored" section so a white passenger could sit in the front. Parks refused and was arrested. Her act of civil disobedience lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, one of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement. She continued fighting for freedom until her death in 2005. In 2013, she became the first African-American woman to be honored with a statue in the National Statuary Hall. 
Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942–June 3, 2016) was a heavyweight boxing champion and an activist for civil rights. He spoke often about racial equality in America and stirred controversy when he refused to enter the draft during the Vietnam War. Ali joined the Nation of Islam after Malcolm X, and considered him to be a mentor and a friend. Ali spoke against Islamophobia in the aftermath of 9/11 and participated in several activist efforts such as The Longest Walk. Ali, who suffered only 5 losses in all 61 of his professional fights, was also a talented poet and a major influence in rap and hip hop. When Ali died in June 2016, he was mourned around the world.
Maya Angelou Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928–May 28, 2014) is regarded as one of the best African-American writers in history, producing many award-winning poems, books, plays, television shows, and movies. She was awarded more than fifty honorary degrees. Angelou took part in some of the most important parts of civil rights history, including collaborating with Malcolm X for the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Angelou worked to raise funds in the civil rights movement, often working with other artists to support Martin Luther King’s efforts. Angelou died in 2014, while working on a new book. She was on two presidential committees, and earned the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 
Midgar Evers Medgar Evers (July 2, 1925–June 12, 1963) was a civil rights activist who sought to abolish segregation in America. He focused on voting rights, social justice and equal education at public universities. He served in the military in World War II and as a field secretary for the NAACP. When Evers was shot by a segregationist in 1963, the local hospital wouldn’t admit him at first because he was black. His death triggered numerous civil rights protests. In 2017, his home in Mississippi was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Dorothy Dandridge Dorothy Dandridge (November 9, 1922–September 8, 1965)  was an African-American dancer, singer and actress. She was lauded as one of the most beautiful actresses in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Even though she was one of the biggest stars of the time, Dandridge was no stranger to racism and frequently spoke about inequality. A Las Vegas hotel once infamously drained an entire pool because Dandridge, a black woman, dipped her toe in it. She was the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Carmen Jones. Dandridge continued to perform in various roles, some of them controversial, until her tragic death at the age of 42. 
Jame Baldwin James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was a contemporary essayist, novelist, and playwright. His work focused on the psychological and gender issues of African-Americans under the strain of racism. His short story "Sonny's Blues" is one of the most praised pieces of black contemporary literature. He often discussed issues with leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and wrote about their legacies. Though Baldwin died in 1987, the highly acclaimed documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, brought renewed attention to his life and legacy in 2016.
Josephine Baker Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975) was one of the most glamorous African-American performers of all time. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she rejected the culture of racism in America and become a phenomenon in France. Celebrated by her many fans as the "Black Pearl," the "Bronze Venus," and the "Creole Goddess" she was the first person of African descent to star in a major motion picture. During the Civil Rights Movement, she refused to perform for segregated audiences, and wrote and gave speeches about racism. Baker, who was a global celebrity, was denied service at dozens of restaurants and hotels because of her color.  She was the only official female speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. Baker died in Paris in 1975, but lives on through performances in film and television by Diana Ross, Beyonce, Sonia Rolland and more. 
Gordon Parks Gordon Parks (November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006)  was a filmmaker, director, photographer and musician during the Civil Rights movement and beyond. He was a black photography pioneer whose work was commissioned by Life and Vogue magazines. He worked for the federal government as a photojournalist and it was said of him that he used his camera "as a weapon." He photographed notable figures such as Barbra Streisand and Malcolm X, (who later asked him to be the godfather of his daughter, Qubilah Shabazz). Parks was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and died in New York at age 93.
Congressional district U.S. Representative John Lewis (February 21, 1940 -) was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1960s. He was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama. He was extremely active in the civil rights movement, including speaking at the March on Washington and surviving a brutal attack by the KKK while taking part in the Freedom Rides. He organized and took part in numerous protests and movements and has even co-written a comic book about the Civil Rights movement, March
Eartha Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008) was deemed the "most exciting woman in the world" by Orson Welles. She was born on a cotton plantation, and went on to become one of the most fascinating entertainers of her time. She spoke four languages and sang in seven. At the height of her fame, she divided her time between performing and supporting civil rights causes, and participating in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Her signature "purr" and voice defined iconic roles on Broadway and television, most famously, of Catwoman in Batman. Later in her career she continued to reach new audiences with children's projects such as The Emperor’s New Groove
Ava DuVernay (August 24, 1972 - ) was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2014 for Selma. The film tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery March to protest voting discrimination. In 2015, Mattel made a custom Barbie of DuVernay that sold out as a charity item and had to be re-released as a collector’s edition. In 2017, she became the first black woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film, 13th, was named after the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery (except as punishment for a crime).
Ta-Nehisi Coates (September 30, 1975 - ) is an African-American journalist and writer, winner of the  Hillman Prize, the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and numerous other awards. His work focuses on politics, race, and class related to history. His 2015 book Between the World and Me was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. Currently, he is a writer for the Marvel comic series Black Panther.
 
 
​Leah Drayton is a student journalist, writer, artist, and a spring New Victory Communications Apprentice. She studies at Hunter College, where she double majors in Media Studies and English.  She is a Hunter Muse and Mellon Fellow, creating work inspired by botany, music and her West Indian heritage. Leah’s busy starting her own publication, Iambic,  painting 9 foot murals and memorizing Whitney Houston’s entire discography.  Leah Drayton
Posted by Beth Henderson

For many New Vic families, #LoveOfTheater starts here. From our technicians to our performers, everyone strives to create lasting memories for our audiences. After all, everyone remembers when they first fell in love and every story is unique. The nine company members of our upcoming acrobatic spectacle Something, share what #LoveOfTheater means to them. What does it mean to you?

Something TrioDavide Agostini, the founder of Liberi Di… Theater Company, falls deeper in love with theater whenever he feels the audience’s energy. "It's being on stage and realizing that the audience is not only there to see you perform, but is also attentive, amazed, and amused."

Valentina Marino agrees, "It's the adrenaline rush that you get right before a performance, seconds before you step on stage, and the response that you get back from the audience. Theater is inexhaustible. It requires daily sacrifice to make sure that you are always doing your best."

"Love of Theater is beyond words–it's what drives you to forget about the pain, the hard work and life's instability," Antonio Paris continues. "My love of theater inspires me to improve my craft every day and always do my best. I love sharing my passion for theater with audiences."

Despite the sacrifices and uncertainties involved in performing, Mauro Ardenti feels that he found a new home through performing. "The theater is a safe place for me. I feel at home when I’m on stage, safe and free to bare my soul. There are no barriers between me and the audience, and I can feel their energy. I am thankful for that at every performance."

Eleni Quartana also emphasizes how the stage feels like home. "To me, it means that the stage is a place without prejudice where you can be free to express yourself without disguise." She likes to remind herself that "life is a play–we play, sing and dance every day of our lives!"

Not everyone has the luxury of being completely head over heals for their job, Elisa Bazzocchi realizes, "My love for theater runs through my veins. It makes me realize every day how lucky I am to be passionate about my job."

Something Cast"I like to bring something fresh and unique to every performance," says Francesca Mottola. "For  me, theater is an exchange of energy with the audience. I give the audience my emotions and they give theirs back."

Bledar Radonshiqi feels that something is missing when he's offstage, “For me, theater is life. I feel safe when I'm doing it. I miss it if I'm not performing. It’s the place I always want to be."

Marco Ticli sums up his #LoveOfTheater by celebrating every aspect of performing, from the audience to the lights to the excitement! "It's the entire experience of being in the theater. I cherish every moment: the lights, music and scenery. There's nothing that compares to the moment right before a show, when you know all of the excitement is about to begin."

Come and experience the excitement yourself with Something
 
Something Something is playing at The New Victory Theater from March 31-April 16th. #LoveOfTheater starts here!
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 teens 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 Richard Lascelles from Kingston, Jamaica. 
 

What has been your favorite show at the New Vic?
My favorite show was The Old Man and the Old Moon. It was the first show that I ever saw at The New Victory so it will always be special to me.

The thing I like most about being an usher is…
I really enjoy talking to the patrons because they always have wonderful stories about their experiences at The New Victory.

My dream job would be…
It is my dream to be a counselor because I enjoyed being a peer leader for the freshman class at my high school. Being a strong leader and setting a good example for other kids made me realize that I want to help kids. 

My love of theater started…
When I saw The Old Man and the Old Moon right here at the New Vic.

What’s your favorite subject in school?
Math is my favorite subject because I’ve always loved numbers.

What’s your favorite song right now?
"She's Gone" by Bob Marley. I love to listen to music when I'm not at work. 

What’s your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
My favorite place in NYC is The New Victory Theater. This place is special to me because of the usher program which has helped me to become less shy and smile more. At the New Vic, my co-workers are not just co-workers, they’re my family and I'll never forget them. 

Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
The most challenging thing for me is overcoming my shyness in order to better help patrons. I am continuing to conquer this challenge to this day.

Describe your dream vacation
I want to go back to Kingston, Jamaica, spend time with my family there, and go to the greatest summer music festival–Sumfest.
 
 
New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

In Something, seven acrobats entertain audiences as they defy gravity, twirl around the stage and perform hilarious dances. We sat down with Mauro Ardenti, one of the performers, and Davide Agostini, one of the company's original creators, to ask them a few questions about how they began their acrobatic careers!
 

1. What do you love most about being an acrobat? Do you have a favorite act to perform in Something?
MA: To me, being an acrobat means fighting gravity, one way or the other. When I'm doing acrobatics, I feel like nothing exists except my body in the here and now. Everything else disappears—at least until I put my feet back on the ground! My favorite act in Something is my handbalancing solo, but I also have a lot of fun with the final "Panels" act, too!

2. Why is Something special to you?
DA: Something is very special to me and to the rest of the company because we created the first incarnation in just three weeks. It was right after we failed to get into a festival, so the fact that we're now performing it at The New Victory is incredible. Also, it's very fun to perform!

3. When did you start learning tricks? 
MA: When I was five years old, my sister was doing rhythmic gymnastics. One day, I went with her to the gym and I saw some of the other girls training. I remember it like it was yesterday—one of them did a cartwheel and I thought it was the most amazing, beautiful thing I had ever seen. I immediately started practicing cartwheels everywhere, including at my school and our church! My mom eventually surrendered when I was seven years old and took me to a gym so that I could start doing artistic gymnastics. 

DA: I've always been interested in circus. My background is in artistic gymnastics, so everything related to acrobatics catches my attention. My first experience as a performer was in an athletic dance theater company, but after that I wanted to go beyond dance, and also beyond circus. Thus, Liberi Di… Physical Theater was born!
 
The Something Cast The cast of Something

4. Mauro, your character is always reading a book in Something, do you have a favorite book?
MA: I haven't had a lot of time lately, but I love reading anything from the back of a cereal box to a biology essay about breeding tropical frogs. Choosing my favorite book is tough... at the moment the Harry Potter saga sits right at the center of my bookshelf. I've read each of the seven books four or five times, and I love it every time!

5. Do you have any advice for kids who want to become acrobats?
MA: Being an acrobat looks fun (and it is!) but it's also very hard. It requires constant hard work and a lot of endurance. If that's what you want, go for it. Don't give up, no matter what! 

6. How did you first get involved in Liberi Di…Physical Theatre?
MA: The company was founded in 2007 and I joined the following year. At the time, Liberi Di... didn't have a training facility, so they were using the circus school where I was training and teaching. One day, Davide told me that he wanted me to be a part of their first theatrical production, Inverni. I was so nervous the day of the premiere, but the show was great and the audience loved it. That's one of my favorite memories.

DA: Liberi Di... was created by me and three other people—Stefano Pribaz, Valentina Marino and Giulia Piolanti—in 2007.  The four of us had spent the previous seven years as artists in another company. We wanted to be the creators of our own art and free to do anything we could imagine. As a matter of fact, "Liberi Di..." in Italian means "free to..."
 
 
Mauro Ardenti Mauro Ardenti began practicing artistic gymnastics at seven years old. After graduation, acrobatics were just a hobby for him. However, a school soon asked if he would teach full-time in 2005. Ever since then, he's worked as a professional artist. He joined Liberi Di… Physical Theater in 2008 and has been a regular member of the company ever since. In the summer of 2015, he performed with Cirque du Soleil at the Expo Milan 2015 show Allavita! Through acrobatics and circus, he explores the worlds of dance and physical theater. His specialty is hand balancing, but he also performs aerial acts, hand-to-hand and physical theater.
Davide Agostini Davide Agostini's career in artistic gymnastics started when he began competing at six years old. He attended the University Institute for Motor Science in Padova, while joining the athletic dance company Kataklò Theater. As a part of this company, he toured around the world for seven years, even performing at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin. He also studied dance with several internationally renowned teachers such as Sonia Bianchi, Gus Bembery, Dmitri Chabardin, Anna Rita Larghi, Paola Corio, Gaetano Petrosino, Michele Oliva and many more. After a number of new experiences, he founded Liberi Di... Physical Theatre to pursue his own creative vision. He's now also a choreographer and teacher at some of the most prestigious schools in Italy.
Posted by Beth Henderson