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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.

From season to season, we love being able to invite artists back to The New Victory, but no artist has presented as much work on our stage as Dr. Rennie Harris. He has been here four times before between 1999 and 2013, and this month Dr. Harris returns for his fifth show with us: LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE. To get ourselves in the hip hop mood, let's take a look back at some of these past appearances and recall what else was going on in the world!

Rennie Harris Puremovement – February 26–28, 1999

Rennie Harris PuremovementDr. Harris first visited The New Victory sixteen years ago in February 1999 with his award-winning company, Rennie Harris Puremovement. At the time, the company was already in its seventh year, performing a variety of innovative pieces showcasing the trajectory of hip hop dance. Some of these, like Endangered Species and Students of the Asphalt Jungle, are now among the company's signature works, and even then were they the subject of years' worth of critical praise from Seattle to Sheboygan to New York. 

In the late '90s, Dance Magazine profiled Dr. Harris and Puremovement repeatedly, calling Harris "the freshest, most creative imagination in the house, with an output that is nothing short of amazing," and congratulating Puremovement's dancers on their ability to "make the popping, spinning, breaking, locking, dueling, high-energy, virtuosic vocabulary of hip-hop into completely viable theatrical art." We were as excited to present Dr. Harris then as we are to welcome him back now, because nothing's changed: he's as creative and prolific as ever, and the acclaim keeps on coming.

Now let's think back to that distant year, 1999! The New Victory presented Rennie Harris Puremovement that February. What else was happening back then?
 
February 1999 • Pluto (still a planet at the time) becomes the ninth furthest planet from the sun again, as its eccentric orbit crosses Neptune's.
• TLC releases their third album FanMail after a five-year hiatus, and it spends the next five weeks at #1.
• Colin Prescot and Andy Elson circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon and set a new world record.


Rennie Harris' Legends of Hip-Hop – November 12–28, 2004

Rennie Harris' Legends of Hip-HopWhen Dr. Harris returned to the New Victory five years later, in November 2004, it was with this showcase tribute to the pioneers of hip hop. Dancers from Rennie Harris Puremovement and other, younger companies shared the stage with legendary artists from the 1970s: Don Campbell, originator of the Campbellock; Boogaloo Sam and the Electric Boogaloos, also of early West Coast hip hop fame; The Untouchables, from Harris's native Philadelphia; the Rock Steady Crew, representing NYC's contributions to the art form; and so many others. At the time, Dr. Harris's goal was "to honor the pioneers of specific hip-hop dance styles, have them collaborate with and inform younger dancers, and to learn about hip-hop culture from some of the seminal figures in its development."

While the Legends of Hip-Hop were here, The New York Times noted that the show was "an offshoot" of Harris's Illadelph Legends of Hip-Hop Festival. The Festival continues to this day, bringing these early hip hop trailblazers together with students and younger dancers in a series of master classes and workshops. This mission to preserve and share hip hop's history was (and is) central to much of Harris's work, especially, as the Times noted, during a time when hip hop dance was being "relegated to television commercials," focusing on quantity and flash over quality and innovation. Not so when the dance and its architects take center stage!

So what else was going on in November 2004?
 
November 2004 • The Nintendo DS is released in the U.S.
• Iceland's sub-glacial Grímsvötn volcano erupts.
• Spain makes solar panels mandatory for all new and renovated buildings.


Rennie Harris' New York Legends of Hip Hop – October 6–22, 2006

Rennie Harris' New York Legends of Hip HopFrom the streets of the Bronx to the four corners of the globe, hip hop had taken the world by storm by the time Dr. Harris returned to The New Victory in 2006. Like the 2004 show, New York Legends of Hip Hop showcased living legends from the art form's early days. This time, though, the focus was on New York! Pop Master Fabel and the Bronx-born Rock Steady Crew, Brooklyn marvels The Mop Top Crew and an all-star roster of young dancers and beatboxers teamed up onstage in a celebration that The New York Sun called "unfiltered hip-hop dancing at its most expansive and proud." I wish I could have been there!

It feels like just yesterday that these October 2006 events took place.
 
October 2006 • Ban Ki-Moon succeeds Kofi Annan as U.N. Secretary-General. 
• Google announces that it is acquiring YouTube.
• Bob Barker announces his retirement from The Price is Right.
• Scientists fully sequence the genome of the honeybee.


Rennie Harris: RHAW — May 14–26, 2013

Rennie Harris RHAWIn 2007, Dr. Harris founded RHAW (Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works), a second company to meet the demand from younger dancers interested in joining Rennie Harris Puremovement. RHAW is a training ground focussed on mentoring young dancers in technique, professionalism and dance and theater etiquette. In the words of Dr. Harris, "Artistically, RHAW's choreographic works are less complex than the first company [Puremovement]. RHAW prides itself on going back to the basics of street dance and presenting works that are reflective of its original movement vocabulary and aesthetic."

As they pop, lock, balance and flip to the music of Queen and Michael Jackson, you'd be forgiven for thinking that RHAW's dancers are veteran professionals. Their visit to The New Victory in 2013 played to sold-out crowds of awestruck kids and families and earned critical praise for their artistic variety. "They don't settle for eliciting gasps," The New York Times observed. "There is more to them, that is, than showing off. The vocabulary embraces not just the full historical panoply of hip-hop styles but also salsa, tap and vernacular moves dating back nearly a century." They're not just kids dancing on stage—they're a new generation of artists, blooming under the wing of hip hop's greatest choreographer.

Do you remember these goings-on from May 2013?
 
May 2013 • Brazil becomes the fifteenth nation to legalize marriage equality.
• After nine seasons, The Office airs its final episode.
• Russian scientists discover a perfectly preserved woolly mammoth.


LUV: American-Style — May 8–17, 2015

LUV: American-Style thumbnailAnd now we come to today. This month, RHAW and Dr. Harris return with LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE. Where Harris's first four visits to The New Victory were showcases of various dance pieces, LUV is a single piece of theater with dance woven throughout, portraying one young man's struggle with identity, love and justice. It's a wonderful fifth chapter in Dr. Harris's New Victory story, a perfect marriage of theatricality and powerful, youthful dance. Don't miss it!

Feeling like dancing? Have some family fun and explore the three laws of hip hop dance with our Family Activity!

You can also learn more about the history and terminology of hip hop here.
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan
May 8, 2015

Thanks, Mom!


This Sunday is Mother's Day, and here at The New Victory we'd like to take a moment to say "Thanks, Mom!" When I was little, my mom and grandma would get me all dressed up to attend shows at the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, Ohio. I was so taken with my first show there, The Wizard of Oz, that as we walked back to our car afterwards, I asked if we could go back in and see it again! At five years old, I was clearly hooked. Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Gilbert and Sullivan—all the soundtracks and cast recordings are still in active circulation in my iTunes library, and I have my mom (and her mom!) to thank.

Across so many roles and departments here, many of us at the New Vic were drawn to theater when we were kids, and our mothers certainly helped fan our little dramatic flames. In the spirit of Mother's Day, I asked our staff to share their own stories of moms encouraging an early love of theater. So, without further ado, I give you unfiltered gratitude for moms, more moms, and moms of moms! Happy Mother's Day.
    
In middle school, I was an awkward kid with a huge love for singing and acting. In 8th grade, our choir director quit in the middle of the year and the school cancelled the spring musical, as there was no one to manage it. My mom identified that this was going to be a huge problem for her dramatic daughter (who sang show tunes at every waking moment) and therefore petitioned the school to let her work with one other mom (who also had a musical-obsessed daughter) to produce the spring musical on their own. These two women did not have theatrical backgrounds, had never directed anything before this experience and could not read music—but that didn't stop them! 

My mom and her partner in crime, Connie, worked for months, and at the end of the whole experience put on an amazing version of Li'l Abner, with over 50 kids costumed and singing their hearts out on an intricate, built-from-scratch set. They sold out the entire run. And did I mention the lifelong friendships that started during the production? It was a labor of love for her theater-obsessed daughter, and I still remember it as a highlight of my childhood (and I was a pretty convincing Mammy Yokum!).  Thanks, Mom! — Lindsey Buller Maliekel, Director of Education / Public Engagement
    
From my first Broadway show, I knew theater was my home.  My mom encouraged me in a special way, spending hours with me forming the perfect letter to be delivered to the actors I admired.  Before the show, I would drop the letter with the person working at the stage door.  I'd sit in my seat next to my mother watching the performance, my attention divided by my excitement that the person on stage had already read my handwritten note, seen my name and decided whether I'd meet them! Afterwards, we'd return to the stage door and very often the manager would say, "Yes, so-and-so would like to meet you."  

My mother would then wait for me, sitting on a metal folding chair when she was lucky, or standing in the draft while I would be escorted up, sometimes even crossing the stage, to a dressing room.  My first Broadway star was Yul Brynner.  When he stepped out to greet me and shake my hand I could barely eek out my thank-you-and-congratulations.  I scurried back down the stairs to the stage door where my mom was always smiling, waiting for my story.  Over the years, she did this countless times with me, giving up many weekends to it and helping me to meet many generous theater legends. I would not be the theater lover or the theater professional that I am now without my amazing mom. — Melissa Kalt, Senior Manager, Individual Giving
    
My mother introduced me to every form of art when I was young, and she made it clear that she would support whatever I was interested in. I do not know if she realized at the time how much theater would impact our lives. I grew up performing around the San Francisco Bay Area and I would audition for everything, sometimes for companies up to 2 hours away from home. I was much too young to drive at the time, and my mom could have refused to let me audition at companies based on the commute alone (like many other mothers I knew), but instead she encouraged me to not let the distance stop me from doing what I loved. 

Many evenings we would take the long drive to rehearsal, and although it could be boring, my mom did her best to make the time fun. There was not enough time for her to return home and back again to pick me up, so she would do work at a coffee shop and wait for me, sometimes surprising me with a cookie for the ride home. My mother's sacrifice meant the world to me and taught me that following my passion for theater is always worth it. Our love of theater helps us connect, and to this day, seeing a show is always better with her by my side. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! — Lauren Meyer, Spring 2015 Communications Apprentice
    
When I was twelve years old, I saw Les Misérables for the first time with my mom, and since then attending Broadway shows is still a family pastime. My mom, twin sister and I (a trio affectionately nicknamed "Nancy's Girls" after our trusty GPS "Nancy" who guides us on all of our adventures) have seen upwards of 80 shows together. One of my favorite stories to tell about our outings is when we were seeing RENT, and in true Broadway fashion the theater was extremely over-air-conditioned.  My mom left the theater during intermission to buy us sweaters so that we could enjoy the show without shivering, missing the iconic Act Two opener, "Seasons of Love." I think this story not only illustrates how my mom knows temperature comfort is key to enjoying the theater, but also how loving and selfless she is.  I love you, Mom. Thanks for the sweater and the memories! — Janette Martinez, Education Assistant
    
When I was five years old, my grandmother took me to see Annie. While I do not remember many details from that first performance, I do know that that was the day I fell in love with theater. Walking away mesmerized, I envisioned myself on stage under the lights. No matter that I was a shy, tone-deaf child; I was the only girl I knew with red(ish) colored hair, so the part was, for all intents and purposes, mine!

From that moment on, my grandmother immersed me in theater, much as her father had done with her and her sister. Along the way, she made sure we saw every musical, taught me what "good seats" are (always orchestra, preferably on the side center aisle), how to recognize "our kind of show" (inclusion of big dance numbers and a large chorus) and when speed is necessary to acquire tickets (special shout-out to her skills during the 2004 Tony Awards when she purchased tickets to The Boy From Oz during Hugh Jackman's performance). 

At the same time she nurtured my budding interest in performing. What started as a hobby, became a passion and, before I knew it, morphed into a career. Throughout it all, my grandmother has guided me with outward encouragement, gentle nudges, silent approval and unwavering support. She has sat through more than her fair share of dance recitals, school plays and living room performances, learned about the latest show, actor or trend to spark my interest, driven me to and from one too many rehearsals and been my primary theater buddy for the past 20 years. I am who I am, and where I am, today because of her. And in all of that time, she has never once told me that I couldn't be Annie. Thanks, Grandma. — Bari Lasky, Development Assistant / Special Events
    
My mom has seen me in almost every single play I have ever been in, until recently when, with mobility issues, she finds the space of an "Off-Off" Broadway theater inaccessible. Always supportive and enthusiastic about the work I do in life and on stage, she has traveled far and wide to see me perform. My mom means everything to me, but I don't think she understands how important it has always been to me to know that she is in the audience watching.

For the first play I was cast in, in Kindergarten, I had one line: "Did you eat too many cookies?" She would indulge me as I rehearsed and rehearsed that line, by giving me my cue line and discussing the meaning of it for hours on end. I will never forget when she traveled by Greyhound bus in a snowstorm to see me perform in Dark of the Moon, a very grim play I was in during my junior year in college. Over dinner, we analyzed the play together and she saw meaning in it that I hadn’t even thought of. 

That same year, she won a raffle prize: a weekend stay at the Waldorf Astoria and tickets to Miss Saigon. She could have taken my father, but since I was a theater major, she brought me. We had a delightful weekend, staying in a fancy hotel and attending one of the most moving musical theater productions I have ever seen on Broadway. Again, we discussed the characters, themes, music and connections to real life over dinner afterwards and on the train ride home at the end of a magical weekend. 

My mom is simply the best! — Courtney Boddie, Director of Education / School Engagement
    
My mother took me to my first Broadway show, Cats, when I was 8 years old. I thought the opening number was terrifying—the "cats" were climbing everywhere! But my mom held my hand through it, and by the end of the matinee, I was hooked. I owe my love of the arts to my mother. It's also worth noting that the tri-state area was going through one of the worst heat waves to date on that August day—it was 103 degrees out, but that didn't stop my mother from making the trek into the city with a very sweaty kid. Thanks, Mom! — Christina Macchiarola, Marketing and Communications Manager
    
My mom is a costume designer and would bring me with her to the local community theater after school when I was little. Hiding among the endless rows of dresses, coats, hats and parasols in the costume room was my favorite place to sit and read. If there was a rehearsal going on, I would sit up on the balcony in awe of the magic that was being created down on the stage.

These moments are definitely what inspired me to do what I do today! Thanks, Mom! — Lauren Hood, Artistic Programming Assistant
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan

Written by Lindsey Buller Maliekel, Director of Education / Public Engagement

Whether in the classroom or at home, the New Vic encourages kids to discuss their theatergoing experiences with their peers and the adults in their lives so that they can make personal connections to a show's artistry and themes. We've received many comments from audiences who attended LUV: AMERICAN STYLE this past weekend. Some told us that the show gave them that chance to start authentic and interesting conversations with their kids, while others expressed that they felt unprepared for the show's plot and content. Given the range of responses, I'm hopeful that this blog post can help prepare audiences to explore and discuss their reactions to the show.

Still from LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE

In LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE, choreographer Rennie Harris uses hip hop dance and dialogue to tell a story about how one young man becomes mired in a case of mistaken identity. The loose plot portrays several breakdancing schoolkids who are arrested and wrongfully incarcerated for disturbing the peace. After the kids experience how tough prison can be, the mistake is discovered and they are released. The show touches on issues of prison violence, social justice and law enforcement and community relations.

New York City families are familiar with these issues, if not from their own lives, then certainly from current events featured in the news, on television, and in movies and music. Discussing these topics with young people can be challenging, but I invite you to consider how LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE can be a spark for authentic conversations with your family. The performance is something you experience together, and it can be a useful springboard for talking about topics your kids might have heard a lot about this year, including conflicts between teens and the police. Whether you have already seen the show or are planning to come this weekend, here are some tips to start, extend, and deepen those conversations.

Start with Questions

This is an opportunity for you to learn what your kid thinks, what they understand, what they have questions about and what connections they might be making to real-life issues and events in the news. Here are some prompts that can get you started:

Before you see the show:
  • How does the outside world view you as a kid/young adult? What do they understand? What don't they understand?
  • Do you ever feel that the world is unjust? How? If you had to create a dance piece about justice, what style of dance would you use?
  • Have you ever witnessed or been part of an unjust situation? What happened?
After the show:
  • What real-life issues were explored in LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE? How did Rennie Harris use dance and spoken word to address these issues? 
  • Can you think of any other pieces of art (dance, visual art, music, theater, etc.) that address real-life issues? Why do people create this kind of art? Do you think it's important to make this kind of art? Why or why not?
  • What questions do you have about the show? What did the show make you think about or wonder?
  • If you were to create a dance that addressed real-life topics, what topic would you choose? What style of dance would you use? What music would you choose?

Extend the Conversation

Once you've gauged your kid's curiosity and level of understanding, you can continue the conversation in an age-appropriate way. This could be a chance for you to correct misconceptions, answer questions that come up, and help your kid make sense of the world they are living in. Here are some suggestions:
  • Try not to over-explain. If your kid saw the show and had a different experience than you did while watching, meet your kid at the developmental stage where they are at. Don't feel the need to link the show to every event you've read about in the news over the last year.
  • Acknowledge that these are complicated issues that can be challenging to have conversations about—don't feel the need to be an expert. Include your own beliefs and values in the conversation, but don't feel obligated to have all the answers. You can always say, "I don’t know," or, "I want to learn more about that before we talk about it further."
  • Don't forget the art part! LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE has content and a storyline that feels related to current events, but it is foremost a dance performance! Talk about how RHAW used movement, music, space, lighting, tempo and relationships to tell the story. 

Deepen the Learning
Now that you and your kid have begun this conversation, here are some resources that can help you continue and deepen the experience.

Prepare yourself to continue the conversation:
Learn more about the artist:
Read books and go to see more art together that addresses related issues: 
Still from LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE

Art doesn't need to be a thing held apart from the world—rather, it provides a platform for artists to explore the world more deeply, and for audiences to do the same through ongoing conversation. In the case of LUV: AMERICAN-STYLE, Rennie Harris's intent is to provide "a greater understanding of how I personally choose to find the light during dark times." He created LUV with his son, Brandyn, who also performs as the main character in the show; this work is their family's contribution to the conversation. We hope it inspires you artistically, and perhaps gives you a springboard for meaningful conversations.
 

Lindsey Buller-Maliekel Lindsey Buller Maliekel is the Director of Education / Public Engagement for The New Victory Theater and has worked here since 2004.  She oversees the New Vic/New 42 Youth Corps program, as well as all enrichment activities for New Vic families. If you've ever stayed for a Talk-Back with the artists or hula-hooped with Teaching Artists before a show, Lindsey hopes that you had a great time! She has two sons who she hopes will always enjoy going to the theater with her.
Posted by Zack Ramadan

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from our Usher Corps program in our New Vic Bills and online on the New Victory Blog. Earlier this season, the New Victory Usher Corps program won the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, so we're thrilled to tell you more about this fantastic group of hardworking young people! Read more about the award here, learn more about the New Victory Usher Corps on our website, or find out how the young people in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program!

Today we’re talking to third-year usher Jasmin Ayala, from Brooklyn.

Who or what inspires you?
My family is my inspiration.

What was your favorite book or movie as a kid?
As a kid, I loved to read any comic books.

What is your favorite subject in school?
English has always been my favorite subject in school.

How would you describe your personal style?
I would describe my personal style as hectic, yet chill.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not at work?
I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends. My favorite hangout is Prospect Park in Brooklyn, but when I’m near the New Vic I like to eat at a sushi place on 45th street and 8th Ave.

What's your favorite song right now?
My favorite song right now is Magic!'s “Rude."

What's your dream vacation?
My dream vacation would be to travel all over Europe. 

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my family. 
Posted by Zack Ramadan

Before we start crafting all manner of flora and fauna to populate our upcoming show, PAPER PLANET, we've invited renowned paper scientist and longtime professor Dr. Michael Kocurek to teach us all about where paper comes from, and how to make it ourselves! Be sure to also check out our Family Activity for more at-home papercrafting fun.

Written by Dr. Michael Kocurek, Professor Emeritus of Paper Science & Engineering, NC State University

Can you guess who the first papermakers were? Here's a hint: they've been around for millions of years, and they use their paper to construct their homes. They're paper wasps!

These little insects break down wood in their mouths and mix it with their saliva to make pulp. Then they layer the pulp into tiny sheets to build the walls of their paper nests.

While we probably shouldn't start chewing on tree branches to make our own paper, we can learn a lot from the paper wasps. Their papermaking method is very similar to the methods we human papermakers use to make paper of all kinds.

Keep reading to learn more about how paper is made, and how you can follow the same steps the pros use to make your own paper at home! But first, let's talk about all the paper we use and what it’s made of.

How Many Kinds of Paper Do We Use?

Paper has played a vital role in the development of mankind. Globally, all the people on our planet use over one trillion pounds of paper products each year. That's the weight of ten football stadiums full of elephants! Note: Paper is not made from elephants!

Scale balanced with a pile of paper on one side and ten football stadiums full of elephants on the other.

There are thousands of different types of paper, each with different colors, weights, thicknesses and properties. Some are strong. Some are soft. Some absorb water. Some are waterproof.

We papermakers divide paper into four categories:
  • Printing and Writing: copy paper, book pages, magazine pages
  • Containers and Transporting: boxes, milk and juice cartons, food packaging
  • Absorbent and Lightweight: tissues, towels
  • Specialty Papers: filters, labels, tapes
There are different kinds of paper all around you! Make a list of all the types of paper products you see at home.

As you find paper products at home, ask yourself what category they fit in. Are they strong? Soft? Absorbent? Colorful?

Where Does Paper Come From?

You’ve probably heard that paper comes from trees, but that’s the zoomed out version. A closer look at paper shows that it’s made up of very small fibers. These same fibers are what make up the wood of a tree.
 
This is a picture of paper taken with an electron microscope. It shows the tiny wood fibers you would also find in a piece of wood.

Want to take a closer look at home? Take a sheet of paper, a cereal box, or another paper product, and tear it by hand. Do not use scissors. Look very carefully at the edges and the surface to see the tiny fibers. If you have a magnifying glass, it will really help. (Why do you think we didn’t use scissors?)

How big are these fibers? Take a ruler and count off three millimeters, or 1/8 of an inch. That’s about the length of the fibers you’re seeing, and many are even shorter. That’s all there is to paper!

Where Do These Fibers Come From?

Around the world, 25–50% of all paper comes from trees and plants. Some are grown by individual landowners, while others are grown in tree farms or plantations, just like food is on farms. In some parts of the world, where there are fewer trees, other plants like bamboo are used to produce fibers for paper.

We have learned to grow these trees very fast using environmentally friendly processes, with minimal use of other natural resources like water. And because all of us want to conserve resources, 50–75% of all paper products are recovered and recycled to make more paper!

Tree farms are full of fast-growing trees planted just for papermaking. And most paper (50–75%) is recovered for recycling. That much paper is heavy, so this papermaker is using a forklift.

Recovering used paper products is the first step in making your own paper. Fortunately, you won't need a forklift to carry your materials.

Start collecting pieces of scrap paper: newspaper, bathroom tissue, notebook paper, etc. Tear them up into pieces and collect them in a large bowl.
 
Turning Wood into Pulp

The next step is turning the wood into pulp. Remember the paper wasp? He nibbles on the wood to break it into little pieces, and then he digests it in his mouth to separate the fibers and create a workable pulp. When we make paper from wood, we do the same thing on a larger scale.

First we chop the wood into little chips. Then we cook it in very, very large “digesters” full of water and other chemicals.

Chemicals are added to the digesters to help separate the wood fibers. All these chemicals are recovered and used over again for the next batch of pulp. The pulp is then washed, and some of it may be bleached to make white paper.

How can you make your own pulp? Have an adult place the small pieces of scrap paper you tore up earlier into a blender or food processor that's been filled about halfway with water. Don't use too much paper.

Don’t forget to put the cover on the blender! Blend until all the paper is broken up into small, fibery bits. This mixture is pulp!

If you don't have a blender, take some bathroom tissue and tear it into small pieces. Mix it with water in a jar and shake, breaking up the tissue pieces until all the fibers are dispersed.

Turning Pulp into Paper

Now that we have pulp, how do we get paper? The fibers in the pulp are all suspended in water. To flatten them into paper, we need to scoop them up and then squeeze the water out.

When water is allowed to flow through the pulp, the fibers settle into an even layer. Our new sheet of paper is coming along!

In large-scale papermaking, our paper machines use giant, moving screens to filter the pulp fibers. 90% of the water that flows through the screens is captured and recycled for making the next batch of pulp.

The water drains through the screen, leaving us with an enormous sheet of wet paper. The paper sheet is then pressed and dried using hot steam heated dryer rollers.
These draining and drying steps are similar for our homemade paper. Transfer your pulp to a large tray, basin or tub and dilute it with more water. Stir slowly by hand or with a big spoon to disperse the fibers.

It's best to use a stiff screen or screen mold for scooping and draining the pulp. Screens like this are usually available at art supply stores, or as part of larger papermaking kits. Sometimes they come in two pieces, called a mold and deckle. Different screens will have different sets of instructions, but we can cover the bases here, so that you're prepared. And, in a pinch, you can use a kitchen strainer.
 
With your screen or strainer, scoop up a hefty layer of pulp from your tub. Let it drain over the basin for a minute. If your screen has an outer frame or deckle, remove it. You'll now have a nice layer of semi-drained pulp on top of your screen—it's almost paper!

The next step is to squeeze or blot the water out of the paper using towels, felt, and a rolling pin. Depending on the shape of your screen, the way you do this may vary (follow the instructions that come with your screen). If you used a kitchen strainer, you will need to shape your lump of pulp into a flat pulp pancake and roll it out a bit more aggressively.

Generally speaking, though, you'll be sandwiching your paper between two pieces of felt and using the rolling pin to squeeze the remaining water into a towel underneath. You will need to do this a few times, so grab a second towel and some extra felt! If you're feltless, lightweight non-terrycloth dish towels also work well.

Once you've squeezed out all the water you can, place your sheet between two pieces of aluminum foil. Then place a book on top of it and allow it to dry overnight. The next morning, awake to a new sheet of handmade paper!

At the end of a long day of papermaking, step back and admire your handiwork. Don't worry if it didn't turn out all right—it's paper! You can just tear it up and start all over again.
With your screen, scoop up a hefty layer of pulp from your tub.
Squeeze or blot the water out of the paper using towels, felt, and a rolling pin.
Place the damp sheet between two pieces of aluminum foil.
A giant roll of industrial paper.
Be sure to bring your little ones to PAPER PLANET, running through June 7th at The Duke on 42nd Street, just down the block from The New Victory. And if you snap a photo of your crafty creations, don't forget to tag @newvictorytheater on Instagram. #NoPapercuts!


Dr. Michael Kocurek, Professor Emeritus of Paper Science & Engineering at North Carolina State University, is one of the world’s most recognized educators in the pulp and paper industry. In addition to teaching university students since 1970, Mike has also taught courses at over 60 organizations, including the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, and has taught over 5,000 industry operators and professionals through the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry (TAPPI). In 2005, he was inducted into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame!
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan