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.

In The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, Step Afrika! brings to life Jacob Lawrence's masterwork, a painting series looking back on the Great Migration—the journey of over six million African Americans from the rural Southern United States to the urban North. We sat down with the talented cast and asked them what it feels like to perform this inspiring fusion of stepping, live music and American art in 2017.

Today, I'm seeing race being thrust into the forefront of American dialogue more than ever before in my lifetime. We're witnessing firsthand—or through the media—incidents of violence, activism and political discourse that confront our beliefs about racial inequality and social justice. The Migration adds historical context to the conversation, while celebrating the fortitude and courage of our predecessors. I think of it as a model for contemporary society on how to overcome challenging circumstances. — Jakari Sherman, Director

It's an honor to be a part of telling a very important story in our history—a story of culture, oppression, faith, resilience and forward movement. — Brittny Smith

The Migration

It's extremely rewarding and exciting to perform The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence. We're telling a part of American history, and to share this story across generations, races and cultures is a unique opportunity. We may be introducing the art form of stepping to a new audience, and also Jacob Lawrence's iconic work! The blend of visual and performing arts brought together through this work is brilliant. — Mfon Akpan

Performing The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence is both a cathartic and reflective experience. Usually, I perform as myself, but The Migration challenges me to become someone else, like an enslaved person laboring in the field in "Go West," or a young man who's left his family behind to find work in "Off the Train." Conveying the journey of these characters, while seeing the rest of the talented cast telling this story can be very emotional. It makes me reflect even more on how beautiful and resilient the African American community is. I love that. — Jordan Spry

When I perform The Migration, I'm reliving my ancestors' journey to America, while giving a bold and compelling history lesson to the audience. It's surreal at times. — Joe Murchison

The Migration

It's truly a one of a kind experience to perform The Migration in 2017. To be able to tell such a powerful story, considering some of the racial current events going on in America today, is indescribable. — Taquez Whitted

Being a part of The Migration feels like a movement, literally and spiritually. There are many untold stories and uncelebrated heroes from black history and I'm honored to celebrate our past. Performing in this production is truly an incredible way to pay homage to those who came before us. — Kara Jenelle

The current climate of the United States calls for an uplifting, educational and unifying theater experience. That's exactly what you get from The Migration. This story changed our country, and so many people can relate to it. — Christopher Roderick Brient

The Migration

Performing in The Migration in 2017 is an extremely humbling experience, because it allows me to reflect on the past and pay homage to my ancestors, who endured tremendous obstacles. I am thankful for them paving the way for me. — Anesia Sandifer

Being a part of this show inspires an overwhelming feeling of happiness. Studying Jacob Lawrence's work in college and now being able to use my gift of dance to bring his work to life is amazing. — Ronique Murray

One of my favorite things about The Migration is that, not only does it entertain, it enriches the audience with historical facts about the life, art and culture of African Americans. You think you're just coming to see a cool dance show on a Saturday night, but really, you're going to be walking out of the theater equipped with the knowledge to keep an important legacy alive. 2017 is such a fast-paced, politically charged year and it's extremely important that through it all, we continue to engage with our history and remember the resilience and faith our ancestors held in similarly turbulent times. — Charise Pinkston

The Migration In The Migration, "two art forms meld, and then painted images seem to come to life," according to The Washington Post. Tickets are available today!

Photos: William Perrigen
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 ages 16-22 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 Carlos Suazo from New York, New York.
Carlos Suazo
My favorite show at The New Victory was…
I really loved the performances, story and the production of Fly. It felt like I flew back in time. My favorite scene was when they were flying the planes for their first time because, even though the actors only had two chairs and a couple of projections, it made me feel like they were really in the sky. 

The show I'm most excited for this season is…
I'm excited for The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence. That artist's work has always captivated me.

The thing I like most about being an usher is… 
I like working with families, and seeing their reactions to the shows. 

My favorite memory from working as an usher was... 
When I worked on the show Cuba Vibra, I heard patrons say so many positive things and not once did I see an unsatisfied patron.

My dream job would be…
Any job where I can create something artistic. I just really like making things. 

My love of theater started...
Coincidentally, it started when my elementary school took us on a field trip to see Fly.

Who inspires you? 
I've always wanted to create awesome, artistic things like Bob Ross and Steven Spielberg. 

What was your favorite story as a kid? 
My favorite story as a kid was the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I loved the illustrations and the concept of the story. I'm a big fan of far-fetched ideas!

What is your favorite subject in school? 
As you could probably guess, my favorite subject is art! It gave me something that no other subject ever did—the freedom to express my ideas on paper. 

What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood? 
Something is always going down at Union Square. It's near my school and there are a lot of shops and stores I like to check out. 

Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher. 
Multitasking is my Achilles' heel.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
It's the time I got my appendix removed when I was 7. I know that sounds weird, but let me explain. I was bored out of my mind in the hospital, so I decided to watch TV to pass the time. That's when I discovered the movie Jurassic Park. It sparked my interest in biological science and movie making. Also, when I had enough strength to walk around, I went to the game room, and saw a kid playing Mario Kart. When it was my turn, I was instantly hooked. I left the hospital a completely different kid with new interests in biological science, movie making and video games.
New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

Posted by Beth Henderson

Play with magic, tricks and crafts together, as a family! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past posts here on our blog or at at

To be an official magician, you must recite the Magician's Oath: 

"I, (your name here), a magician, hereby stand by the Magician's Oath:
—I promise never to reveal the secret of any illusion to a non-magician. 
—I promise never to perform any illusion for any non-magician without first practicing the effect until I can perform it well enough to maintain the illusion of magic.
—I promise never to ask a magician how their illusion was done honoring the practice and tradition of the artform."

Disappearing Coin

What's a magician without a few tricks up their sleeve? In this activity you will learn your very own trick—making a coin disappear!

Materials: A clear glass cup, two sheets of paper that are the same color, scissors, pencil, glue
Step One

Step One: Watch the trick!
Step Two: Now you try! To set up the trick, trace an outline of the glass' opening onto your paper.

Step Two

Step Three: Using scissors, cut out the circle and erase any pencils lines that are left over. 

Step Three

Step Five: Using your glue stick, trace the edge of the circle and attach it to the top of your glass. Make sure it's as seamless as possible. If there's paper hanging over, trim it with your scissors.

Step Five
Step Five

Step Six: Place your second sheet of paper on a flat surface. This should be the same color of the paper you glued to the cup. Place a coin and your glass cup upside-down on the piece of paper.

Step Six

Step Seven: Now it's time to practice!
  • To perform your trick wrap your hand around the rim of the glass.
  • Then very slightly lift the glass over the coin. Make sure you do not lift the glass too much because that might reveal your trick.
  • Once the glass is fully over the coin, you've tricked your audience into thinking the coin has completely disappeared!
  • Then, lightly lift the cup again and place it in the spot you started to show your audience that the coin can reappear.

Step Seven
Step Seven
Step Seven

Step Eight: Make sure you practice it a few times to get the hang of it before you show it to your audience. 

Multiplying Coin

Now that you've learned how to make a coin disappear and reappear, make your audience think you can make coins multiply.

Materials: Tape, paper, scissors, two paper or styrofoam plates, three coins

Step One: Watch the trick! We've made the magic pocket visible in this video and the following steps to help you learn it.
Step Two: Now you try! To set up the trick, cut out two squares with a width and height of approximately one and a half inches.

Step Two

Step Three: Place the two paper squares on the back of each plate and tape down three of the sides. You're making a tiny pocket.

Step Three

Step Four: Take one coin and slide it into the pocket of one plate. Take the other coin and slide it into the pocket of the other plate.

Step Four

Step Five: Flip your plates over. Make sure that the two openings in the pockets you created are facing each other. Place your third coin on one of the plates.

Step Five

Step Six: Now you are ready to perform your trick! If you are using a white paper plate, make sure your audience stays at a distance to avoid seeing how the illusion is done. HINT: Drawing a fun design on your plate with markers before the performance helps the illusion.
  • Show your audience the plate with the coin. Keep a steady hand, remembering that two coins in tiny pockets are under the two plates.
  • Tip the plate onto the other plate so that the coin on top transfers to the other plate. The coin in the pocket will slip out too, magically turning your coin count to two.
Step Six
  • Repeat the action to the other plate. TADA, three coins! Magic.
Pitter Patter

Magicians often converse with participants and audiences to engage them while doing their magic—it also helps to distract audience members so they don't carefully study your sly moves! This dialogue is known as patter. Write a short magician's introduction filled with one liners to use when performing your magic tricks. 

Watch these magicians' patter for inspiration!
Jason Bishop
Jen Kramer

Step One: Now that you have two magic tricks ready to go, come up with your Magician's Name and the name of your magic show! 

  • What kind of magic do you specialize in? Levitation? Hand Tricks? Contortion? 
  • Are you performing in a stadium? In a living room? For a panel of judges?
Step Two: Write out a short magician's introduction. Fill in the madlib below!


Step Three: Practice your introduction to yourself and get the timing right. Then perform it for friends and family. They can't wait to meet their new friend, the magician!
Posted by Beth Henderson

Step Afrika! began as a collaboration between American dancers and members of Johannesburg's Soweto Dance Theater in 1994. They have since emerged as one of the top stepping companies in the United States. Their most prolific work, The Migration Series: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, is now on stage at the New Vic! In this, they bring to life The Migration Series, a landmark painting series by Jacob Lawrence inspired by the journey of the millions of African Americans who moved from the rural South to the urban North to rebuild their lives after World War I. We sat down with founder C. Brian Williams to discuss the cultural context surrounding the show.

1. How do you think The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence reflects today's landscape? 
The Migration is an extremely important work for Step Afrika! Every time the cast walks onto the stage, I think of those brave men and women who left the South with its unbearable restrictions on African American life and took a journey without truly understanding what awaited them on the other side. No one ever wants to abandon their home, unless there's no other reasonable alternative. Every performance of The Migration is a percussive tribute to the strength and resilience of these migrants. Their movement truly transformed our country.
Seeing the devastating, forced migration of families in Syria, Myanmar and the Central African Republic, alongside our own country's heated dialogue about immigration, I'm reminded that the issues Jacob Lawrence painted about in 1940 remain relevant today. My hope is that those of us not currently in motion demonstrate even more compassion for those who are. 

The Migration
2. What do you want audience members to walk away thinking? 
First and foremost, I want the audience to have an incredible time at the theater. For Step Afrika! and our incredible team of artists, the theater is a special place where the audience and artist create a very special moment in time together. We all need to make more room for live performance, especially in challenging times, because there's nothing quite like it.
The Migration also gives the audience a chance to reflect on their own individual migration stories. The  journeys taken by all of our ancestors make us who we are. Although we focus on the Great Migration, you can compare Lawrence's paintings and our show to photographs taken at Ellis Island in the early 1900s, videos of migrants heading towards the border in the Southwestern United States, and the images of the tens of thousands of Syrian families escaping the challenges back home in the hope of peace and a better life elsewhere.
We want to remind the audience that within each and every one of us lies a migration story. When we see the challenges faced by the migrants of today, we should never forget that many of our ancestors once walked in those shoes.
C. Brian Williams3. Tell us about stepping and why do you think it's now, finally coming into mainstream culture.
Stepping is such an unique art form and dance tradition and we've enjoyed sharing it with audiences around the globe for over 23 years. With its origins in the early 1900s, stepping was created by African American men and women on college campuses who became members of fraternities and sororities. These Greek-letter organizations, like Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which I am a member, or Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first African-American sorority created in the United States, led to the development of stepping on college campuses. It took over 85 years before mainstream America took notice. 
In 1988, famed director Spike Lee released his film, Skool Daze, which brought an incredible amount of attention to both African American college life and the tradition of stepping. Just a few years later, in 1994, Step Afrika! began and we have been spreading the word non-stop ever since.
The Migration In The Migration, "two art forms meld, and then painted images seem to come to life," according to The Washington Post. Tickets are available today!

Photos: William Perrigen
Posted by Beth Henderson
November 27, 2017

Magic on 42nd Street

In celebration of Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic, coming soon to The New Victory Theater, we spoke to Manhattan's resident history buff Tim Dolan about one of Jason's idols—Harry Houdini—and his time on 42nd Street.

Paradise Roof GardenWhile Broadway is mainly known for big budget musicals and plays, magicians, like the The New Victory's upcoming illusionist Jason Bishop, have always been in the mix. As early as 1899, Harry Houdini was performing his handcuff escapes in vaudeville theaters all over America, eventually appearing throughout his career at a handful of Broadway theaters in Times Square. He made his last Broadway appearance in 1926 alongside his wife Bess just one block south of The New Victory at The Nederlander Theatre (then called The National) on 41st Street. 

While Houdini never performed on the mainstage of the New Vic, he did perform on the roof! Rooftop garden theaters began to pop up in Times Square to provde open-air entertainment during the hot summer months in a pre-air conditioned world. Always incorporating some sort of floral element for a "garden feel," each rooftop presented small revue shows, magicians, acrobatic performances and famous comedians of the day. Oscar Hammerstein I, who built The New Victory in 1900, created the Paradise Rooftop Garden atop his theater to rival others in the area. It was outfitted with over 600 seats (over 100 more seats than inside the New Vic today) and a metal covering overhead to protect patrons from rain. Houdini and Jennie

During the summer of 1912, Houdini erected a 5,500-gallon water tank centerstage at the Paradise Rooftop Garden. In front of a packed audience, he escaped from leg shackles and handcuffs while in a submerged box that had been nailed shut and encased in chains. After performing this trick successfully the week prior in New York's East River, this was the first performance of the act inside of a theater. He would later perform the same feat at New York's largest theater, The Hippodrome, on Sixth Avenue—just a few blocks to the east of The New Victory Theater.

The "overboard box escape" wasn't the only act Houdini performed at The Hippodrome. On January 7th, 1918, Houdini walked onstage in front of thousands of World War I soldiers in uniform who were preparing to embark on their first tour overseas—he carried with him a few different sets of handcuffs. To thank them for their patriotism, Houdini prepared an educational performance. It's widely known that magicians like Houdini and Jason Bishop never reveal their secrets, but for this performance, Houdini did just that. He demonstrated how to escape the restraints of German handcuffs, how to free oneself from jail cells and what to do if trapped under water.


Gizmo and Jason! Gizmo and Jason! Photo: Alexis Buatti Ramos
While the performance was meant to be educational, Houdini unveiled a new trick at the conclusion for an entertaining twist. The troops watched as stagehands brought out an enormous cabinet and placed it center stage, followed by one other performer: Jennie, the daughter of P.T. Barnum's world famous elephant Jumbo. Jennie, Houdini explained, would be the first elephant he would ever make disappear. After having Jennie perform a few of her standard circus tricks, Houdini loaded her into the cabinet, placed a curtain over the front and waited. After a few minutes Houdini removed the curtain to reveal…an empty cabinet. To this day, Houdini's notes for the vanishing elephant trick have not been found, and it is his only act that remains shrouded in mystery. While Jason Bishop's animal assistant, Gizmo, is quite a bit smaller than Jennie, you can still expect some mind blowing illusions starring the pint-sized pup. 

As audiences settle into the plush seats of The New Victory Theater to enjoy the magic of Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic, they are joining the millions of audience members before them who have been fascinated by other illusionists on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in vaudeville theaters all over the United States—and are just a few floors below the same spot where Houdini conjured up his magic 105 years ago! 

Jason Bishop Thumb Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but this show is so delightful! Back by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason Bishop returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve. Get your tickets to Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic today!

Posted by Beth Henderson

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how teens ages 16-22 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 Danielle Braddock from the Bronx, New York.!
My favorite show at The New Victory was…
Mother Africa: My Home because I loved the dancing and the music. My favorite scene was the finale when the cast walked through the aisles and gave everyone a high five.

The show I’m most excited for this season is…
I can't wait to see Jason Bishop and all of his illusions!

The thing I like most about being an usher is…
The best part of being an usher is seeing patrons enjoying themselves and having fun at the theater.

My favorite memory from working as an usher was... 
It has to be when I was working the lower lobby during Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play. There was a 2 year-old who was exploring an activity before the show. She looked like she was lonely so I started reading books to her. She really enjoyed that!

My dream job would be… 
A pastry chef. It's always been my passion to bake treats.

What was your favorite story as a kid?
My favorite story as a kid was Corduroy. In it, a girl named Lisa wanted the stuffed bear Corduroy but her mother said no because he was missing a button. Lisa went back the next day with her own money to bring Corduroy home. 

What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
At Highbridge Pool, everything is special. It's awesome to see all of the kids, adults and families spend time together. 

Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
The most challenging thing is making sure patrons get the absolute best customer service. 

Describe your dream vacation.
My dream vacation would be to go to California and walk on the beach.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
I'll always remember going to Six Flags Great Adventure almost every summer.
New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

Posted by Beth Henderson

To kick off our three-part series celebrating the launch of the Jack and Lew Rudin Lobby, we sat down with Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor to talk about the exciting features you can expect in our new and improved space!

What spurred this renovation?
The New Victory team had a collective dream—to take our previously bland and uninviting lobbies and create a place that audiences would want to come with their families before the show or linger afterwards. We formed a lobby vision committee and we discussed all the things that could be improved. 
The new space needed to reflect the vibrancy of the incredible programming that lives on our stage. Our goal was to make it warm, inviting, family friendly, but also sophisticated, smart and tailored to our programming needs. On top of all that, we wanted practical improvements, like better bathrooms, a more functional gift shop area and a more friendly and accessible space for audiences of all abilities. We wanted the public space to be a place that sparked the imagination—a joyous, spirited, bold place to create memories and collective experiences for families. 
What aspect of the new lobby are you most excited about?

I think I'm most excited about the Jack and Lew Rudin Lobby (formerly named Lew's Lobby). Prior to our renovation, this space was a big, empty and dark two-room hall, with no place to sit and a dated ADA lift that was undersized and had difficulty accommodating modern wheelchairs. Our fabulous pre- and post-show activities were stuck in what felt like a back room. The room didn't match our needs, programs or personality. Now, the room has been completely transformed!

A Shot of Our New Lobby
What were the top three amenities you knew that we needed to include?

First and foremost—we needed contemporary restrooms. Our old bathrooms were built before modern energy codes were updated and, to be frank, they were also cold and colorless. Now, our bathrooms are both colorful and state-of-the-art, with water-saving and auto-flushing sink and toilet fixtures, sanitary hand-drying and faucet facilities and stalls which are sensitive to privacy. We anticipate the new hand-dryers will reduce the number of paper towels our theater throws away each year to less than 10,000—previously we disposed of 250,000 paper towels every season. We know that the hand-dryers may be an adjustment for some families, so it was also important to us that they could be deactivated and replaced with towels for our Autism-Friendly performances. The fixtures allow for this and we're happy with the flexibility they provide us. 

We also desperately needed more places to sit and a new food service area. With the installation of a beautifully designed cafe, plus several group seating areas, some creative undulating benches and flexible furniture pieces in the Jack & Lew Rudin Lobby, we now have a space where families can relax, eat, explore and spend wonderful quality time together. 
Finally, we are thrilled about the removal of the old and undersized ADA lift in the Jack & Lew Rudin lobby. It has been replaced with a beautiful new ramp that frames the lobby and makes our public engagement activities easy to reach for patrons of all abilities. 

A Shot of Our New Lobby

What inspired the color scheme throughout the lobby spaces? 

We actually struggled for many months to find the right look and feel for the lobby. It all came together when our architects Ariel Fausto and Nathan Rittgarn suggested the warm, white oak that can be seen throughout, and also the beautiful felt product line called FilzFelt. Paula Scher of Pentagram (who also designed our new logo) saw this material and was inspired to create the work of art that is now gracing our fabulous orchestra entry wall. With the invention of this original artwork, the color scheme of the lobby came to life. Suddenly the palette fell into place and the new lobby colors now create a warm, inviting and sophisticated environment that all New York families will love and feel at home in. 

Can you take us through how you decided on the materials? We're not walking on carpet anymore!
Our architects, Ariel and Nathan, guided this process. There were weeks where we were surrounded by colors and textures…this was some of the most fun we had! We focused on the patron experience and identified materials that felt sophisticated but not slick, warm but not cartoony. The floor (it's made from recycled tires!) was selected because it's environmentally-friendly, warm, soft, easy to clean and vibrantly colorful. It was actually a very complicated process, but in the end everything came together beautifully. 


Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor Photo: Alexis Buatti Ramos
What was it like to be in charge of such a large project? Did the project hit any snags?
I love managing projects and especially one that is driven by such unified goals. I think our biggest challenge was figuring out how to introduce technology into the space without letting it become the "be-all, end-all" of the space. We have beautiful new screens that support, but do not replace the activities. The focus is all about family experiences. This took us awhile to figure out, but we realized that our education staff knew best about exactly what we need to support our public engagement activities. We didn't need a digital sculpture for the "cool factor"—we needed a set of digital tools that our staff could use to enrich and support the family activities. After looking high and low, speaking to consultants and even working with some technology designers, we returned to the idea that what we needed was tools. So, we formed an in-house team of staff members from different departments and started analyzing how we could use technology to amplify our family activities. The going was tough, but now we can't wait for our audiences to experience what we have in store for them!  

What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2016?
Dark, boring, old-fashioned
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2017?
Vibrant, energetic, warm
Jason Bishop Thumb Don't be a stranger! Visit the new lobby when you join us for Jason Bishop: Believe in MagicBack by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve.

Posted by Beth Henderson

Have you ever watched an illusionist perform and wondered how the tricks were done? Well, Jason Bishop can't reveal his secrets, but, in honor of his latest show Believe in Magic, he wanted to share with you seven facts about life as a professional magician. 
Jason BishopIt's important to have a LOT of interests. One thing I really love about being a magician is that I'm able to use all of my (many) hobbies in my illusions. I get to use physics, electronics, chemistry, video editing and even animal training. It's important to become both a jack of all trades and a master of all trades so you can have a rich background to pull from to surprise and delight your audience. 

Performing is the fun part. Being in front of an audience and sensing that they're totally with you is one of my favorite feelings in the world. But sometimes, it's a challenge just to arrive at the gig. There was one time that I traveled for over 24 hours to get to Australia and needed to immediately perform the very same night I arrived. Entertainers miss holidays, weddings, birthdays and every other special event in the calendar. It can be a drag, but when I entertain an audience that is fully invested in the magic, it's all worth it. 

There's a lot of travel. Kim, Gizmo and I are all from Pennsylvania, but we've been fortunate enough to travel to France, China, the United Kingdom, Norway, Australia and Hawaii. I can't begin to count the number of fascinating people I've met and the amazing places I've visited. Every day, I'm thankful for all of the incredible venues who've booked us around the world.

You're the most popular person at a party. People I meet are equal parts entertained and intrigued by what I do. When someone requests a trick, it's usually one of the two most popular requests—making a million dollars appear or making their spouse disappear. Let it be known, I've never taken either request. When I'm eating, people usually ask "So, how are you making all that food vanish?"

Jason BishopYou have to hold two opposing thoughts in your head at the same time. A magician knows how a trick is done, but also what the illusion should look like. A part of me totally believes that I'm floating an object in the air, but another part of me is thinking intently about the mechanics of the illusion.

There are lots of different types of magic. In magic, there are large stage illusionists who accomplish enormous tricks. On the flip side, close up magicians with very small, fine illusions perform equally complex feats that can only be seen by a few people. There's also comedy magic and mentalism, where the performer seems to read people's minds. Like right now you're Jason a mentalist? The answer is no, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. 

Magic crosses cultural and language boundaries. No matter where I perform an illusion, whether it's in China or in Norway, people respond in the exact same way because smiles, gasps and laughs are all universal. There's nothing like knowing you've amazed a person when you can't speak the same language. A big reason why I chose this career is because magic is one of the only things that can easily cross those barriers and bring people together.

Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
Jason Bishop Thumb Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but this show is so delightful! Back by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason Bishop returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve. Get your tickets to Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic today!
Posted by Beth Henderson

Contuining our celebration of the New Vic's new, vibrant lobby spaces, we sat down with our Director of Education, Public Engagement Lindsey Buller Maliekel. She shares with us how our old lobby was designed to make you wait, but the new lobby invites you to create!

New Tricks in the Jack and Lew Rudin LobbyYou have an interesting title: Director of Education, Public Engagement. What is "public engagement?"

Public Engagement is a term we use to categorize all of the work that happens outside of our (amazing) school program. We focus on creating activities and experiences for New York City families that support and enhance the productions on our stages. We also manage the New Victory Youth Corps—programs that employ young New Yorkers in job development programs. Its a bit unusual to have a Director of Education position that doesn't focus on schools, but we have found that having a staff specifically focused on families and youth has allowed us to innovate and grow our programs in a way that breaks new ground for theaters! It comes down to the fact that we want our families to be just as supported and enriched as our school audiences.

How does the new lobby support your work?
This new lobby feels welcoming, adaptive and inspiring. After the renovations, we now have enough space to handle all of the people who want to engage in interactive activities before and after the shows. The space is also, generally, more comfortable now that we have furniture specifically chosen to support our performing arts-based work.
The most obvious change that audiences will notice are our new activity "canvases." Whether we're presenting theater, dance, opera, puppetry or circus, we can program these screens to support all of our family engagement activities. They'll be designed to serve every production—audiences will never have the same pre-show experience twice, from show to show! Another huge step forward for us is that we will have a teaching artist in the lobby for an hour before every show to support the interactive activities.
How are the pre and post show activities changing?


SKELLIG FYI The FYI for 2010-11's Skellig
The New Victory Theater has always had some form of pre-show engagement. When we first opened, we had coloring sheets for kids or helped them make buttons. For the shows that would benefit from some additional dramaturgical information, we created small exhibits, called "FYIs" About nine years ago, we began creating pre-show events for groups of families that might not have attended the theater before, called "Bring Your Family."  After a few years, these events got so big that they could no longer be contained in the event room. We faced a difficult choice—do we limit attendance or expand it? We asked ourselves: what would happen if we invited the entire audience to these events? We started choosing specific performances that invited the entire audience to participate in our pre-show events. Those performances started selling quite well and people would arrive EXTRA early to take part in these activities, called "Arts Express." Soon, we thought: wouldn't it be fun if every performance had some sort of activity related to the show? This thought transformed into the "Try This" series but soon we were longing for more space, more adaptive tools, and visual elements that were more inspiring for our family audiences.
With the new lobby, we can accommodate more audience members simultaneously. With more sophisticated tools to support our content, more ushers dedicated to playing with families and a teaching artist in the lobby before every single show, we're striving to create a truly interactive space for you to engage as a family before and after every single performance. 


What are you the most excited about?
I am so excited that we are working with these talented teaching artists to create activities for every single show! The New Victory has an incredible ensemble of more than 55 teaching artists who are professional actors, playwrights, designers, dancers and clowns. With help from these teaching artists, families will not only be transformed by these amazing pieces of theater, but will also get to try it out for themselves! 
Often, parents are concerned about exposing kids to screens too early and too often. Why did the New Vic decide to use screens in the new design?
We debated many ideas for how best to support the interactive activities. Our goal was to lasso the energy and adaptability of screens to make the in-person experience more engaging. We carefully designed the activities for families to play together—not to play with the screens. If kids want to learn how to juggle or adults want to create opera lyrics, we want to use the screens to better enable that interaction. Our staff has often said that if we walk into the lobby and families are staring at the screens like zombies, then we've failed. Our hope is that when we walk into the lobby, we'll see families referring to the screens to learn a new skill or to converse about the themes in the show. 
Screens are a part of our world now—my own kids have no concept of a world without them. I think our new challenge is to use them in ways that inspire thoughts, actions and relationships. We thought long and hard about using touch screens, but ultimately decided that they lead to solitary interactions between one person and a screen. Also, we toyed with using technology that would be responsive to the actions of the people in the room, but realized that it limited how many people could experience it simultaneously. 
Lindsey Lindsey Buller Maliekel

We ended up focusing on screens that we could use as tools to support mainly analog, tactile activities. We didn't want the screens to be the most fun thing in the room—we want YOU to be the most fun thing in the room! 
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2016?
Like the Velveteen Rabbit at the end of the book, our old lobby was beloved, heavily used and a bit creaky.
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2017?
Inviting, interactive and inspiring

Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
Jason Bishop Thumb Don't be a stranger! Visit the new lobby when you join us for Jason Bishop: Believe in MagicBack by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve.

Posted by Beth Henderson