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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.

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how the young people in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from our Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory Blog. Today we’re talking to third-year usher Claire Early, who was born and raised in Manhattan.

Third-Year Usher Claire EarlyWho inspires you?
My family inspires me! They are constantly showing me who I am and supporting me through every project I dive into.

What's your fondest childhood memory?
Playing Annie in my 5th grade play. It was the first time I was really involved in something that big, and it might be the last time I'm the lead in anything theater-related.

What was your favorite story as a kid?
I really liked The Powerpuff Girls—everything I owned had them on it. They let me know it was okay for girls to be tough, smart and girly. Those are all things I wanted to be, and like to think I am now.

What's your favorite subject in school?
Art, because I'm an artist. It's in my blood!

How would you describe your personal style?
Honestly, my style changes with the seasons and my mood. I live like my life is an art piece.

What's your favorite song right now?
"Hold Me Down" by Halsey

What's your favorite place to eat or grab food near the theater?
I usually like to get Hale and Hearty. They have yummy soups!

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not at work?
I try to occupy my time with drawing and other personal projects.

What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
I'm in Central Park all year-round.

What's the most challenging thing about being an usher?
Multitasking!

What would be your dream vacation?
A week away in a beach house with a bunch of my closest friends and a lot of junk food and board games. 
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan
October 5, 2015

History Brought to Life


A great many historical tales have been brought to life onstage, from the historical plays of Shakespeare to tales of folk history, like ROBIN HOOD! With that in mind, and in honor of World Teachers Day this week, we asked our staff to recall moments from their childhoods when history was brought to life in theatrical ways. Here are a few of their stories.
 
 
Christopher Ritz-Totten, in 7th grade and now   Christopher Ritz-Totten
Public Relations Associate

I remember quite vividly the way my 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Miller, spoke about historical figures, and the various ways he would engage our class with through interactive storytelling. He approached every lesson with a passion that I loved, but in the moment I wasn’t sure how to outwardly convey my appreciation. All I knew was that I was having fun while learning! In hindsight, I can say that Mr. Miller was one of the most influential teachers I ever had.

I distinctly remember the week that Mr. Miller prepared our class for a visit from Mary Todd Lincoln. He kept telling us that the late president’s wife would be coming in to tell us about her life as the First Lady. He was right. We were in class one day when all the lights went out. The door opened, and in walked a lady in period dress carrying a flickering lantern. I was captivated, hanging on her every word. She spoke about her life, Abraham Lincoln’s life, the world in which they lived and how it differed from the world as it is now. It was in that moment that I knew learning could truly be engaging. It is this memory that I often reference as being the inspiration for my love of theater, and perhaps my commitment to educational theater.
 
Courtney Boddie, in 5th grade and now   Courtney Boddie
Director of Education / School Engagement

When I was in 5th grade, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were undergoing a huge renovation. Our classes worked in small groups to research the history of them both. We also recycled bottles and cans for the 5¢ deposit for months to help fundraise for the renovation. The culmination of the project was a field trip to Liberty Island, where still under renovation the old torch lay on the ground! I recall taking a class picture in front of it. 

When we landed on the island, there were people there to escort us from the ferry to the pedestal of the statue. The peculiar thing was that they were speaking gibberish, or perhaps a language that just wasn't known to us. They physically moved us into different lines, examining us (somewhat respectfully) and seemingly asking us questions and expecting answers. But none of us understood. As they continued to switch my classmates between different lines, each student was given a card that was a specific color and had more gibberish written on it. Some kids were shepherded away, while those of us left behind were confused, even a little scared, and I remember being slightly angry!

Eventually, the other students returned, happy and with lollipops, but the rest of us were still confused! Then, for the first time, the leader spoke in English and said that we had just been led through a simulation of what it was like to enter Ellis Island. What we had just experienced was what many immigrants experienced when they first immigrated to this country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We proceeded to have a rich conversation about what we had been thinking and feeling during the activity, and we made meaningful connections to that part of history. 

I often think back to that experience I had as a 10-year-old and it never fails to amaze me that the adults who worked there were, in essence, teaching artists! They acted in roles, and placed me and my classmates in roles, to help us better understand and empathize with the people who had entered this country through Ellis Island. They will never know how much that specific experience has impacted me.
 
Zack Ramadan, in 8th grade and now   Zack Ramadan
Digital Content Producer

I fondly recall Mr. Switzler, my knit tie-wearing 8th grade social studies teacher, who encouraged us to perform original theatrical pieces set during post-Civil War Reconstruction. In small groups over the course of three weeks, we wrote and directed short plays that brought to life the conflict between freedmen and insurgent klansmen, and the relationships between sharecroppers and landowners. In addition to being a freeing creative exercise, this project also helped us forge stronger connections with the stories of Reconstruction-era African Americans—empathy and understanding beyond what a textbook could ever have engendered.

None of this was an accident. Mr. Switzler placed a special emphasis on history being little more than the collected stories of individual people. He taught us to appreciate the value of primary source material and to seek it out whenever possible. Later in the year, he mobilized us—all 100 of us in all his classes—to create a multimedia time capsule of our community. We interviewed long-time citizens and local historians. We photographed historical places and local wildlife. We even spoke to municipal government officials—and their rivals—to gain perspective on local politics. We may not have fully grasped it at the time, but by capturing these stories and moments and recording them all in one place, we were literally making history.
 
 
Robin Hood icon   Seattle Children's Theatre's ROBIN HOOD is bringing the familiar tale of merry men, shifty sherrifs and pompous princes and to life on our stage right now. Don't miss it!
Posted by Zack Ramadan

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how the young people in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from our Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory Blog. Today we’re talking to third-year usher Julean DeJesus from Brooklyn.

Third-Year Usher Julean DeJesusWhat was your favorite story as a kid?
Growing up, my favorite show was Digimon, which led me to Pokémon when I got older. I always loved fantasy and any break from reality.

Who inspires you?
Pikachu. Honestly! Statistically speaking, Pikachu is one of the weakest Pokémon, but it strives to overcome every obstacle and never gives up. I hope to be even a fraction as determined and motivated to succeed as Pikachu is!

How would you describe your personal style?
My style is best described as an Otaku Fairy: whimsical, repetitive, obsessive and 100% comprised of fan merchandise.

What's your favorite song right now?
My favorite song is "One of the Boys" by Katy Perry. It has been for as long as I can remember. It speaks to my desire to avoid being labeled.

What's your favorite place to eat or grab food near the theater?
I like to walk down to Canal Street to buy fruit, but there are a few fruit stands on 30th Street that I enjoy as well. Being on a raw food diet limits my options. I used to have unhealthy obsession with Crumbs cupcakes!

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not at work?
I like to make things. Anything—cooking, sewing, crafting, gardening—if it produces something new, I enjoy doing it. It's especially fun to cook for others. I love having a friend over to cook for and watch movies.

What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
My favorite place in the entire city is the Manhattan Bridge. I'll walk to Chinatown and buy a pound of cherries. Nothing beats a stroll across the bridge on a warm day while eating cherries.

What's the most challenging thing about being an usher?
Confidence. It's very hard to reassure myself that I am just doing my job when I need to enforce rules or give instructions to patrons. I don't want to seem pushy.

What would be your dream vacation?
I am not a big fan of travel. I don't need to go far, nor to a specific place. I just dream of venturing into nature, hiding out deep in the forest. But for now the concrete jungle should suffice.
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan

You, too, can become an opera fan! Lots of people immediately write off opera, saying that they don't understand it, or that opera's a highfalutin' art form that feels irrelevant. We at the New Vic are rethinking these stereotypes and offer invigorating re-interpretations of classics in our season—Isango Ensemble's adaptation of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream is a shining example of just that! But there are also a number of ways to make traditional opera feel fun, exciting and accessible.

If you and your family will be attending your first opera at the New Vic this month, but are feeling trepidatious about your ten-year-old's reaction to Titania and Oberon, read our Ten Commandments for Watching Opera below. A little preparation will help you to get the most out of your experience!


I. Thou might already be a fan

Opera pops up everywhere—from Skittles commercials to internet memes, so there's really no reason to feel intimidated!

Mozart portrait meme: If you ever feel back about procrastinating, just remember that Mozart wrote the overture to Don Giovanni the morning it premiered.


II. Thou shalt honor the music

The great part about opera is that the music says it all! Even if the set design, costuming or lighting is gorgeous, opera is first and foremost about the music, and painstakingly composed works communicate emotions and story through music alone (the rest is just extra!). As The New York Times put it, "in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first."


III. Thou shalt not worry about hearing every word

Many operas are in foreign languages, but even those sung in your native tongue can be tough to understand. Opera singers do their best when it comes to diction, but part of opera singing technique requires singers to modify spoken pronunciation in order to sound their best (especially on the high notes). Let the music tell the story if you're feeling lost.


IV. Thou shalt not listen to stereotypes

"It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." Ugh... When you become a fan, you'll realize that opera is way more than some stereotypes make it out to be. The prima donna is not necessarily temperamental—she's just the chief female singer—and her fellow divas may well be humbled by their fame!


V. Thou shalt get to know the classics

As an opera beginner, your best plan for getting to know the art form is to start with the classics. Find a playlist below that we curated, and have a listen. You'll hear favorite songs, many of which we'll bet you've heard before!

 

VI. Thou shalt have an opinion

Sometimes there's the misconception that just because something is lauded as a "classic," you have to like it. Listen to or go see a few operas and decide what you like—a crisp Mozart tune is very different from a undulating Puccini score.


VII. Thou shalt know the singers

It's hard to go wrong when seeing any trained, professional opera singer perform live. But hardcore opera buffs will go to shows just to hear certain singers. Here are a few names to get you started: Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Maria Callas, Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko.


VIII. Thou shalt know the vocabulary

Here's a list of terms that will help you on your first trip to the opera (click to enlarge).


IX. Thou shalt know the composers

Most of the famous composers that you can name probably wrote an opera, but there were a few that really perfected the medium. While Beethoven wrote one opera, symphonies were more his specialty. Who are considered the best opera composers, then? Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini are recognized as a few of the greats.


X. Thou shalt avoid snobbery

When you've become an opera fan, make sure you spread the love, and help people understand that opera isn't high-brow and stuffy! There's nothing wrong with getting your Wagner knowledge from the Looney Tunes episode when Elmer Fudd sings "kill the wabbit" to the tune of "Die Walkure."
 

Editor's Note: This post was originally written by Hillary Reeves and first appeared on our blog during our 2014-15 Season, in advance of Isango Ensemble's The Magic Flute.
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan
Tags: 2015-16, opera
October 20, 2015

Monster Myths of the World


Written by Lindsay Amer, Fall 2015 Communications Apprentice

Forests and mountains and oceans, oh my! Our planet can be a scary place sometimes, and ever since humankind began telling stories, we have invented terrifying mythological monsters that go "boo!" in the night. In THE GRUFFALO, the Mouse invents her own monster to protect herself from the predators that live in the deep dark wood. Made-up creatures can protect us from other scary things, represent something large and unknown in nature or stand in for inexplicable happenings. 

From Sasquatch (better known as Bigfoot), who stomps through the vast and murky forests of the Pacific Northwest, to the dreaded Kraken—fabled to swallow tall ships whole—every culture has its own mythical monsters. We know why the Mouse invented the Gruffalo. Let's see if we can shed some light on the possible origins of these rough beasts...

Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness Monster hoaxed photograph
The four-finned, long-necked Nessie hails from the great Loch Ness in the highlands of Scotland. Vikings in the 6th century were the earliest to record their fear of her, when an attack on a man crossing the River Ness was blamed on a colossal reptile allegedly sighted in the loch. Was he attacked? Did he drown? Loch Ness is enormous. Surrounded by highland hills, it's the second largest and deepest lake in all of Scotland, and the river that feeds it is wide and equally dangerous. The threat of meeting a giant water monster would be enough to keep me from wandering out alone onto the dark, murky water. Spooky!

Yeti

Yeti illustration by Phillipe SemeriaKnown to the Nepalese and Tibetans as the Yeti, tales of the Abominable Snowman living in the Himalayan mountains have warned residents of the dangers of nearby avalanches and the fate awaiting stranded Everest-climbing adventurers. The white-all-over bear-like creature is said to preside over its mountainous home and features in ancient lore of the Himalayan people. It is said to make a whooshing noise wherever it goes, carrying huge gusts of wind along with it. I wouldn't want to get caught in that blizzard; and because of the story of the fearsome Yeti, I won't!

Chupacabras

Chupacabras illustration by Jeff CarterThese terrifying, hairless wolf-like creatures with spikes up their spines are said to hail from Puerto Rico, Mexico and South America. Their Spanish name literally translates to "goat-sucker," coming from their well-known pastime of attacking and sucking the blood of meandering livestock. While sightings of Chupacabras are probably just people seeing funny looking coyotes, how else am I supposed to explain my missing goats at the market the next day? Best to keep a watchful eye on my herd.

Impundulu

Impundulu illustration by artbybluedaisyThere are hundreds of different folkloric histories throughout the continent of Africa with thousands of equally astounding and fantastical monsters. Also known as the Lightning Bird, this lesser known mythical monster comes from the tales of Pondu, Zulu and Xhosa traditions in South Africa. The Impundulu is a human-sized bird which is said to have the magical ability to strike lightning with its claws and suck the blood of its prey. If I lived in the fire-prone drylands of southern Africa, I'd be worried about giant lightning birds, too, blood-sucking or not!

Gargoyles

Notre Dame Gargoyle closeup by Jean-Luc OurlinUgly stone gargoyles famously protrude from the arches and vaults of Paris's beloved architectural landmark, Notre Dame. Practically speaking, gargoyles are actually used to protect the building's stonework from rainwater by diverting it through their spout-like mouths. But during medieval times, the faithful believed that plastering these grotesque figures all over churches would protect the sacred and beautifully ornamented insides from any evil demons that might try to break in and wreck the place.

Dragons

Dragon illustration by David RevoyTales of dragons come from all over the world. The gargantuan fire-breathing reptiles show up in folklore from China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Ancient Greece and in the earliest of all literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia. Many of these cultures depict the otherworldly creatures as powerful, even imperial symbols, representing the great forces of nature. Dragons are more symbolic than forewarning: paragons of animal might with command over earth, fire, air and water. They prove excellent opponents for mythological heroes looking to slay magnificent beasts to demonstrate their valor, and they satisfy our human desire for a mighty creature of legend superlative to any real-world animal. I can't think of a more magnificent monster!
 
   What makes you quake in your boots? Take to Twitter, and tell us @newvictory what creature you'd rather not meet in the deep dark wood. Then, join us for Tall Stories' musical adaptation of THE GRUFFALO, the award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. See you there!
 
 
Lindsay Amer    Lindsay Amer is a Communications Apprentice at The New 42nd Street, where she gets to contribute to social media, PR and marketing for a theater for kids and families! She almost has her MA in Theater and Performance Studies from Queen Mary University of London, and she holds a BS in Theater from Northwestern University. She is currently learning how to play the song from the Pixar short about volcanoes falling in love—Lava—on her ukulele.
Posted by Zack Ramadan

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how the young people in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from our Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory Blog. Today we’re talking to third-year usher Chelsea Guzman, who calls Brooklyn home.

Who inspires you?
I inspire myself! I don't mean for that to sound conceited—I believe in always being proud of my accomplishments. It's hard for many people to acknowledge how amazing they are, and I don't want to be like that.

What's your fondest childhood memory?
The day I learned to love books. As a kid I didn't enjoy reading, but I remember the day that my first grade teacher started reading us a Junie B. Jones book by Barbara Park, and after that day I completely fell in love with those books. It was the storylines that intrigued me, and how realistic and relatable the books were to me at that age. No one could get me away from books after that!

What was your favorite story as a kid?
Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park was my favorite book as a kid. I first read this book around the time my little brother was born. Coincidentally, in the book, Junie B. was also introduced to her new baby brother! It was funny to consider how mad she was about it, compared to my happiness over my own brother.

What are your favorite subjects in school?
My two favorite subjects are English and Math. As much as I love reading, I also love to write. Describing my life as if it were a book is a natural instinct to me. I actually didn't enjoy Math before high school, but once I began to understand the subject, it became really fun.

How would you describe your personal style?
I would say my personal style consists of a bit of everything. What I wear depends on the occasion, or on how I'm feeling that day. Lipstick, however, is never missing from my bag!

What's your favorite place to eat or grab food near the theater?
I always bring my own food—my mom's cooking is my favorite. The only thing I really do enjoy nearby are Crumbs' muffins, just a few doors down!

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not at work?
I like to go to the gym occasionally, or sit somewhere like Central Park to read a book.

What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
Central Park is so beautiful and the perfect place to hang out. Greenwich Village is perhaps my favorite neighborhood, though, simply because it's one of Manhattan's calmer areas.

What's the most challenging thing about being an usher?
Sometimes it's hard to balance home life and school work with work at the theater. It can be hard to come in with a lot of energy. It gets easier, though, once I realize how excited families are to be here.

What's your dream vacation?
Ever since I came back from Disneyland, I've dreamt of going back! Therefore, two weeks in Disneyland and a trip to Universal Studios again would be the best thing ever.
 
Posted by Zack Ramadan