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.
September 13, 2016

Family Activity: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

In this Family Activity you will invent something new like Jules Verne, make your own gyre and create a toy theater adaptation of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea! For each show during the 2016-17 Season, we'll be posting a new Family Activity. Bookmark to discover how you and your family can continue your theatergoing experiences at home.

You can find all of our past Family Activities (and more!) at

Jules Verne Inventions

Jules Verne, the author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, is one of most important writers of science fiction. Verne shocked the world with tales of gadgets and vehicles that, years later, would eventually take shape in reality. In this Family Activity, challenge yourself to invent something that you think would exist 100 years from now—in the year 2116! 

Materials: Piece of paper, writing utensil 

Step One: As a family, learn about certain pieces of technology that Jules Verne predicted in his writing! 

In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Verne's Captain Nemo travels the world's oceans in a giant underwater boat—a submarine. Submarines were first invented in 1620, but Verne's submarine had advantages and comforts unimaginable in his time. The first comparable undersea vessel appeared in 1939!

In the year 1889, Jules Verne described an alternative to newspapers: "Instead of being printed, the Earth Chronicle is every morning spoken to subscribers, who, from interesting conversations with reporters, statesmen and scientists, learn the news of the day." The first newscast didn't happen until 1920—nearly 30 years after Verne imagined it!

In 1889, Jules Verne described the "phonotelephote." The phonotelephote allowed "the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires." Verne's phonotelephote is one of the earliest reference to a videophone in fiction. You could even consider it a precursor to video calling technologies like FaceTime and Skype!

Discuss these questions:
  • What would be different about our world without submarines, newscasts and video calling?
  • How do you think Jules Verne came up with these ideas?

Step 2: Now it's time for you to predict your own invention. Imagine what will exist in the year 2116 and draw a prototype.

Step 3: Share it with your family and discuss how your life would change if it existed!

Make Your Own Gyre

This production explores the ocean's role in climate change, both in 1866 and in 2016. In this activity, get scientific and explore the world not on the land! 

Materials: Two plastic one-liter bottles, water, duct tape, metal washer, small items like confetti or glitter, monopoly houses or tiny styrofoam balls

Step One: Fill a one-liter bottle to the top with water and add a few pieces of small materials. Attach a washer to the mouth of the bottle.

Step One
Step Two: Place another one-liter bottle on top of the water-filled bottle, so that the washer sits in place between the two.
Step Two
Step Three: Use duct tape and tape the two bottles and washer in place. Make sure that the connection is as sturdy as possible and that the duct tape does not allow any bending.

Step Three
Step Four: Turn the bottles over so that the filled bottle is on top. Swirl the water clockwise or counter-clockwise. The water should form a tornado and drain into the other bottle. This circular current in the water is a small-scale version of the enormous gyres in Earth's oceans.

Step Four
Step Five: Now that you have created your own version of a gyre, watch this video about gyres in the oceans and how garbage trapped in them affects our environment. You can also visit HaltonRecycles and Greener Ideal to learn even more about them. 

Step Six: After watching the video, have a conversation with your family:
  • Did you know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Is there anything your family can do to address it? Why or why not?
  • What role do humans play in climate change and what specifically affects the oceans? 
  • What is your family's relationship to the environment?
  • What do you think will happen to our Earth if things continue to move in this direction?
BONUS: Interested in learning even more about water quality? Check out these websites and organizations recommended by Kidoons.  

Toy Story

The production of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea at The New Victory Theater is an inventive adaptation of the original story. The company, Kidoons, uses projection, toy theater (small puppets acting out the story on a small scale and then projecting them on a screen) and time travel to tell their version.

Materials: Toys, a phone with video-recording capabilities

Step One: Read the following summaries of action points in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. 

Act I
Act II
Step Two: Pick an action point from the play to re-enact with some toys. 

Toy Theater
A scene from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Now it's time to make your own toy theater! Photo: Itai Erdal

Get as creative as possible! Use any items from your home to create your set. Use a cup as the submarine or a bowl of water for the underwater scenes! 

Step Three: Film your toy theater moment and put it on Instagram with the hashtag #TwentyThousandLeagues.

In addition to theatermaking, Kidoons and WYRD have also created online educational tools and web series that translate themes of well-known plays for younger audiences. They even made one for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea! Check it out here and explore some of the multimedia and projection that will appear in the performance, see more cartoons with Captain Nemo and more! 

Family Activities
We invite you to share a giggle, try some new moves and deepen your understanding of the performing arts with our Public Engagement Activites, Arts Express, TXT Marks the Spot and Talk-Backs! 
Twitter   How did your gyre and toy theater turn out?
Share a photo of them with us on Instagram or Twitter, #TwentyThousandLeagues.
Facebook   What did you invent?
Like us on Facebook and tell us what you thought up!

National Geographic
Posted by Beth Henderson
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