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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.

Thanks to the generosity of The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, we've created New Victory SPARK, or "Schools with the Performing Arts Reach Kids," an innovative and robust multi-year arts program specifically designed for schools underserved in the arts. With the esteemed research firm WolfBrown, we're also measuring and analyzing the "intrinsic impact" of this program. The following piece is the first in a four-part story about our initial findings. 
 
Contributed by Courtney J. Boddie, Director of Education/School Engagement

PS 138You might say that the New Victory has a "thing" for raising the stakes. Who else puts wild, urban circuses on the beautifully restored stage of a turn-of-the-century theater? Who else would perform X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation—a courtroom drama focused on the assassination of Malcolm X—for young audiences? The New Vic's SPARK program is no different – it raised the stakes by entering into intensive and sustained relationships with a set of New York schools that serve some of the city's poorest children. The intensity of the partnership brought the entire organization face-to-face with the consequences of trauma—young people, teachers and schools all of whom live daily with the inequalities that are New York. The work has taught us not just to believe in the power of the arts, but also to live out that commitment in ways that have re-defined our comfort zone. Three examples make this clear:

Agency: Many of the schools that have no arts serve students with high needs, spending their discretionary dollars on tutoring and other support services, pushing to meet standards. In SPARK, we wanted to turn this around by calling on principals' and teachers' agency. Instead of selecting sites, we asked interested schools to apply as the first step in identifying schools who wanted to partner in building an arts program. From the start, we wanted their ownership and vision as full partners.

PS 138Acknowledgement: SPARK schools operate under constant stress: in addition to being classrooms, they operate as clinics, safe zones and community centers. Teachers triple as mediators, social workers and diagnosticians. They can appear angry or disinterested. But rather than grumble, we had to act collectively. We would never be able to enliven curriculum or change school climate without teachers' buy-in. We realized quickly that we had to redesign our professional development sessions to acknowledge what teachers were carrying. Every session called out the (sometimes hidden) performer in each teacher, offering humor, relaxation and collaboration. In addition, teaching artists doubled down on showing how theater skills could build literacy and numeracy. Finally, we re-directed one of each school's teaching artist advisors to focus wholly on working with individual teachers to think through how theater could make a difference in focus, behavior and peer interactions.

And not least, theater as love: Many SPARK students live with personal traumas: homelessness, domestic violence, or forced migration. Especially in middle school this often translated into withdrawal and apathy or eruptive bullying and fighting. To respond to the students fully—with love rather than with disappointment or frustration—teaching artists needed a whole new set of skills. We invited behavioral counselors to observe and critique how teaching artists addressed conflict, and we worked with experts like Shawn Ginwright to explore concrete strategies for working respectfully with youth with trauma. We realized that teaching artists have to build, not assume, safe spaces for creative learning. (For instance, we learned that a low-stakes final rehearsal might be a much better culminating event than a full-blown show). The final rehearsal can be about growth and persistence, rather than perfect performances where "messing up" can ignite anger or sadness.

In our fourth year, the successes outweigh the challenges but only because we have spent three years mapping out the consequences of raising the stakes on how we work.

Learn more about the SPARK program here
 
 
Courtney Boddie Courtney J. Boddie, New Victory Director of Education / School Engagement, oversees the New Victory Education Partnership program and professional development training in the performing arts for teachers. Ms. Boddie is currently President of the Board of Directors for the Association of Teaching Artists (ATA). Additionally, she serves on the Teaching Artist Committee and Diversity Task Force of the NYC Arts-in-Education Roundtable and is a member of the National Teaching Artist Collective in association with the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Prior to joining The New Victory Theater in 2003, Ms. Boddie was Program Associate for Empire State Partnerships (NYSCA) and a teaching artist for Roundabout Theatre Company. She received her Master’s degree from the Educational Theatre Graduate Program at New York University, where she is also adjunct faculty.
Posted by Beth Henderson

With Grug and the Rainbow closing our 2016-17 Season, we were inspired by Grug—the top of a burrawang tree—and the charming book series that follows his adventures. Have you already read all of the Grug books out there? We've got you covered. Here's a list of books for ages 2-5 that are perfect to read over, and over again!
 
Cloth Lullaby Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky and Isabelle Arsenault

Louise Bourgeois was a world-renowned modern artist and her mother wove tapestries. Louise spent her childhood in France as her mother's apprentice, before she became a tapestry artist herself. 

This biographical picture book shows how Bourgeois's childhood experience of weaving with her loving, nurturing mother provided the inspiration for her most famous works. With a beautifully nuanced and poetic story, this book stunningly captures the relationship between mother and daughter and illuminates how memories are woven into us all.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

From brave and bold to creative and clever, Emily Winfield Martin's rhythmic rhyme expresses all the loving things that parents think of when they look at their children. With beautiful, and sometimes humorous, illustrations this is a book grown-ups will love reading over and over to kids. The Wonderful Things You Will Be has a loving and truthful message that resonates with everyone—both young and old. 
I Dissent I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley

Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the first picture book about her life, as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable!

Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment and standing up for what's right. This biographical picture book about Ginsburg, tells the justice's story through the lens of her many famous dissents and disagreements.
Giraffe's Can't Dance Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Giraffes Can't Dance is a touching tale of Gerald the giraffe, who wants nothing more than to dance. With crooked knees and thin legs, it's harder for a giraffe than you would think. Gerald is finally able to dance to his own tune after he gets some encouraging words from an unlikely friend.

With light-footed rhymes and high-stepping illustrations, this tale is gentle inspiration for every child who dreams of greatness.
The Day the Crayons Quit The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing—his crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?
Dragons Love Tacos Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa...oh, boy. You're in red-hot trouble.

This deliciously funny read-aloud will make you laugh until spicy salsa comes out of your nose!
If Animals Kissed Good Night If Animals Kissed Good Night by Ann Whitford Paul and David Walker

In a cozy bedtime chat with her mom, a young girl wonders how animal families might say good night. Would Wolf and his pup "kiss and then HOWL"? Would Bear and her cub "kiss and then GROWL"? But what about Sloth and her baby? They move soooo slooowwwww, they're sure to be kissing from early evening until long after everyone else is fast asleep!

With whimsical art and playful rhyming verse, this picture book is perfect for bedtime snuggles.
The Book With No Pictures The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak

A book with no pictures? What could be fun about that? After all, if a book has no pictures, there's nothing to look at, but the words on the page. Words that might make you say silly sounds...in ridiculous voices!

At once disarmingly simple and ingeniously imaginative, The Book With No Pictures inspires laughter every time it is opened, creating a warm and joyous experiecne to introduce young children to the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight. 
 
 
Grug and the Rainbow See Grug and the Rainbow with your family before Grug is off on his next adventure. Grab your tickets today!
 
Posted by Beth Henderson
Tags: 2016-17
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