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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 winter comes to a close with a heartwarming, modern take on Anna Sewell's classic, Black Beauty, running from March 16–25 with an Autism-Friendly Performance on March 19. We sat down with co-creators and New Vic alums Shona Reppe and Andy Manley to talk about the joy of theater for young audiences, pantomime and equine freestyle. 


 

Andy Manley Andy Manley in Black Beauty Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
1. How does it feel to be back at The New Victory? What are you most excited about this time around?
Andy Manley: It's always lovely coming back to the New Vic. I've been quite a few times now with various shows, and it's really lovely to see how the organization has changed and developed. 

I'm excited about seeing the reaction to the show and playing around in the main theater, which I haven't done since Martha in 2001. Usually I'm in the New 42nd Street Studios with shows for the very young! Also, it's really nice to meet New York audiences, some of which have been to see other shows of mine the New Vic has presented. Of course, I have some good friends who work at the organization, too, so it's a lovely extra to catch up with them.

Shona Reppe: I love the New Vic because it's always a joy to be there. I’m not performing this time—which is a bit strange for me—but I’m excited to see Black Beauty on the main stage and to catch up with the amazing staff at the New Vic! I love NYC. I’m so thrilled, can you tell?!

2. To you, why is theater for kids so very important at this moment in time?
AM: I think theater (and art generally) helps us better understand the world in which we live. It can be quite baffling (even as an adult), so anything that helps us make it a bit more understandable can only be a good thing. It's good to know you are not alone in the universe and that others feel a similar way. 
 

 

Shona Reppe Shona Reppe
SR: In theater, anything can happen right in front of your eyes. It’s not a screen, so it can't be paused or rewound. It's interactive on every level because the audience's presence is what makes the show work. Theater doesn’t spell everything out, so, when kids use their imaginations, that's when the magic happens. If they have their parents with them, that's even better—they share a great experience. 

3. Pantomime isn't as popular in United States as it is in the United Kingdom. Is there anything the audiences should know about panto before seeing Black Beauty?
AM: For our show, all you need to know about panto is that it happens once a year, around the Christmas holidays. Pantos are usually based on a fairy tale, so there are kings, queens, princesses and, of course, a wicked villain who tries to do something dastardly. In panto, good always conquers evil and love is usually in the air, too. 

The McCuddy brothers have an act where they perform as Hamish (think a horsey version of Big Bird). They travel around the country seeing if they can get an audition. Unfortunately, their act is seen as a bit old-fashioned now, so they're not getting as much work as they used to. Because they only work at panto time, they are very down on their luck.

SR: They need to know that when a character says, "Oh yes he is," the audience responds, "Oh no he isn't!" Also, if someone asks where someone is they say, "They're behind you!" Simple. The only other thing they would need to know is that a pantomime horse is a very old tradition and it's meant to be a bit ugly and sad looking (sorry Hamish!).


4. If the McCuddy brothers came to New York, where do you think they would stop first?
AM: Poughkeepsie—they travel very slowly. 

5. What first drew you to create and perform for young audiences?
AM: I really like making work and performing it for kids. They are very honest and don't feel the need to be polite if it doesn't interest them. That's refreshing. It keeps me on my toes. The last thing I want to do is turn them off theater!

SR: I perform for young audiences because they are BRILLIANT, honest, funny and they aren't at all uptight. They just want to enjoy themselves. So do I!

 

Andy and Hamish Andy Manley and Hamish in Black Beauty Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
6. What's the most memorable audience reaction to Black Beauty you can remember?
AM: I think my mum's. I could hear her laughing all through the show. At the end she hugged me, told me how great the show was and accidentally spilled a glass of wine down my back. That's never happened with any other audience member.

SR: I remember watching someone I knew crying in the final scene. I thought, "YES! This means I've done my job!"

7. What's the trickiest part of wearing the horse suit?
AM: The trickiest part about it? My part! ...don't tell my co-star Andy Cannon though. He thinks being the head is hard but he's wrong. Being the behind is much harder. I can't see where I'm going, I have to have my head next to Andy's bottom and I have to follow Andy's footwork, which can be very...creative at times, even though we have rehearsed the moves. (He calls it equine freestyle and says he is letting out his inner pony...I think he just forgets the dance moves!)
 

 


 
Long Lost First Play Thumb Saddle up and jump headlong into a tale where loneliness gives way to hope, friends become heroes and courage saves the day! Get your tickets today!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Horse around, find out more about your family and recreate a favorite story in this Family Activity for Black Beauty! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past posts here on our blog and at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.

Family Ties

Brothers Andy and Andy McCuddy have a lot in common—they even share a first name! In this activity, find out what similarities you and your family have. 

Use this list to share all of your favorite things and figure what you and your family members have in common.
  • Color
  • Food
  • Book
  • Places you would like to travel to
  • Day of the week
  • Season
  • TV show
A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course

Andy and Andy McCuddy are performers who act in a type of show called pantomime, or panto. In this activity, learn a little bit more about panto and then try out what the McCuddy brothers do for a living. 

Materials: A blanket and an object you can find in your home that represents a horse tail (like a mophead or scarf)

Step One: Have you ever heard of panto? In the U.K., panto is a form of interactive theater, performed during the Christmas season to entertain millions of families. A panto is a traditional fairy tale complete with songs, dances, jokes, exaggerated characters and LOTS of audience participation. It's a wonderful way to entertain kids, involve them with the characters on stage and encourage them to cheer. Because panto works on two levels, there's plenty for the adults to enjoy as well.

Watch some panto! When you watch, look out for how the audience watches and interacts with the performers. 

Step Two: The McCuddy brothers are the front and back of a panto horse. A horse is common character in a panto show. A panto horse (there are also panto cows and other animals) is a horse made by two actors in a single costume. One actor plays the front end, including the horse's head and its front legs. The other actor, playing the rear end of the animal, must bend at the waist so that his torso is horizontal like that of a horse and put his arms around the waist of the first actor. 

Watch a panto horse prancing around in the U.K. for inspiration! 

Now it's your turn to become a panto horse! Using a safety pin attach a "tail" to one end of the blanket. Find a partner and put a blanket on top of you. 

Step Three: Have fun horsing around! Practice walking together and try the following:
  • Can you neigh?
  • Can you eat hay from the ground?
  • Can you trot?
Holy Foley

In the show, the Andys find their mom's favorite book, Black Beauty, and decide to act it out. In this activity, read and make the sound effects for your family's favorite story! 

Materials: Favorite books, items you can find in your home that make noise

Step One: Talk about your favorite family stories. Is there a story that you and your family love to read together? Is there a book that you always want to hear at bedtime? What are your adults' favorite stories?

Here are some of our favorite stories for inspiration!

Little Red Riding Hood
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Gruffalo
Goodnight Moon
Where the Wild Things Are

Step Two: Choose a story you would like to play with and decide who will be the reader. Everyone else will listen and make sound effects.

Step Three: Go around your house and collect things that make noise, like forks, bottles or a boot. 

Step Four: Read the story and add in sound effects at appropriate moments. Think of where the story is taking place and the actions that are happening on each page. If someone is walking, how can you make that sound? If it's raining, how can you make that sound? 

Step Five: How does adding sound effects change the story?
 
Long Lost First Play Thumb Saddle up and jump headlong into a tale where loneliness gives way to hope, friends become heroes and courage saves the day! Get your tickets today!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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