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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.

Written by Michael Karas, Professional Juggler

My name is Michael Karas and I'm a professional juggler. You may have seen me last season in Bello Mania at the New Vic! I love juggling, but most people don’t know that much about it. Since the next show at The New Victory Theater, Water on Mars, is all about juggling, I wanted to take a few seconds to talk about four things you think you know about juggling—and show you why they're completely wrong. Check out the trailer for Water on Mars below and read on for some juggling mythbusting!

1. Juggling is for clowns.

For some reason, most people tend to think of clowns when they think of juggling. It's true that many clowns know how to juggle, but they often know how to do tons of other things, too. Clowns in the circus are often called upon to be multi-faceted performers, a fancy way of saying they're "jacks of all trades." However, most hardcore jugglers take juggling very seriously and rarely wear anything resembling a clown outfit. The jugglers in Water on Mars appreciate contemporary fashion and wear clothes that are comfortable and that make a statement. They dont consider themselves clowns, or even circus performers. They are jugglers, plain and simple. Their primary job is to make great theater using the art of throwing and catching objects.
 

2. Juggling is all about DANGER!

Michael Karas Juggler Michael Karas
Not true at all! As a juggler, I can tell you that juggling seven balls is way harder than juggling three knives or even four burning torches! While audiences seem to like the thrill of dangerous items being thrown around, the truth is that most jugglers can learn to juggle three knives or three torches in about a month. The juggling in Water on Mars, however, has taken decades to carefully craft, and these three gentlemen are certifiably the only trio who can do what they do. Thousands of jugglers can handle knives and torches; but Wes, Tony and Patrik have invented thousands of new tricks that never existed before they came along.
 

3. Jugglers always juggle the same stuff—balls, rings and clubs.

Or so you think! While many jugglers tend to stick to the three standards (balls, clubs and rings), contemporary juggling is questioning all those old ideas. Jay Gilligan, the juggler who trained Wes, Patrik and Tony, started a company called Renegade Design Lab that partnered with Renegade Juggling to research and create props that have never been used before. New ideas have emerged that will surprise you: clubs with cups for holding balls, interlocking rings that roll and even balls that spray water as they’re juggled! When props are needed faster than the manufacturing process allows, Wes tends to get out rolls of duct tape and tape props together, thus creating what I call "Frankenstein props" (some of which you’ll see in Water on Mars.) If you make it, they can juggle it! What are some things lying around the house that you can juggle? An apple, a toothbrush and a plastic plate, perhaps?
  Frankenstein Props
Tony, Patrik and Wes often use taped-together "Frankenstein props."

4. Juggling is boring.

I hear this all the time, "I like juggling for a couple minutes, but then I get bored." Most people think juggling is basically one or two patterns. Either you’re juggling objects in a circle or in a figure eight. Then you add another object… and rinse and repeat. If this is your view on juggling, I would beg you to reconsider and check out Water on Mars. These three guys are known and respected all over the world (yes, I happen to be a major fan) for their incredible invention of new ways of juggling. They're always teaching special workshops at juggling conventions about creative new tricks you can do, utilizing new techniques and mind-blowing body contortions. The reason I think this group is so special is that their show is, most importantly, fun and accessible to all audiences. They perform incredible feats, while simultaneously not taking themselves too seriously.

Juggling is my life—I've been doing it for 20 years. I've seen hundreds of jugglers from all over the world and I can tell you honestly… Water on Mars is a unique treat, and I will be in the audience more than a few times to witness this spectacle for myself. It's not often that New York City has the opportunity to play host to not one but three of the world's top jugglers. If you think you have a good sense of what juggling is, think again! These guys are taking the art of tossing and catching to new heights. Drop everything (pun intended) and come check out this crazy show! 

If you have any questions about juggling as an art, hobby or profession, comment below! I’d love to hear from you. If the question is "Should I learn to juggle?" then I'll save you some time. The answer is "YES! Start today!"
 
New Victory Thumb Put your newfound juggling knowledge to good use and come to see Water on Mars! Get your tickets today.
Posted by Beth Henderson

At the New Vic, we help parents introduce the performing arts to kids of all ages and build anticipation for the shows with specially-designed Family Activities. To get ready for Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play, David, a New Vic Teaching Artist, worked with his daughter Emma (age 6) on the Family Activity! Check out their experience below. 
 

1. Tell us about what happened when you did the activity.
Emma Reading
Emma and I read over the activity, and I asked her to take a look at all the storybooks in the living room. She chose one that used to be her favorite before nap time when she was younger, Angelina's Birthday, one of the Angelina Ballerina books. These books inspired her to take ballet classes when she was 2. She has been a ballerina ever since–for over 4 years now! 

From the book, she picked out a moment that I would  never have guessed. In this moment, Angelina's friend Flora gives her a book about dancing, and in the image you see that there is a dessert picnic set up with other presents around. 

She decided on her costume and figured out the set and props first. She was the designer and I was the assistant. She kept using the picture from the book for reference, and we would brainstorm the things that could represent what was depicted in the book. As a parent, I appreciated that she didn't get too hung up on the details. 

For the script, rather than sitting and writing it all out ahead of time, we just played and tried the scene to see what we would say to each other. We started with that and then I asked her how we might say the same thing with less words, and from that we found the lines we liked. We wrote them down to remember, and then we played the scene out!

2. What did you learn about each other when doing the activity? What surprised you while doing the activity? 

Emma and her set.I was happily surprised that she chose a simple moment of kindness between friends over something more dramatic, like a scene where she would get to be funny or speak a lot. I also enjoyed seeing how invested she was in the details of the props and set.

She really wanted to talk about what went into the decisions she made, because before we started, we watched those behind the scenes videos about how Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play was adapted and staged. After we did our scene, I used the camera on my phone, and had her sit in a chair in the middle of the set, and asked her questions about her process, as if it was a New Vic show. She loved that! She started speaking like a grown up, as if she did these sorts of interviews all the time. She would repeat the questions back and make a point of graciously thanking and complimenting her collaborator (me). That cracked me up. It was like she was this tiny professional, trying to promote her work. 

3. Why is it important to introduce your kids to the arts? What is your favorite part about bringing your kids to a show?

 

Emma and the Cast
Emma meets the cast of Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play.
Kids tend to spend a lot of time consuming the arts, whether they think of them as art, or whether they just think of them as the books, albums or shows they want to enjoy over and over again. An activity like this gives them the power to take control of something they love. To see something they might know, like Mo Willems' books, adapted into a live show is a great way to help them understand that there are people and choices behind all the things they love. All of those things they love to read, to listen to, or to watch, started with an artist, or a group of collaborators, trying to figure out the work step-by-step. Seeing live theater especially introduces that idea, because you are watching people work together to make something right in front of you. When you see grown-ups who are not in your family, and not your teachers, and not on a TV screen, show up and perform for you, it really makes a difference. 

Connecting with a story that is being created by real people, in a space you are sharing in real time, creates a level of connection, and empathy, that goes beyond other artistic mediums. There is something about watching people perform, while you share the air with them that is powerful, and can be a kind of arts education! All arts education is empathy education. 

Living in New York City, and having The New Victory Theater (or "Daddy's Theater", as she calls it) in our lives makes us feel very lucky. We have been seeing things there together since before she was 2. She looks at the season brochure, to see what shows are ahead, like she owns the place. It is one of my favorite things we do together.  
Check out Emma's Scene!

We want to thank Emma (producer/writer/director/lead actor) and David (camera operator) for taking part in one of the three Elephant & Piggie Family Activities. Want to see more show related activities? Try out all three before coming to see the show here!

 
New Victory Thumb Check out the Family Activity for Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play and make your own scene!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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