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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.

Get to know your neighbors, learn more about your family and make a craft inspired by influential people in your life in this Family Activity for Seedfolks! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past entries here on our blog and at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Seedfolks is about a diverse community in Cleveland, Ohio. New York City is world renowned for its busy, bustling boroughs, but there's a good chance most neighbors don't know each other! In this activity, try to get to know your neighbors. 

Challenge One: Do you know who lives in your building? Do you know who lives on your street? Do you know the names of business owners or workers on your street? Make a commitment to get to know three new people and say hello to them everytime you see them. 

BONUS: What are other ways that you can spread kindness and get to know your neighborhood better? 

Challenge Two: Did you know that there are over 600 community gardens in the five boroughs of New York City? Using this online guide find the garden(s) closest to you. Many community gardens host open hours for their neighbors to come and take a peek. Make a commitment to visit a community garden or attend a similar event to become an even larger part of your community! 

Westside Community Garden

Flower Power

The play Seedfolks is based on a book of the same name. Author Paul Fleischman coined the term "seedfolks," meaning someone who has influenced you or helped you become the person you are today. In this activity, explore who your seedfolks are and then take inspiration from their lives for an art project! 

Materials: Pictures of your seedfolks, paint brush, modge podge (or a mixture of equal parts water and white glue), a clay flower pot, a seed of your choice and soil

Step One: Read this excerpt from the play where a character, Florence, talks about her family history.

My great-grandparents walked all the way from Louisiana to Colorado. That was in 1859. They were both freed slaves and they wanted to get good and far from the cotton-growing country. They went over the mountains, just to be safe, and homesteaded along the Gunnison River. Which is how my grandfather and my father and my sisters and I all came to be born there, the first black family in the whole county. My father called them our seedfolks, because they were the first of our family there. 

What is a seedfolk? Florence's seedfolks are her grandparents, because they're the first people in her family who settled in the county where she grew up. Without them, her life would not be the same. 

Step Two: Have a conversation with your family. Who are your seedfolks? Here are some ideas to help you get started:
  • Someone who helped raise you—a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend or any guardian.
  • Who is someone in your family you’ve never met, but have heard a lot of stories about?
  • Who is someone outside your family who influenced you when you were growing up? Maybe it’s a teacher, a historic figure, a neighbor or a babysitter.
Step Three: Collect pictures of your seedfolks and print them out. You will be using these in your art project. 

An example of someone's seedfolks

Step Four: Use modge podge or watered-down white glue to decoupage a flower pot with a photo of your personal seedfolks. To decoupage, cut out your photos and decide exactly where you want them on the clay pot. Attach the photos with your sticky mixture, making sure to smooth out any bumps. When the photos dry, cover your photos with the modge podge or white glue mixture to make sure they seal with a glossy finish.

Step Five: Plant a seed in your newly designed flower pot. Don’t forget to water it and watch your plant grow! 

How will your plants grow?
 
Discovering Different Accents

In Seedfolks, Sonja Parks plays the many different characters who live in the diverse community of Gibb Street in Cleveland, Ohio. Among those characters, there is a Vietnamese girl named Kim, a Guatemalan boy named Gonzalo, a Korean girl named Sae Young and an Indian boy named Amir. The actor makes each of these characters distinguishable through different accents.

The International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) is a website that collects primary-source recordings of accents from various regions in this world. Listen to the following accents:
Step One: When you listen to these four different accents, make sure you pay attention to the following:
  • Rhythm and flow: How fast or slow do they speak? Where do they pause in their sentences?
  • Inflections: Does their manner of speaking sound melodious? Are there patterns in the way they speak?
  • Stress placements: Which parts of words do they emphasize? For example, Americans place the stress on the first "o" when saying "photo" and they place the stress on the second "o" in the word "photography." 
  • Tone: Are they speaking loudly or softly? Are their voices lively or calm?
Step Two: Read the following excerpt from the play in your normal accent. Start to think about how this line would sound in any of the accents you just listened to.

My class had sprouted lima beans in paper cups the year before. I now placed a bean in each of the holes. I covered them up, pressing the soil down firmly with my fingertips. I opened my thermos and watered them all. And I vowed to myself that those beans would thrive.

Step Three: Think of someone in your family or an ancestor who came from a different country. Did they have a distinct accent? See if you can research what their accent might have sounded like by going on The International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA).

Step Four: Try to repeat the same excerpt from the play with the accent your family member or ancestor might have had if they spoke English. 
 
Seedfolks Thumb Named one of "Seven Artists You Must See" by American Theatre, Sonja Parks brilliantly embodies over a dozen distinct and diverse characters in this enthralling solo production. Get your tickets to Seedfolks today!
 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Based on the book by Newbery Medal-winning author Paul Fleischman, Seedfolks tells the story of a neighborhood brought together by one small girl planting seeds in an abandoned lot. We sat down with award-winning actress Sonja Parks, who brings to life each and every resident of Gibb Street!

1. Tell us about playing so many characters. What is it like developing each one of them?

The sheer number of characters (about 22, including all of the minor characters) and how different they all are from one another, coupled by the fact that they not only talk to each other, but also interact with each other, makes it a challenge!

When we're creating each character, developing a physical life for each is very important. I have to ask myself a lot of questions to make sure they are as fleshed-out as possible. How alike or unlike me are they, physically? How do they move or gesture? Are they younger or older, taller or shorter, thinner or stouter? I need to ask all of these questions and put the answers in my body so the character can begin to live.

After the physical work is done, I need to determine how many things I have in common with my character's personality—good or bad. We all have parts of ourselves that we're not especially proud of or that we're working to change, learn and grow from. That's what makes us human. If I'm not being honest about myself as a person—faults and all—I can't be honest about my character. Once I've answered all those questions and put the answers in my body, we get into the rehearsal room and just play! That's the fun part—seeing the characters come alive after I've laid all the groundwork.

Sonja Parks

2. When did you first read the book Seedfolks?

I had never read the book before I began working on this show! When the show's director, Peter C. Brosius, and dramaturg, Elissa Adams, first asked me to do the workshop, they gave me a copy of the script and a copy of the book. That was the very first time I'd ever read it. I was struck by the poignancy of each story and the careful way Paul Fleischman made sure he didn't talk down to his young readers. That's so important—kids are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for. When we wrote the script to Seedfolks, we wanted to make certain we stayed true to that idea.

3. How did you first get involved with Children's Theatre Company?

When I first moved to Minneapolis from Los Angeles, a friend told me about all of the theaters I should check out. Children's Theatre Company (CTC) was one of them. I scheduled an audition, got called back for three shows and was cast in all three. I had so much fun doing the first show, I knew I'd found one of my theatrical homes! 

4. Why do you think theater is important at this moment in time?

Theater teaches us how to empathize with one another. When we go to the theater, we exist in the same space together, watching other human beings navigate their problems and challenges. Often, we discover that the things we think divide us, really unify us—our insecurities, faults and places where we fall short. When we're able to connect with another person, it's harder to dismiss their humanity. 

Sonja Parks

5. What's the most memorable audience reaction you've seen to Seedfolks?

There's one moment in the show where I introduce two audience members to each other. One night, I noticed a little girl who was sitting in the front row. She was so sweet and so involved in watching the show that I couldn't ignore her! I went up to her and asked her name. She hesitated for a few seconds and then, quite seriously, said, "My name is Princess Sonja." The whole audience laughed and I, too, had to stifle a smile. I said, "It's so nice to meet you, Princess Sonja. Would you mind coming with me for a minute?" After checking with her father, she took my hand. 

I noticed an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair sitting far-stage right. I took Princess Sonja over to him and asked the gentleman his name. "My name is Saul," he said. I replied, "Nice to meet you, Saul. Saul, this is Princess Sonja." Without missing a beat, the little girl jumped into his lap and gave him a big hug. "Hi Saul!" she screamed. The gentleman was surprised for a second, but then he hugged her right back and said, "Hi, Princess." There was a collective "awwww" from the audience. I gently disentangled the Princess from the gentleman and took her back to her parents. 

When people drop their guard and exist in a moment with one another, that's when the real theater magic can begin!

6. Is there a particular story in Seedfolks that particularly resonates with you?

There are many stories in the play that resonate with me for very different reasons. One of my favorites is Sae Young—a Korean woman who has misfortune befall her. She's special to me because she doesn't allow those things to harden her heart. She keeps looking for the good in life and in people. That's a philosophy I strive to live by. 


Photos: Dan Norman
 
Seedfolks Thumb Named one of "Seven Artists You Must See" by American Theatre, Sonja Parks brilliantly embodies over a dozen distinct and diverse characters in this enthralling solo production. Get your tickets to Seedfolks today!
 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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