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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 Auriane Desombre, Spring 2017 Communications Apprentice

The New Victory Theater prides itself on its interactive activities and enriching programs for kids and their families. However, it's rare that we get to see kids performing up on our stage. This season is the exception with 26 kids under the age of fourteen taking their bows in Aging Magician! Narrating the opera-theater work, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus joins Harold onstage as he reflects on his unusual life. Giving us the inside scoop are two members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Mariana (12) and Andrei (13).

Mariana"Aging Magician—it's complicated." Mariana says. "It's about this man who has a heart attack on the subway, and throughout the show he goes between being in reality, and being in a story he is writing. He remembers things from his childhood and rediscovers the magic of his life. There are so many different aspects to discover."

"It fills me with a sense of both melancholy and joy since it's a very profound piece," Andrei tells us. "It’s a beautiful piece of music that combines songs with theater and even puppetry to illustrate a man reflecting on his life, memories and aspirations."

Mariana wholeheartedly agrees, "It's just an amazing show that I love a lot."

Joining the show as part of the chorus comes with a lot of challenges, and requires a whole new way of thinking about your performance. "When you're working in an ensemble, you always feel that you have to be more reliable," Andrei says. "You not only think about if what you’re doing will help you, but how will it affect the larger ensemble." Of course, as members of a chorus dedicated to artistic innovation, these performers are more than up to the task.

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus has been working on Aging Magician for three years, so bringing the show to life has been a long process. Being a part of that creative journey can be the most rewarding part of the performance, though. As Mariana says, there's nothing like seeing the results of your creativity coming together to make you feel inspired.

Andrei"I feel like the show is a puppet in itself. You're putting it together, creating its personality, and creating the way that it moves and speaks," Mariana explains. "The way we do that makes me feel like I have a part in that 'puppet' and its way of life."

Taking that "puppet" and performing in front of a live audience might sound daunting to many, but Mariana and Andrei feel right at home onstage. "The stage is like a home away from home,” Mariana says. "It just brings a familiar feeling to me that I love."

The New Victory stage certainly feels like home to Andrei. When he saw a show at the New Vic for the first time, he was so enthralled by the performance that he told his dad,  "Wow, I'd really like to do that when I grow up!" Andrei is thrilled to be living out his dream on the New Vic stage, where he was first inspired to become a performer.

For Mariana, the New Vic stage comes with another ingredient—the audience. "The fact that we’re performing for kids that look up to us makes it even better. To see the wonder on their faces—I can't wait."

Neither can we! Come see Aging Magician next week to catch Mariana, Andrei, and the rest of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus in action on the New Vic stage.
 
 
New Victory Thumb Auriane Desombre studies English at NYU, where she's wrapping up her senior year with an honors thesis. Outside of her classes, she reviews theater for Stagebuddy, and has written for Cracked and Urbanette. Her favorite writing collaboration thus far, though, would be the time Lin-Manuel Miranda replied to one of her tweets.

This interview was previously seen in the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Newsletter. 

The Grammy Award–winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus is gearing up for the New York premiere of Aging Magician right here at The New Victory Theater! The creative masterpiece of composer Paola Prestini and librettist/performer Rinde Eckert, Aging Magician is a composite of sonic and visual elements that paints an allegory on time, youth and the peculiar magic of ordinary life, and, perhaps, the ordinary magic of a peculiar life.

Accompanied by the Attacca Quartet, Aging Magician moves us along with Harold from the surgical repair of a timepiece to the magic show of time itself, lives and deaths, appearances and disappearances. We asked composer Paola Prestini and director Julian Crouch about what to expect from its New York debut. 
 

 

Paola Prestini Paola Prestini
Can you walk us through Harold’s journey? What is it that makes him so interesting?

JC: Basically Harold is writing a book about an aging magician who, in turn, is searching for a young boy to pass his knowledge on to. Harold takes a physical journey which follows the F train to Coney Island but simultaneously through his memories.

Are there any specific sources of inspiration for Aging Magician?

PP: I was listening to Triplets of Belleville, and a wide roster of influences: music from Tunisia, folk music from Mexico, some of the grand musicals from the 40-50’s...and of course all the operatic work I love!

What can audiences expect from Aging Magician and from the character Harold?

PP: Audiences can expect an interdisciplinary journey of music, theater, opera and puppetry led by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus into the life of our ordinary and wonderful lead, Harold.

What was your (Julian and Paola’s) collaboration with each other–and Rinde–like?

PP: We worked together on concept, story, and we have our ebb and flow. For example, with Rinde, we’ve gone back and forth—where sometime I write music and he fills in text. Julian is exquisitely sensitive to music, and he understands structure innately, so he often comments and helps on that end. 
 

 

Julian Crouch Julian Crouch
JC: As far as the writing goes, Paola and Rinde do the hard work (music and libretto) while I act as a kind of dramaturg, focusing mainly on theatrical structure. As director and co-designer, I am also responsible for the staging and the visual cohesion of the piece with collaborators Mark Stewart (instrument designer/sculptor), Amy Rubin (co-designer) and Josh Higgason (projection and lighting design).

What was designing for Aging Magician like compared to your other work? 

JC: To be honest, every piece of work has its own character. However, the main joy of Aging Magician and what makes it unusual for me is the opportunity to take advantage of a conducted chorus, not just as a musical element but also as mass image generator.

What does the chorus represent in Aging Magician?

PP: The chorus was inspired by the gondolier Charon the Ferryman, who crosses the souls across the river Styx. The chorus ushers, cajoles and helps Harold on this ultimate journey of a lifetime. 
 

 

The Puppetry in Aging Magician Choristers from Brooklyn Youth Chorus in a moment of puppetry with Harold, portrayed by Aging Magician librettist Rinde Eckert
Julian, your work often features puppetry or live animation. Does the show have any puppetry?

JC: There nothing in this show that someone would call a conventional puppet. But certainly objects and materials are manipulated using puppetry skills. So puppetry, but no puppets. 

What is the most challenging aspect of working together on Aging Magician

JC: Coordination of calendars…We are all busy people. Other than that, just the usual challenge of artists trying to create an extraordinary piece.

PP: I loved it all. The challenges, as always, are the time each discipline takes and making sure everyone’s process is respected. I couldn’t ask for a more extraordinary cast of characters and collaborators.
 
New Victory Thumb Experience the peculiar magic of Aging Magician today!
Posted by Beth Henderson
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