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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 second in a four-part story about our initial findings. 
 
Contributed by Jamie Roach, New Victory Teaching Artist

 

New Victory Teaching Artist New Victory Teaching Artist Melana Lloyd works with a SPARK school
Two years ago, New Victory asked its teaching artists about joining the research team. The offer was a little mysterious—some of my colleagues joked about putting on "white coats over their plaid pants"—but the chance to stay engaged and gain new skills was intriguing. For many teaching artists, the only chance you get to "grow" is to add more gigs or become an administrator. But this unconventional investment in human capital has turned out to be beneficial to the research and to my own professional development.

What I realized is that, as a theatre teaching artist, I have many of the traits that make for an effective researcher. Specialized expertise in the field—check. Keen observation skills—check. The ability to make sense of complex human interactions unfolding—check. The habit of showing up on time, with props, ready to dive in—check. For example, one of my jobs as a researcher was to ask students to improvise the end to a short story they had seen on video. Right away, my theater instincts told me that students were overwhelmed by the task and not able to engage fully. Drawing on my teaching artistry, I knew that if I gave them clear one-step directions on becoming the character (e.g.,"Okay, get in his last position, start moving like he did"), students would be able to take off. I kept it neutral (after all, I was the researcher not a fellow actor), but I found a way to launch their performances—possibly in a way that few PhDs would have hit upon.

 

New Victory Teaching Artist A SPARK school in action with Melana
 
And the consequences flowed the other way as well: being a researcher informed my teaching artistry. As a researcher, I had the luxury to witness all the nuances and micro-narratives unfolding in a classroom. I can see a lesson starting to implode: a broken pencil, a boy with no way to sharpen it, frustrated, who then distracts another student, who then throws the unsharpened pencil at a third student and ka-boom, the theater lesson is over. I feel like I've developed a sixth sense for that first moment and ways to dive in and turn it around—for myself and for my colleagues. One day a fellow teaching artist opened up about feeling disheartened: "I don’t know what happened today—one of the most focused students was totally checked out!" As the observer, I saw tiny behaviors he missed among the 35 children. That student had been following closely the whole while, whispering responses to the friend with his head down on the table recovering from an earlier incident.

This chance to become a researcher has also changed my understanding of how impact actually happens. Getting the chance to witness a particular student over the course of a year illuminated the way that progress occurs: two steps forward, one step back and less linear than it is layered. I now think and respond with that developmental map in mind.

With the SPARK project, the New Vic invested in developing a new kind of human capital: teaching-artist-researchers. We got the rare chance to dig deep. The theater got a trove of insights. We are both like miners who get to keep all the gold we've discovered.

Learn more about the SPARK program here
 
 
Jamie Roach A graduate of Circle In the Square and New York University (MA in Educational Theatre), Jamie Roach has appeared on stages at Playwrights' Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, New World Stages and this year will reprise his role as a vaudevillian clown at the Metropolitan Opera House. As a playwright, Jamie has had three plays produced in New York City, and as company member of Accomplice Theatre Company, has helped design and act in site-specific theater for clients such as Facebook, Google and Goldman Sachs. Jamie loves to use theater as a tool for human development. He's helped corporations train their employees with improv, and worked with New York City's most dynamic theater companies in the public school system. He is proud to work as a Teaching Artist with The New Victory Theater.

At the New Vic, we pride ourselves in bringing exciting theater to the young people of New York City. We couldn't do any of it without the people who broaden and enrich the kids' understanding of the art forms on our stages: our New Victory Teaching Artists. This year we welcome nine new Teaching Artists to the New Vic community! 

You'll be seeing them around the theater at Family WorkshopsArts Express, Talk-Backs and TXT Marks the Spot, so get to know this batch of performers, puppeteers, podcasters and artists below. Make sure you say hi when you spot them at the theater! 
 

Jamie Agnello

Hello! My name is Jamie Agnello and I'm a theater artist. I spend most of my time acting, puppeteering and devising with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company. I also work as a florist with Stems Brooklyn, where I get to design and play with foliage and blossoms. 

I grew up in Oil City, Pennsylvania, where I wrote a lot of poetry in the woods and was very involved with our community theater scene. I feel so lucky to have grown up in an inclusive artistic town with lots of encouragement as a child. I'm so excited to be in a position as a Teaching Artist where I can foster that kind of creativity in young people. 

I'm so thrilled to work with the Teaching Artist ensemble at the New Vic. Being a Teaching Artist requires us to be so thoughtful about the biggest question of all: WHY ART? Why this show? Why is this important? I love that we get to play and be goofy, deliberate and creative. I'm so looking forward to all the moments of connection and energy that will surely happen with our young audiences this year. 
 

Carolyn Charpie Fagan

What I love about being a Teaching Artist is the sense of community it brings to my life. At the New Vic, we work together as an ensemble developing lessons and teaching in the classroom and other creative spaces. As a result, the work we do is fun, fulfilling and of the highest quality.

I love that I'm surrounded by artists who teach me their skills in facilitating and performance. From my peers, I've become a stronger teacher, but also a better puppeteer, clown, acrobat, musician, dancer, juggler, actor and more! Because of this community, my life is much richer. 
 

Steve Cuiffo

I'm an actor and magician who makes solo, as well as, collaborative works with other artists and theater companies. My work incorporates aspects of sleight of hand, misdirection, imitation and re-enactment.

As a Teaching Artist, I like to put myself in the same mindset as the students. I like to encourage curiosity by being curious myself. Similar to the creative process, when making a new piece of art, it's important to facilitate an environment where everyone can be confident and try things they've never tried before and know that it's okay when things don't necessarily go as planned. I'm very excited to start meeting students and help deepen their theatrical experiences at The New Victory!
 


Chelsea Harrison

The thing I love most about being a Teaching Artist is seeing my students' imaginations blossom before my eyes. Not only do I enjoy teaching my students, I also enjoy learning from them. From them, I learn the true meaning of joy. I witness robust imaginations at play and it lights me up with laughter.

Working as a Teaching Artist infuses my life with purpose and playfulness. Kids teach me every day how to be my bravest and silliest self as I explore the limitlessness of my own imagination. 
 


Rachel Lee 

My name is Rachel Lee and I am a musical theater practitioner and Teaching Artist.

As a California native, I grew up going to the beach, cooking with my family and doing many jazz hands in local community theater and school productions. I still try to maintain my easy-going west coast mentality here in NYC and I love exploring the calm, outdoorsy spaces the east coast has to offer, in addition to the wackiness of the city. 

My favorite thing about being a Teaching Artist is being able to provide students with their earliest—maybe even their first—experience with the arts. As an artist, my first encounter with the arts had a profound impact on my life, and being able to provide that for students in a safe, welcoming and engaging way fills my own life and practice with joy everyday!
 


Jose "Esteban" Rodriguez-Alverio

I'm a young actor and director from the Boogie Down (South), Bronx. I recently graduated from the CUNY City College of New York, where I earned my bachelor's degree in Theater. My proudest achievement there was directing the World of Extreme Happiness (2016), a powerful tragicomedy set in modern China. In preparation for this project, I conducted research by not only taking three different Asian Studies classes, but also traveling to China and exploring seven different cities with my Assistant Director, Johnny Wang from Shanghai, to get a more in-depth perspective of Chinese culture and history.

I'm excited to be the first alumni of the New Victory Usher Corps to join the New Victory Teaching Artists! What I love most about working at the New Vic is being able to apply my passion for the arts to bringing young people in New York City public schools to theater.
 

Jason Vance
 
Hi there, I'm Jason Vance and I'm a musician, actor and educator with years of experience working with children of all ages.  I've toured schools and libraries all around the US with my one-man band of harmonica, spoons, banjo, bass drum and tambourine.  

Here in NYC, I perform and create immersive and interactive theater with multiple companies such as Trusty Sidekick, Live In Theater and Society for Misfit Puppets, for institutions such as Lincoln Center Education and the New York Historical Society.

I teach pre-school and I'm excited to bring enthusiasm and experience in arts and education to the New Victory teaching ensemble.
 


Blanca VivancosBlanca Vivancos

When I was a little girl I had a clear idea of what I wanted: I wanted to perform, I wanted to write stories and I wanted to make the world a better place for everyone.

In my early career I explored different professional paths: I graduated as a lawyer, worked in advertising and travelled the world as the director of a not-for-profit organization. On the side, I never stopped writing and training as an actress. Still, I felt the balance was off.

So I went back to my childhood certainties and looked for meaningful ways to connect social justice and the arts. After engaging in different social theater projects in my home country of Spain, I moved to NYC on a Fulbright grant. Since then, I've been lucky enough to have countless opportunities to explore how I could make an impact as an artist.

Through my acting work, my training and my collaborations as a Teaching Artist, I've experienced how art can open our eyes to new realities, enabling us to become agents of change. And I've learned that for that to happen, we—artists, audiences—need to be able to establish a meaningful, personal connection with the art in front of us.

As a Teaching Artist I have the ability to help build that connection and the privilege to witness the magic of every meaningful discovery it provokes. 


Ben Weber 

I'm Ben Weber and I'm delighted to join the New Victory Theater Teaching Artist Ensemble. I'm a performer, writer, comedian and podcaster, who's been performing from a very young age, thanks to the vibrant theater community of my hometown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I'm proud to celebrate my 13th year as a New Yorker, having studied at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study and CUNY's School for Professional Studies, where I hold a Masters in Applied Theater. I've worked as a Teaching Artist at the Children's Museum of the Arts, the Creative Arts Team, the JCC of Manhattan and Urban Stages.

I love teaching artistry because of the genuine exchange of creative ideas that happens between a group of participants and because I get to embody the philosophy "Everyone Is An Artist!" Listen to the podcast Cozy Zone with Ben Weber for all of my thoughts, feelings and notions of coziness.
 
 
New Victory Thumb Don't miss out on all of the extra engagement activities we offer! Check out what we're offering this season here.
 
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