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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 performers of Machine de Cirque are building a contraption to communicate with the outside world, but their wacky stunts and daring tricks distract them from the task. Get your tickets to see this quirky crew of daredevils here!

In this Family Activity, you and your family will build a simple machine before the show, practice some contact juggling on your way and deepen your understanding through a post-show game and discussion. 
 

At Home
Machine de Cirque combines circus and technology. The five performers work together to make a machine that works, while adding in a good amount of fun. In this activity, create your very own machine.
 

Materials: Six or seven popsicle sticks (depending on size), seven rubber bands, one spoon, one small item

Step One: Gather your materials. Then, bundle four to five popsicle sticks together with a rubber band on either end.

Step Two: Use a rubber band to tie two more popsicle sticks together on one end only. You should be able to separate them on the opposite end. Place your bundle of four or five inbetween the two popsicle sticks.

Step Three: Secure these two pieces together with two rubber bands crisscrossed in the center.

Step Four: Attach a spoon to the top popsicle stick, above the center crisscross rubber band. Attach the spoon with two more rubber bands. 

Step Five: You now have a catapult! Place an object into the spoon, press down and RELEASE.

Step Six: What are some other items you can catapult? Try a marshmallow, a tiny rolled up paper ball, a bean or anything small enough to fit into the spoon.

Bonus: Challenge your family!
  • Can someone catch the small catapulted item?
  • Can you aim your object into a bucket, cup or trash can?
  • Can you play a game of catapult catch with a partner and their own machine?

On Your Way
The folks of Machine de Cirque are also skilled jugglers. One form of juggling that they practice is contact juggling, or manipulating an object while it's in contact with their bodies. In this activity, explore ways you can practice the skill of contact juggling on your way to the theater!

Materials: A paper rolled up into a ball that fits into the palm of your hand

Step One: Make your paper ball.

Step Two: Place your paper ball between your hands, with your palms facing down. Then, try to catch the paper ball as you flip your hands (your palms should now face up). See how many times you can do this in a row. Ask your family and friends to give it a try.
 

Step Three: How can you level this up? Toss it to your feet? Try it with one hand? We tried tossing the ball from our elbow and catching it.
 

BONUS: You will see the performers of Machine de Cirque do contact juggling with hats. Are you wearing a hat today? Try it out!
 
Hat Juggling

After the Show
Once you've seen Machine de Cirque, answer these questions and try this activity inspired by the show:
  • Machine de Cirque centers around technology. If you made a circus, what acts would you include?
  • Which chores would you like to be easier? What kind of machine would you make to help with these tasks?
  • What would you do if all technology and machines disappeared? Think of  how you get ready in the morning and how you travel to work or school. How would your routine change?
The performers of Machine de Cirque create games and challenges with anything they can find. In this activity, create your very own game with things you can find in your home. 




Materials: Small objects that can act as game pieces, one piece of paper, something to write with

Step One: Create your board, making sure there is a start and an end. Create different shapes for games spaces that create a path from the start to the finish.

Step Two: Each player selects a small item to use as their game piece.

Step Three: Brainstorm challenges you can write in each board game space. Here is a list of some of our favorites, but don’t forget to create your own.
  • Contact juggle a cookie with your face!
  • Blow a cup to the finish line.
  • Stack pennies on your elbow to make the tallest tower!
  • Draw off—who can draw the machine from Machine de Cirque first?
HINT: Think of challenges where someone has to finish first.

The person who successfully completes the mini challenge moves forward. The first person to get to the end wins the game. 

And Beyond
Here are some ways to continue your Machine De Cirque journey out in the world.
 
Machine de Cirque Thumb Making mayhem of their scrap metal set with a live percussive soundscape, this quirky crew of daredevils sure knows how to manufacture endless comedic madness. Get your tickets to Machine de Cirque today!
 
Posted by Beth Henderson

New Victory LabWorks was launched in 2012 to bolster the landscape of theater for young audiences created in the United States. We envisioned nurturing the creation of new work by providing New York City-based artists with dedicated rehearsal space in our New 42nd Street Studios and dramaturgical guidance, and then watching the companies soar. We hoped that one day works developed in the LabWorks program would return home and land in a New Victory Theater season. Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom, aka the Acrobuffos, were LabWorks artists in 2014-15. Since then, the Acrobuffos and their beautiful airborne spectacle have, indeed, soared, bringing Air Play to audiences across the U.S. and around the world. We couldn't be more pleased that Air Play is the first show developed as part of New Victory LabWorks to be programmed for The New Victory stage, and we can't wait to see how the other exciting projects developed in LabWorks take off. 

Olga Putilina
Artistic Programming Associate
 

We were standing on the huge stage of the Palace Theatre in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Seth and I had just turned on our circle of twelve fans and thrown in a single red umbrella when it flew beyond our reach, then kept flying, up, up and further up, far over the theater lights hanging at 50 feet.

 

Big Balloons     Photo: Florence Montmare
"Uh-oh," said Seth, "We need to call The New Victory Theater. This is a problem."

We knew our props would fly, we just didn't know quite how high. We had been working for months with Daniel Wurtzel, an air sculptor from Brooklyn, who had invented breathtakingly beautiful art out of a ring of fans with fabric swirling above it. He's a big deal—his sculptures are installed in museums all over the world. Check him out here. With Daniel, we were busy making new sculptures unique for the show we were building—a collaboration between him, a kinetic sculptor, and us, the clowns. (Yes, really, we're professional non-verbal, world-traveling clowns, even though we don't wear makeup.)

The problem was that we were soon supposed to begin three weeks of rehearsal as part of New Victory LabWorks, a program that fosters the creation of new work for young and family audiences. The rehearsal space had an 18-foot ceiling. Our umbrellas were dilly-dallying without a care in the world at 55 feet. Oops.

We called the New Vic. "We're so sorry," said Seth, "The show got too big." We kept saying "the show" because at this point, we still didn't have a title. Plus, we still weren't sure just what "the show" was going to be… other than big. Really big.

"We won't fit in your space, even though it's such a generous opportunity. Please give our spot to another artist. We'll have to find somewhere else to rehearse."

Now, what you must understand is, The New Victory is not a place you just turn down. You have to be crazy to not accept help from a theater with such a rich history of bringing modern circus and innovative family theater to the heart of Times Square. Crazy… or just too big. Our "little" show had grown into a giant cyclone on stage with a will of its own. To our horror, it wasn't just the umbrellas soaring above our height limit. Our long fabrics wafted up and got stuck in the lights, our balloons drifted past the curtains and our packing peanuts decided to live up in the rafters. Our favorite large prop, a billowy, gentle piece of fabric, inflated into a massive white monster. (We now call it "Moby." Literar-ily.)

 

Christina, Seth and Moby Christina, Seth and Moby in rehearsal

"Send me a video," Jonathan, the New Vic's then-Assistant Director of Artistic Programming, said, and we did. "Oh," he said, "That IS big." We sat in silence for a moment, not sure what to say. Before we could apologize, he said, "Give me a week, let me see what we can do."

We kept working. We figured out how to tame our fabrics (except for Moby, he's still a bit feral), we invented a system to control every fan wirelessly, we searched for advanced theater computer programs to handle the cues we needed, we rewrote our comedy, we special-ordered balloons from Italy, we borrowed some temporary costumes, the stagehands made us a template ground cloth to measure our fans and we took as many pictures and videos as we could. It was a big week.

At the end of the week, Jonathan got back to us. "Good news," he said. "We are able to move you into The New Victory Theater to rehearse." We looked at each other. Did he just say…? "We have a week before The New Victory Theater season starts when you could work with our stage crew. Plus, you can bring in your lighting designer." Due to the unexpected scale of our show, we were the first, and so far only, LabWorks artists to be able to experiment outside the New 42nd Street Studios and on the New Vic's historic stage.
 

 

Snow     Photo: Florence Montmare
This happened in 2014. After that, the team working on our show kept having big career milestones. Daniel Wurtzel's air sculptures really took off—he was featured at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, in Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna, on Broadway's Finding Neverland and now he regularly works with directors like Julie Taymor, Robert Lepage and Diane Paulus. West Hyler, our director, has, since then, directed for Cirque du Soleil's Paramour, Big Apple Circus, won prestigious awards and has even written, directed and produced his own show, Georama. Our lighting designer, Jeanne Koenig, was installing The Lion King all over the world. And Seth and I? We were still performing internationally with our show Waterbombs! The whole time, we all kept diving back into rehearsal, finagling our calendars, and working on "the show," which found its name that fateful week in Cleveland—Air Play.

It was nice to have a title, but the road wasn't over. We kept rehearsing at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, our first rehearsal "home." We were lucky enough to get another big theater, Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to give us space. Cleveland's Playhouse Square (a connection made for us by Mary Rose Lloyd, the New Vic's Director of Artistic Programming) gave us another grant, and gave Air Play its public premiere in October of 2015.

Since then, Air Play has flown us all over the world, literally. We've performed on five continents, including an opera house surrounded by active volcanoes in Chile, across the river from Big Ben in London, with cockatoos and giant fruit bats flying right outside the theater door in Australia and having tickets scalped for our sold-out show in Shanghai. 

Seth and ChristinaAnd now, a few years later, we're back at The New Victory Theater, performing Air Play at home in New York City for the first time. Put on your seatbelts, it's gonna be a wild ride.

P.S. Please don't feed Moby.

Christina Gelsone works with her husband, Seth Bloom, as the Acrobuffos. Since becoming clown partners in 2006, they have created five shows together, competed in international circus festivals, performed in over 20 countries, juggled on Late Show with David Letterman, headlined at the Big Apple Circus, and were featured in The New York Times. Their websites are airplayshow.com and acrobuffos.com.
 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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