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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.


In New York, the state mandates that twenty percent of lower elementary school needs to be spent in arts education. Twenty percent, if you do the math, is one full day a week. In New York City, few schools are compliant with the state's mandate. This means that cultural institutions in New York City have never been more important.

Cultural institutions are filling the gap where, in fact, certified teachers are supposed to be. In many cases they are providing the only theater that these students will be introduced to. While cultural institutions are doing an admirable job introducing kids to the arts, nothing replaces regular, regimented classes in schools. 

Arts programming in schools is an ongoing challenge. However. the arts are not a privilege, but a right. Sadly, arts education doesn't rank high on many people's priority list. My goal has been making the arts a priority in our schools. Having said that, one of the things we have to think about is just how we judge the quality of a school's arts education program. One of the things I have talked about is a report called the "The Qualities of Quality" by lead researcher Steve Seidel. The focus of the report is on quality teaching and learning in the arts. Basically, the report has told us that there are four indicators of quality in arts education.

One: The Environment
Is the environment appropriate for the art form being taught? If students are taking dance, is the floor appropriate? For theater, is the space flexible with movable furniture? For visual arts, does the room have a sink?

Additionally, where do the arts live in the building? Are they a priority, or are they marginalized? Are they considered a core subject or simply an enrichment?

Two: Engagement
Are the students engaged? Are they participating in art making? Are the teachers engaging? The report states that students decide to engage in the first 3–5 minutes of a lesson. If you lose them in the first 3–5 minutes, you've lost them for the entire class period.

 

Victory Dance
New Victory Teaching Artist Shelah Marie leads a classroom workshop for Mother Africa
Three (the one I find particularly important): Relationships
Not just the relationship the teachers have with their students, but the relationships that the students have with one another. The teacher's job is not done if they do a good job building relationships with their students, but the students have not developed healthy relationships among themselves. The teachers must understand the importance of all relationships: relationships with parents, administrators, among and between students, and between faculty.

Four (makes people nervous): Knowledge
Do practitioners actually know what they are teaching? In some cases, we have the English teacher teaching Shakespeare. This might be the only theater class in the building! That doesn't mean the English teacher doesn't know and understand theater, but he or she is not a certified theater teacher. In some cases you have the physical education teacher introducing students to dance. Again, we might have a great physical education teacher who's good at dance, but chances are they don't have formal dance training. Knowledge is important in making sure that our teachers actually know what it is they're teaching.

The same four principles apply to the work of teaching artists. Seidel came to New York a few years back to report out some of his earlier findings. He said when teachers really knew their subject, when the students were actively engaged and when strong relationships were built–he said there was LOVE in the room. Not something that can be included in a research report, but you could feel it in the room. It's interesting to me that people frown upon using the word "love" when talking about teaching and learning. What does that say about the current state of education?

Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos | This post was originally seen on the New Vic blog in 2010. 
 
 
Russell Granet Russell Granet, Executive Vice President, Lincoln Center (LC), is internationally known for his work in arts and education. He oversees education, community engagement, and international at LC. An enthusiastic, respected advocate for arts education for more than 25 years, Mr. Granet joined Lincoln Center after running his own international consulting group, Arts Education Resource (AER). Since his appointment in September 2012, he has spearheaded Lincoln Center Education’s highly successful fundraising efforts, its renovation, and the rebranding initiative that simultaneously confirms Lincoln Center’s educational mission and its message of dedication to bringing quality arts to the widest possible audience. 

Prior to founding AER, Mr. Granet held leadership positions at The Center for Arts Education—The NYC Annenberg Challenge; The American Place Theatre; and was a senior teaching artist in the NYC public schools. He served on faculty of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University for twenty years.

Mr. Granet has worked on projects in Argentina, Australia, Egypt, England, India, Kenya, Mexico, South Korea, Tanzania, Turkey, and throughout the United States. Mr. Granet’s leadership was cited as “visionary” in the 2013 Proclamation by the City of New York and currently serves as an advisor to the NYC Mayor’s Cabinet for Children.  

 
Posted by Beth Henderson


Pied Piper Finale SceneThe New Victory Theater presents different styles of puppetry for all ages. This season alone we've had jungle creature hand puppets in Handa's Surprise, monkey rod puppets in Caps for Sale and a variety of dream-like creatures from shadow puppets to Bunraku puppets in The Star Keeper. Our latest show, THE PIED PIPER, features the magnificent work of the Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company.

Carlo Colla & Sons is a family company rooted in history. In the late 1700s, Giovanbattista Colla used marionettes to entertain and educate his children in comedy, drama and the classic arts. Five generations later, Carlo Colla & Sons is still practicing the art form and is one of the most respected puppetry companies in the world. We're thrilled to share this beautiful work of art with school and family audiences and so are our New Victory Teaching Artists! We asked them some questions in anticipation of the show…..


What do you love about puppetry?
I love the idea that as a puppeteer, one can disappear behind, and in service to, the puppet/object one is manipulating. That, and there's something so wonderful and mesmerizing about breathing life into something that was inanimate. – Josh Rice

For me, the most attractive thing about puppetry is that puppetry allows the puppeteers and the audience to see things from a different point of view. I often consider a puppeteer as a cameraman who can provide the audience with a zoomed in view, as close to inside of someone's head; or a zoomed out view, as far as the whole universe. A puppetry world won't exist without the audience's willing suspension of disbelief. To witness something that is impossible becoming possible is thrilling. It frees us from limitation and gives us wings to fly as high as our imagination can go. – Spica Wobbe

Puppets sometimes illuminate the human experience in a way that human performers cannot.  They are also an extraordinary tool for talking about tricky subjects. – Liz Parker

I love puppetry because it blends so many art forms together. Dance, theater, visual design, music and more! – Spencer Lott
 

Behind the Scenes of The Pied Piper
A look behind the scenes of Carlo Colla & Sons' The Pied Piper. Manager Piero Corbella demonstrates puppetry for a school audience.
What's special about the Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company?
This company is special because they are keeping alive a traditional art form, and have for almost 200 years, all within the same family.  That's older than many things in America! – Josh Rice

The Colla company is special because their storytelling reflects their art form. They use traditional theater techniques to tell traditional stories to modern audiences. Their shows serve as a living history lesson, giving us a glimpse into the evolution of puppet theater. – Spencer Lott

Why is important to keep old art forms like the Collas' alive?
The world is changing every second. The past seems to be moving further and further away from us faster and faster in these modern times. However, nothing can replace a Thanksgiving dinner or the national anthem before a ball game. Traditions ground you and remind you who you are and why you are here. No matter how high tech our world becomes, we have to make sure that the string that connects us to the past is always there. – Spica Wobbe

This week, I had the privilege of trying a virtual reality headset for the first time.   I feared that this experience might show me a glimpse of a future where today's performance arts are obsolete.   Though the experience was spectacular, it actually served to affirm my opinion of the importance and timeless value of performance arts that have been practiced and perfected over generations.  Shows like The Pied Piper invite audiences to take an active leap of the imagination.  While a virtual landscape can submerge us in another reality, the tangible beauty of a hand-carved puppet brought to life by the live talent of a trained human hand... well, that allows us all to see the possibility and magic of our own reality! – Liz Parker

 


 

The Colla family has been in the marionette business since the 19th century, spending their first 100 years touring northern Italy. You can follow in their footsteps with the Pied Piper's FAMILY ACTIVITY!

Posted by Beth Henderson