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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.

Contuining our celebration of the New Vic's new, vibrant lobby spaces, we sat down with our Director of Education, Public Engagement Lindsey Buller Maliekel. She shares with us how our old lobby was designed to make you wait, but the new lobby invites you to create!

New Tricks in the Jack and Lew Rudin LobbyYou have an interesting title: Director of Education, Public Engagement. What is "public engagement?"
 

Public Engagement is a term we use to categorize all of the work that happens outside of our (amazing) school program. We focus on creating activities and experiences for New York City families that support and enhance the productions on our stages. We also manage the New Victory Youth Corps—programs that employ young New Yorkers in job development programs. Its a bit unusual to have a Director of Education position that doesn't focus on schools, but we have found that having a staff specifically focused on families and youth has allowed us to innovate and grow our programs in a way that breaks new ground for theaters! It comes down to the fact that we want our families to be just as supported and enriched as our school audiences.

How does the new lobby support your work?
 
This new lobby feels welcoming, adaptive and inspiring. After the renovations, we now have enough space to handle all of the people who want to engage in interactive activities before and after the shows. The space is also, generally, more comfortable now that we have furniture specifically chosen to support our performing arts-based work.
 
The most obvious change that audiences will notice are our new activity "canvases." Whether we're presenting theater, dance, opera, puppetry or circus, we can program these screens to support all of our family engagement activities. They'll be designed to serve every production—audiences will never have the same pre-show experience twice, from show to show! Another huge step forward for us is that we will have a teaching artist in the lobby for an hour before every show to support the interactive activities.
 
How are the pre and post show activities changing?

 

SKELLIG FYI The FYI for 2010-11's Skellig
The New Victory Theater has always had some form of pre-show engagement. When we first opened, we had coloring sheets for kids or helped them make buttons. For the shows that would benefit from some additional dramaturgical information, we created small exhibits, called "FYIs" About nine years ago, we began creating pre-show events for groups of families that might not have attended the theater before, called "Bring Your Family."  After a few years, these events got so big that they could no longer be contained in the event room. We faced a difficult choice—do we limit attendance or expand it? We asked ourselves: what would happen if we invited the entire audience to these events? We started choosing specific performances that invited the entire audience to participate in our pre-show events. Those performances started selling quite well and people would arrive EXTRA early to take part in these activities, called "Arts Express." Soon, we thought: wouldn't it be fun if every performance had some sort of activity related to the show? This thought transformed into the "Try This" series but soon we were longing for more space, more adaptive tools, and visual elements that were more inspiring for our family audiences.
 
With the new lobby, we can accommodate more audience members simultaneously. With more sophisticated tools to support our content, more ushers dedicated to playing with families and a teaching artist in the lobby before every single show, we're striving to create a truly interactive space for you to engage as a family before and after every single performance. 

#FamilyPlay

What are you the most excited about?
 
I am so excited that we are working with these talented teaching artists to create activities for every single show! The New Victory has an incredible ensemble of more than 55 teaching artists who are professional actors, playwrights, designers, dancers and clowns. With help from these teaching artists, families will not only be transformed by these amazing pieces of theater, but will also get to try it out for themselves! 
 
Often, parents are concerned about exposing kids to screens too early and too often. Why did the New Vic decide to use screens in the new design?
 
We debated many ideas for how best to support the interactive activities. Our goal was to lasso the energy and adaptability of screens to make the in-person experience more engaging. We carefully designed the activities for families to play together—not to play with the screens. If kids want to learn how to juggle or adults want to create opera lyrics, we want to use the screens to better enable that interaction. Our staff has often said that if we walk into the lobby and families are staring at the screens like zombies, then we've failed. Our hope is that when we walk into the lobby, we'll see families referring to the screens to learn a new skill or to converse about the themes in the show. 
 
Screens are a part of our world now—my own kids have no concept of a world without them. I think our new challenge is to use them in ways that inspire thoughts, actions and relationships. We thought long and hard about using touch screens, but ultimately decided that they lead to solitary interactions between one person and a screen. Also, we toyed with using technology that would be responsive to the actions of the people in the room, but realized that it limited how many people could experience it simultaneously. 
 
Lindsey Lindsey Buller Maliekel

We ended up focusing on screens that we could use as tools to support mainly analog, tactile activities. We didn't want the screens to be the most fun thing in the room—we want YOU to be the most fun thing in the room! 
 
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2016?
 
Like the Velveteen Rabbit at the end of the book, our old lobby was beloved, heavily used and a bit creaky.
 
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2017?
 
Inviting, interactive and inspiring

Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
 
Jason Bishop Thumb Don't be a stranger! Visit the new lobby when you join us for Jason Bishop: Believe in MagicBack by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve.

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

To kick off our three-part series celebrating the launch of the Jack and Lew Rudin Lobby, we sat down with Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor to talk about the exciting features you can expect in our new and improved space!

What spurred this renovation?
 
The New Victory team had a collective dream—to take our previously bland and uninviting lobbies and create a place that audiences would want to come with their families before the show or linger afterwards. We formed a lobby vision committee and we discussed all the things that could be improved. 
 
The new space needed to reflect the vibrancy of the incredible programming that lives on our stage. Our goal was to make it warm, inviting, family friendly, but also sophisticated, smart and tailored to our programming needs. On top of all that, we wanted practical improvements, like better bathrooms, a more functional gift shop area and a more friendly and accessible space for audiences of all abilities. We wanted the public space to be a place that sparked the imagination—a joyous, spirited, bold place to create memories and collective experiences for families. 
 
What aspect of the new lobby are you most excited about?

I think I'm most excited about the Jack and Lew Rudin Lobby (formerly named Lew's Lobby). Prior to our renovation, this space was a big, empty and dark two-room hall, with no place to sit and a dated ADA lift that was undersized and had difficulty accommodating modern wheelchairs. Our fabulous pre- and post-show activities were stuck in what felt like a back room. The room didn't match our needs, programs or personality. Now, the room has been completely transformed!

A Shot of Our New Lobby
 
What were the top three amenities you knew that we needed to include?

First and foremost—we needed contemporary restrooms. Our old bathrooms were built before modern energy codes were updated and, to be frank, they were also cold and colorless. Now, our bathrooms are both colorful and state-of-the-art, with water-saving and auto-flushing sink and toilet fixtures, sanitary hand-drying and faucet facilities and stalls which are sensitive to privacy. We anticipate the new hand-dryers will reduce the number of paper towels our theater throws away each year to less than 10,000—previously we disposed of 250,000 paper towels every season. We know that the hand-dryers may be an adjustment for some families, so it was also important to us that they could be deactivated and replaced with towels for our Autism-Friendly performances. The fixtures allow for this and we're happy with the flexibility they provide us. 

We also desperately needed more places to sit and a new food service area. With the installation of a beautifully designed cafe, plus several group seating areas, some creative undulating benches and flexible furniture pieces in the Jack & Lew Rudin Lobby, we now have a space where families can relax, eat, explore and spend wonderful quality time together. 
 
Finally, we are thrilled about the removal of the old and undersized ADA lift in the Jack & Lew Rudin lobby. It has been replaced with a beautiful new ramp that frames the lobby and makes our public engagement activities easy to reach for patrons of all abilities. 

A Shot of Our New Lobby

What inspired the color scheme throughout the lobby spaces? 

We actually struggled for many months to find the right look and feel for the lobby. It all came together when our architects Ariel Fausto and Nathan Rittgarn suggested the warm, white oak that can be seen throughout, and also the beautiful felt product line called FilzFelt. Paula Scher of Pentagram (who also designed our new logo) saw this material and was inspired to create the work of art that is now gracing our fabulous orchestra entry wall. With the invention of this original artwork, the color scheme of the lobby came to life. Suddenly the palette fell into place and the new lobby colors now create a warm, inviting and sophisticated environment that all New York families will love and feel at home in. 

Can you take us through how you decided on the materials? We're not walking on carpet anymore!
 
Our architects, Ariel and Nathan, guided this process. There were weeks where we were surrounded by colors and textures…this was some of the most fun we had! We focused on the patron experience and identified materials that felt sophisticated but not slick, warm but not cartoony. The floor (it's made from recycled tires!) was selected because it's environmentally-friendly, warm, soft, easy to clean and vibrantly colorful. It was actually a very complicated process, but in the end everything came together beautifully. 

 

Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor Photo: Alexis Buatti Ramos
What was it like to be in charge of such a large project? Did the project hit any snags?
 
I love managing projects and especially one that is driven by such unified goals. I think our biggest challenge was figuring out how to introduce technology into the space without letting it become the "be-all, end-all" of the space. We have beautiful new screens that support, but do not replace the activities. The focus is all about family experiences. This took us awhile to figure out, but we realized that our education staff knew best about exactly what we need to support our public engagement activities. We didn't need a digital sculpture for the "cool factor"—we needed a set of digital tools that our staff could use to enrich and support the family activities. After looking high and low, speaking to consultants and even working with some technology designers, we returned to the idea that what we needed was tools. So, we formed an in-house team of staff members from different departments and started analyzing how we could use technology to amplify our family activities. The going was tough, but now we can't wait for our audiences to experience what we have in store for them!  

What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2016?
 
Dark, boring, old-fashioned
 
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2017?
 
Vibrant, energetic, warm
 
Jason Bishop Thumb Don't be a stranger! Visit the new lobby when you join us for Jason Bishop: Believe in MagicBack by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve.

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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