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.

Contributed by Auriane Desombre, Spring 2017 Communications Apprentice

As Nivelli's War begins its New Victory run, we're really looking forward to sharing the story of Ernst and Mr. H with our New York City audiences.  In the play, the mysterious Mr. H, a concentration camp survivor, escorts Ernst, a young German evacuee, back to the boy's hometown. Their journey and the friendship they forge make for a compelling story that stays with you. We asked a few of our staff members why this show is not to be missed.

Lauren Hood, our Artistic Programming Manager, was deeply affected by the cross-cultural friendship that develops between Ernst and Mr. H. The unlikely story of a young German boy befriending a Jewish man, Nivelli's War explores the complicated idea of forgiveness and trust in a dangerous world. "Especially in times when things are very uncertain, in times of great sorrow and tragedy, we can still find one another," she says. 


New Vic Staff Allison Mui Mitchell and Christopher Ritz-Totten
"They cut through all those layers of fear and hate and still form a friendship," agrees Education Programs Manager Christopher Ritz-Totten. "I think that's very inspiring."

Mr. H is based on a real-life magician, named Herbert Levin—or "The Great Nivelli"—who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau by performing magic for Nazi soldiers.  Known as the "Magician of the Holocaust," his talent for entertaining is likely the thing that saved his life. Realizing this, he did his best to teach what he knew to others, in hopes that they too, might be spared.

The different meanings of the word "magic" captured the imagination of Allison Mui, Director of Public Relations. "You can think about magic in a couple of different ways. There's the actual art form, the practice of magic," she says. "But there's also the magic of meeting people unlike yourself, and finding a common connection. Nivelli’s War celebrates this magic of friendship—believing in each other and holding each other up."

The magic of Nivelli's War stuck with Christopher even after the final curtain fell. "It's about finding joy in the darkest times in our lives. Magic, intrinsically, is joy."

While the action of the final days of the war largely remains offstage, it haunts Ernst and Mr. H throughout their journey together. "It's a great introduction to the history of the time," Lauren says. "Because the show doesn't tell you outright all the details of the war, leaves you with questions that can be great conversation starters for you and your kids."


New Vic Staff Kevin Bradley Jr. and Lauren Hood
Public Relations Associate Kevin Bradley agrees that the show offers families a perfect foundation to start important conversations about history. "I love to leave the theater inspired to dig into the story. When you see Nivelli's War, you definitely leave with a desire to learn more about WWII," he says. "It's a show that will spark an important conversation."

Though Nivelli's War takes place after the war has ended, the journey that Ernst and Mr. H take is fraught with danger. The obstacles facing the pair may seem insurmountable, but, as Lauren says, they "help each other and lift each other up throughout their journey, as they try and find their way home."

"It's a play about two human beings who are lost," says Christopher. "A story about perseverance, love, friendship and going home." Join us to find out how Ernst and Mr. H's journey unfolds.
Nivelli's War Bring your family, and experience the magic of friendship with Nivelli's War. Tickets are on sale today!
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.
Posted by Beth Henderson
Tags: 2016-17, Staff
December 21, 2016

At Home with Mother Africa

At the New Vic, we help parents introduce the performing arts to kids of all ages and build anticipation for the shows with specially-designed Family Activities. To get ready for Mother Africa:  My Home, two New Victory staff members did the Mother Africa Family Activity themselves with their kids. These super-moms shared their experiences below.

Partner Acro

Katherine's Kids!1. Tell us about what happened when you did the activity?
We tried to clear some space on a carpeted area of our apartment. This was its own challenge in NYC! Then, the kids paired off and agreed on which moves they wanted to try first. Each pair agreed on a similar sequence, but they couldn't resist adding some enhancements like a life-sized stuffed penguin.

2. What did you learn about each other when doing the activity? What surprised you while doing the activity? 
We learned that the moves work best when the bigger kid is the base. We tried the other way around, but it was very wobbly. We were surprised to learn that the most basic form was not so easy, but once everyone felt comfortable in a stack, the rest of the moves came pretty easily. Both people need to focus—giggling does NOT help!

3. Why is it important to introduce your kids to the arts? What is your favorite part about bringing your kids to a show or circus?
Our favorite part about going to shows together is that we all see the same performance, yet each of us brings a different perspective and comes away with his or her own interpretation. We have very lively discussions after every show. Much more so than watching sports or playing a game together—which are also bonding experiences, but tend not to spark the same kinds of questions, conversations and (sometimes) disagreements!
— Katherine Freedman, Director of Institutional Giving at The New Victory

Foot Juggling
Lauren and her Family1. Tell us about what happened when you did the activity?
Our family has seen many circus performances at the New Victory, and ever since my son turned one we have practiced partner balancing together. He's seven now, and his sister is five, so after warming up with some balancing and acrobatics, we decided to try foot juggling to prepare for Mother Africa. Finding the right object for my five- and seven-year-olds to balance took some effort. We tried pillows and some foam shapes, but found that books were the right size and weight for them. We took turns balancing on each foot, and trying to switch the book from one foot to another. It was really challenging for them! They had just as much fun watching each other try as by trying it themselves. We didn't quite get to juggling, as balancing was challenging enough for the first day. After we saw the show they wanted to try again and to get even better! 
2. What did you learn about each other when doing the activity? What surprised you while doing the activity? 
We had so much fun balancing objects and each other. We talked about whether we liked to be bases on the bottom, or flyers up on top and played around with balancing each other in different ways. The kids felt confident with acrobatics and partner balances, so it was great to try foot juggling as an additional challenge. They really could see that this is a skill they would have to practice more than once to get really good at. When we saw the foot juggling act in the show the kids were blown away. They aren't quite ready to put a table up on their feet yet, but they are excited to keep practicing! 

3. What is your favorite part about bringing your kids to a show or circus?
Seeing different kinds of performances is one of our favorite family activities. It is so important to me for my kids to see that theater is not just acting, but also dancing, juggling, feats of amazing acrobatics and millions of other ways that artists express themselves. At the New Victory they get to see some of the best performers from all over the world, artists who have dedicated their lives to amazing, delighting and inspiring young audiences. Even after seeing dozens of shows over the years, my kids' faces still light up with joy and amazement at each show, and that sense of wonder is something I want them to preserve forever.
— Lauren Jost, New Vic Teaching Artist

New Victory Thumb Experience the excitement of Mother Africa: My Home during this holiday season.  Get your tickets here!

Posted by Beth Henderson
Tags: 2016-17, Staff
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