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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.
October 5, 2015

History Brought to Life


A great many historical tales have been brought to life onstage, from the historical plays of Shakespeare to tales of folk history, like ROBIN HOOD! With that in mind, and in honor of World Teachers Day this week, we asked our staff to recall moments from their childhoods when history was brought to life in theatrical ways. Here are a few of their stories.
 
 
Christopher Ritz-Totten, in 7th grade and now   Christopher Ritz-Totten
Public Relations Associate

I remember quite vividly the way my 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Miller, spoke about historical figures, and the various ways he would engage our class with through interactive storytelling. He approached every lesson with a passion that I loved, but in the moment I wasn’t sure how to outwardly convey my appreciation. All I knew was that I was having fun while learning! In hindsight, I can say that Mr. Miller was one of the most influential teachers I ever had.

I distinctly remember the week that Mr. Miller prepared our class for a visit from Mary Todd Lincoln. He kept telling us that the late president’s wife would be coming in to tell us about her life as the First Lady. He was right. We were in class one day when all the lights went out. The door opened, and in walked a lady in period dress carrying a flickering lantern. I was captivated, hanging on her every word. She spoke about her life, Abraham Lincoln’s life, the world in which they lived and how it differed from the world as it is now. It was in that moment that I knew learning could truly be engaging. It is this memory that I often reference as being the inspiration for my love of theater, and perhaps my commitment to educational theater.
 
Courtney Boddie, in 5th grade and now   Courtney Boddie
Director of Education / School Engagement

When I was in 5th grade, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were undergoing a huge renovation. Our classes worked in small groups to research the history of them both. We also recycled bottles and cans for the 5¢ deposit for months to help fundraise for the renovation. The culmination of the project was a field trip to Liberty Island, where still under renovation the old torch lay on the ground! I recall taking a class picture in front of it. 

When we landed on the island, there were people there to escort us from the ferry to the pedestal of the statue. The peculiar thing was that they were speaking gibberish, or perhaps a language that just wasn't known to us. They physically moved us into different lines, examining us (somewhat respectfully) and seemingly asking us questions and expecting answers. But none of us understood. As they continued to switch my classmates between different lines, each student was given a card that was a specific color and had more gibberish written on it. Some kids were shepherded away, while those of us left behind were confused, even a little scared, and I remember being slightly angry!

Eventually, the other students returned, happy and with lollipops, but the rest of us were still confused! Then, for the first time, the leader spoke in English and said that we had just been led through a simulation of what it was like to enter Ellis Island. What we had just experienced was what many immigrants experienced when they first immigrated to this country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We proceeded to have a rich conversation about what we had been thinking and feeling during the activity, and we made meaningful connections to that part of history. 

I often think back to that experience I had as a 10-year-old and it never fails to amaze me that the adults who worked there were, in essence, teaching artists! They acted in roles, and placed me and my classmates in roles, to help us better understand and empathize with the people who had entered this country through Ellis Island. They will never know how much that specific experience has impacted me.
 
Zack Ramadan, in 8th grade and now   Zack Ramadan
Digital Content Producer

I fondly recall Mr. Switzler, my knit tie-wearing 8th grade social studies teacher, who encouraged us to perform original theatrical pieces set during post-Civil War Reconstruction. In small groups over the course of three weeks, we wrote and directed short plays that brought to life the conflict between freedmen and insurgent klansmen, and the relationships between sharecroppers and landowners. In addition to being a freeing creative exercise, this project also helped us forge stronger connections with the stories of Reconstruction-era African Americans—empathy and understanding beyond what a textbook could ever have engendered.

None of this was an accident. Mr. Switzler placed a special emphasis on history being little more than the collected stories of individual people. He taught us to appreciate the value of primary source material and to seek it out whenever possible. Later in the year, he mobilized us—all 100 of us in all his classes—to create a multimedia time capsule of our community. We interviewed long-time citizens and local historians. We photographed historical places and local wildlife. We even spoke to municipal government officials—and their rivals—to gain perspective on local politics. We may not have fully grasped it at the time, but by capturing these stories and moments and recording them all in one place, we were literally making history.
 
 
Robin Hood icon   Seattle Children's Theatre's ROBIN HOOD is bringing the familiar tale of merry men, shifty sherrifs and pompous princes and to life on our stage right now. Don't miss it!
Posted by Zack Ramadan

It's summertime, and here at The New Victory we're busy getting ready for our upcoming season. All summer long, we've offered fun Summer Field Guides for you to celebrate being a kid in New York. Get inspired by the activities below and start getting in the mood for the shows to come!

School will back in session soon, so we're rounding out summer with our biggest Field Guide yet. Make a hat, touch the sky and banish your fears—it's September!

September 3rd – Skyscraper Day

Empire State Building above the cloudsSeen a skyscraper lately? If you live in New York City, you see them all the time! Super tall buildings might seem old hat nowadays, but I encourage you to take off your jade-colored glasses and tilt your gaze skyward. All around you, there are beautiful buildings: combinations of perfect geometric shapes rooted in the ground like tremendous manmade trees, and from their concrete treetops you can see for miles.

Coming to the New Vic next May, CITÉ is a shadow puppetry and animation exploration of urban shapes that tells the story of a little man chasing the sun over city rooftops. Follow his example with a visit to one of New York City's famed observation decks, and feel a little awe. It's Skyscraper Day!

The Empire State Building: Made famous, or perhaps infamous, by Fay Wray and her simian beau, this is New York's best-known skyscraper, and its observation deck is equally renowned. It's least crowded late at night, but the views are spectacular at any hour.

Top of the Rock: The observation deck atop the Comcast Building (née 30 Rockefeller Center) offers amazing views in every direction, including of the Empire State Building, which you can't see at all when you're, you know, on top of it.

WTC Observation Deck: New York's newest observation deck is in New York's tallest building, and it offers unbeatable views of New York Harbor and the surrounding boroughs. The augmented reality elevator ride is an experience unto itself, and don't miss the New Vic cameo in the interactive City Pulse display.

The Statue of Liberty Crown: Though she's not a typical skyscraper, The Statue of Liberty is as tall as many famous NY buildings, and the windows in her crown offer an amazing view of New York Harbor and lower Manhattan. You may have to arrange your visit months in advance, but she's worth it.  

Share your rooftop view with us on Instagram @newvictorytheater, #NYCité, and tell us what shapes you espy from up high. Bonus points for extra geometric photos. Then, when you get home, use your favorite building materials to make a minature skyscraper of your own!
 
Cité icon   From Toulouse, France, Le Clan des Songes returns to the New Vic with CITÉ, the final chapter in their trilogy about exploration and discovery. When the New York winter seems never-ending, just remember that you have the magic of CITÉ to look forward to in May 2016!
 

September 13th - Defy Superstition Day

Kid looking under the bed with a flashlightThe number 13 is often considered unlucky. Poppycock! There's no such thing as bad luck, and Defy Superstition Day is the day to prove it to yourself. Just keep your wits about you, like the mouse in THE GRUFFALO does to evade danger in the deep dark wood, and you'll soon realize that there's nothing to fear.

Here are some easy ways to disregard the many silly superstitions you know and fear for no good reason:
  • Open an umbrella inside. – Seven years' bad luck? This one doesn't hold water.
  • Get off on the 13th floor. – It's no different from the 12th or 14th, after all.
  • Step on all the cracks. – No one's back will break. It's okay.
  • Stay in the tub while the water drains. – You won't get sucked in, I promise.
  • Rather than counting all the things, recite random numbers. – 12, ¼, 98.6, π, -653, 0!
  • Shine a flashlight under your bed. – The only monsters there are dustbunnies.
  • And for goodness' sake, wash those lucky socks. – They're disgusting!
I'll admit, I broke my leg on a Friday the 13th when I was seven years old. What are the odds, right? Actually, they were 1 in 365—the same as any other day that year. And, yes, I am still afraid of rollerskates.
 
The Gruffalo icon   Tall Stories returns to the New Vic with kid-favorite THE GRUFFALO in October. Don't miss the mouse's adventures in the deep dark wood. Now that you've overcome all these superstitions, you can show her a thing or two about facing your fears.
 

September 15th – Make a Hat Day

As September starts to wane and autumn approaches, you might need a hat to stay warm. Celebrate this month's 75th Anniversary of CAPS FOR SALE by making a hat of your own on September 15th—Make A Hat Day!

First try out this sailboat-inspired hat—simple and fun with easy-to-follow instructions:

Sailboat Hat Instructions
Click to download
a larger PDF of these instructions.

If you're feeling more adventurous, check out these crafty hat designs:
 
Newspaper Party Hat   Newspaper party hat with flowers from maya*made Paper Crown   Vintage-inspired paper crown from Rook No. 17
Paper Strip Beanie   Paper strip beanie from Scrumdilly Do Chef's Hat   Tissue paper chef's hat from The First Grade Project

Share your cap creations with us on Instagram @newvictorytheater or on Twitter @newvictory, #MakeAHat! And if your hat holds up over the winter, you can wear it to the theater when you come to see CAPS FOR SALE THE MUSICAL at the New Vic.
 
Caps for Sale Icon   Adventure Theatre MTC is bringing their musical adaptation of Caps for Sale to The New Victory in February 2016: CAPS FOR SALE THE MUSICAL! In the meantime, re-read the book, and get ready for the long-awaited sequel, More Caps for Sale, launching October 27th from Harper Collins.
 

That's it for our 2015 Summer Field Guides! We hope you've had a fun-filled summer here in New York, and we can't wait for you to see this season's upcoming shows. School may be back in session soon, but many of the activities from our Field Guides are great for after-school fun or weekend staycations. Here's a complete list of the Field Guides and their activities, all in one place. Enjoy!
 
Velveteen Rabbit Icon   Teddy Bear Picnic Day Pick a New York picnic spot, or pick your own and add it to our map. Then design an invitation and a menu for your favorite stuffed animal!
A Midsummer Night's Dream Icon   Pandemonium Day Write and recite a silly love poem, promote peculiar food pairings and turn heads with an eccentric ensemble of mismatched patterns.
The Star Keeper Icon   Moon Day Design a constellation, place a handmade star out in the world for people to wish on and visit a local planetarium!
The Pied Piper Icon   Ratcatcher's Day Make a rat marionette, write your rat's biography and design a family portrait for your extended family.
White Icon   Vanilla Ice Cream Day Try a recommended NYC ice cream spot or add your favorite to our map. Then make your own ice cream and enjoy it while decorating eggs.
Bello Icon Pedal Punk Icon   Family Fun Month Make the most of Coney Island with our BINGO card. Then go cycling as a family on various New York City island destinations.
Handa's Surprise Icon   Friendship Day Make one of many charming bracelets for your best buddy, and caption our silly photos of unlikely animal friends.
The Gruffalo Icon The Velveteen Rabbit Icon
Handa's Surprise Icon Caps for Sale Icon
  Book Lover's Day Check out some summer reading picks from NYC librarians. Then crack open the storybooks you'll see on our stage this season.
Museum of Memories Icon   Friendship Week Make a Friendship Yearbook full of silly superlatives and quirky quotes from your friends. Then snap a déjà vu selfie somewhere familiar!
Fly Icon   Aviation Day Make your own fast-moving paper airplane and compete with your friends. Then visit a local aviation museum and see the real thing.

 
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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