Notifications

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.

Both Dr. Jamie Bleiweiss–a native New Yorker–and Dr. Donia Fahim–a Londoner–worked in clinical practice and as university professors, specializing in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Autism is a broad term that describes a group of complex disorders of brain development that can affect a person's ability to interact socially and communicate with others. It affects one in sixty-eight New York City kids. 
Autism Friendly Spaces at the New VicAutism Friendly Spaces at the Autism Friendly performance of The Gruffalo


Jamie and Donia saw a growing need for everyday community spaces to become more accessible and welcoming to the ASD community. Time and time again they spoke to parents of kids with autism who shared their frustrations about the challenges they encountered when venturing out into the community. These families dreamed of a more accommodating world where they didn't feel compelled to explain their kid's seemingly odd behavior to disapproving onlookers. They wanted a place where they weren't made to feel unwelcome and unwanted by people staring and making ill-informed comments about their parenting skills. 

So, in response, six years ago, Dr. Bleiweiss and Dr. Fahim created Autism Friendly Spaces, Inc., to address the diverse needs of individuals with autism and their loved ones. Its mission is to partner with organizations, businesses and cultural institutions–like The New Victory Theater–to help transform minds and physical spaces to enable meaningful inclusion for everyone affiliated with the Autism Community. 

During April, Autism Awareness Month, we asked Donia and Jamie of Autism Friendly Spaces to reflect on their partnership with The New Victory Theater.  
 

Since 2014, we've been proud to partner with the New Vic to bring New York City families multiple autism-friendly performances each season. These autism-friendly performances at the New Vic are often the highlight of our year. We regularly present our autism awareness training workshops to their phenomenal team of ushers. For autism-friendly performances, we carefully plot out the most enriching ways to introduce the New Vic shows to audience members with ASD. During each event, Autism Friendly Spaces staff and volunteers are always greeted with warm smiles and support from all of the New Vic ushers and staff at the show. It feels like we're all one big family there to support the audience!

"I absolutely love working with the ushers at New Victory! After meeting them during the training workshop, it's so special to see how enthusiastic they are during events. They truly embrace the information they learn, and are able to make connections with the audience while having a ton of fun with them!" shared Dana Khani, Senior Consultant with Autism Friendly Spaces.

 

Autism Friendly Spaces at the New Vic One of the many activities for kids at New Vic Autism Friendly Performances
We also consult with the production team before each show. This is critical in order to make any adjustments to the sound or visual effects to accommodate sensory sensitivities experienced by some audience members with autism. While we may make some minor modifications (like making sure show lights don't shine directly into the audience), we always maintain the integrity of the show so that the audience members have an authentic theater experience.

"Aside from working at Autism Friendly Spaces, I'm also a Special Education teacher. A visit to the theatre to see a live performance is such a great learning opportunity for kids with ASD. Knowing that these families have access to theater means so much to me," says Keren Keyzner, Director of Programs for Autism Friendly Spaces, Inc.

Additional accommodations and supports are provided during the autism-friendly shows, including designated areas in the lower lobby area where patrons can take a break at any point before, during or after the show. Autism Friendly Spaces provides trained volunteers who oversee these break areas and offer support as needed. Various fidget tools (such as koosh balls and tangles) are made readily available for individuals who may need them, as are an array of visual supports to help make the visit to the theater more predictable. Finally, we have a designated family friendly restroom, a support that many families are grateful for at these performances!

When asked what it's like to be involved in these special events at the New Victory Theater, Keren exclaimed, "My favorite part is getting to see the same families come to every show. Watching them get a high-five from the ushers and volunteers as they see a familiar face, it makes it all worth it!" Keyzner notes, "Many families talk with us about how their child said they're only staying for 5 minutes just to 'see how they feel' and then an hour later they are walking out at the end of the show grinning from ear to ear! Additionally, as a mother, I love seeing the parents find confidence. They see that their children can be successful and enjoy the theater."
 
 
Autism Friendly Spaces We believe that autism is not a puzzle that needs to be solved. Rather, we work to unlock minds and spaces in society, that's why our logo is a key! We aim to move beyond awareness, towards acceptance, accommodation and authentic appreciation of individuals with ASD!
To learn more about Autism Friendly Spaces, Inc., find out how to volunteer, or otherwise help support the work they do, please visit their website!


 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Written by Leah Drayton, Spring 2017 Communications Apprentice

Throughout my life, Martin Luther King, Jr. loomed large over the history of the Civil Rights Movement. However, focusing solely on King when discussing racial inequality in America would be a mistake. Thanks to the powerful writing of Marcus Gardley in X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation, our audiences have had the chance to further explore the life of another hero of the period, Malcolm X. As Malcolm X said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today." Here are twelve other cultural icons who seized the future by working to make their present a place of equality and education.
 
Rosa Parks Rosa Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African American activist who was best known for being one of the people who resisted public transportation segregation. In 1955, a bus driver ordered Parks to move to the back of the bus to the "colored" section so a white passenger could sit in the front. Parks refused and was arrested. Her act of civil disobedience lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, one of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement. She continued fighting for freedom until her death in 2005. In 2013, she became the first African-American woman to be honored with a statue in the National Statuary Hall. 
Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942–June 3, 2016) was a heavyweight boxing champion and an activist for civil rights. He spoke often about racial equality in America and stirred controversy when he refused to enter the draft during the Vietnam War. Ali joined the Nation of Islam after Malcolm X, and considered him to be a mentor and a friend. Ali spoke against Islamophobia in the aftermath of 9/11 and participated in several activist efforts such as The Longest Walk. Ali, who suffered only 5 losses in all 61 of his professional fights, was also a talented poet and a major influence in rap and hip hop. When Ali died in June 2016, he was mourned around the world.
Maya Angelou Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928–May 28, 2014) is regarded as one of the best African-American writers in history, producing many award-winning poems, books, plays, television shows, and movies. She was awarded more than fifty honorary degrees. Angelou took part in some of the most important parts of civil rights history, including collaborating with Malcolm X for the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Angelou worked to raise funds in the civil rights movement, often working with other artists to support Martin Luther King’s efforts. Angelou died in 2014, while working on a new book. She was on two presidential committees, and earned the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 
Midgar Evers Medgar Evers (July 2, 1925–June 12, 1963) was a civil rights activist who sought to abolish segregation in America. He focused on voting rights, social justice and equal education at public universities. He served in the military in World War II and as a field secretary for the NAACP. When Evers was shot by a segregationist in 1963, the local hospital wouldn’t admit him at first because he was black. His death triggered numerous civil rights protests. In 2017, his home in Mississippi was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Dorothy Dandridge Dorothy Dandridge (November 9, 1922–September 8, 1965)  was an African-American dancer, singer and actress. She was lauded as one of the most beautiful actresses in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Even though she was one of the biggest stars of the time, Dandridge was no stranger to racism and frequently spoke about inequality. A Las Vegas hotel once infamously drained an entire pool because Dandridge, a black woman, dipped her toe in it. She was the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Carmen Jones. Dandridge continued to perform in various roles, some of them controversial, until her tragic death at the age of 42. 
Jame Baldwin James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was a contemporary essayist, novelist, and playwright. His work focused on the psychological and gender issues of African-Americans under the strain of racism. His short story "Sonny's Blues" is one of the most praised pieces of black contemporary literature. He often discussed issues with leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and wrote about their legacies. Though Baldwin died in 1987, the highly acclaimed documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, brought renewed attention to his life and legacy in 2016.
Josephine Baker Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975) was one of the most glamorous African-American performers of all time. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she rejected the culture of racism in America and become a phenomenon in France. Celebrated by her many fans as the "Black Pearl," the "Bronze Venus," and the "Creole Goddess" she was the first person of African descent to star in a major motion picture. During the Civil Rights Movement, she refused to perform for segregated audiences, and wrote and gave speeches about racism. Baker, who was a global celebrity, was denied service at dozens of restaurants and hotels because of her color.  She was the only official female speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. Baker died in Paris in 1975, but lives on through performances in film and television by Diana Ross, Beyonce, Sonia Rolland and more. 
Gordon Parks Gordon Parks (November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006)  was a filmmaker, director, photographer and musician during the Civil Rights movement and beyond. He was a black photography pioneer whose work was commissioned by Life and Vogue magazines. He worked for the federal government as a photojournalist and it was said of him that he used his camera "as a weapon." He photographed notable figures such as Barbra Streisand and Malcolm X, (who later asked him to be the godfather of his daughter, Qubilah Shabazz). Parks was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and died in New York at age 93.
Congressional district U.S. Representative John Lewis (February 21, 1940 -) was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1960s. He was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama. He was extremely active in the civil rights movement, including speaking at the March on Washington and surviving a brutal attack by the KKK while taking part in the Freedom Rides. He organized and took part in numerous protests and movements and has even co-written a comic book about the Civil Rights movement, March
Eartha Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008) was deemed the "most exciting woman in the world" by Orson Welles. She was born on a cotton plantation, and went on to become one of the most fascinating entertainers of her time. She spoke four languages and sang in seven. At the height of her fame, she divided her time between performing and supporting civil rights causes, and participating in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Her signature "purr" and voice defined iconic roles on Broadway and television, most famously, of Catwoman in Batman. Later in her career she continued to reach new audiences with children's projects such as The Emperor’s New Groove
Ava DuVernay (August 24, 1972 - ) was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2014 for Selma. The film tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery March to protest voting discrimination. In 2015, Mattel made a custom Barbie of DuVernay that sold out as a charity item and had to be re-released as a collector’s edition. In 2017, she became the first black woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film, 13th, was named after the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery (except as punishment for a crime).
Ta-Nehisi Coates (September 30, 1975 - ) is an African-American journalist and writer, winner of the  Hillman Prize, the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and numerous other awards. His work focuses on politics, race, and class related to history. His 2015 book Between the World and Me was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. Currently, he is a writer for the Marvel comic series Black Panther.
 
 
‚ÄčLeah Drayton is a student journalist, writer, artist, and a spring New Victory Communications Apprentice. She studies at Hunter College, where she double majors in Media Studies and English.  She is a Hunter Muse and Mellon Fellow, creating work inspired by botany, music and her West Indian heritage. Leah’s busy starting her own publication, Iambic,  painting 9 foot murals and memorizing Whitney Houston’s entire discography.  Leah Drayton
Posted by Beth Henderson
 |<  < 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8  >  >|