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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.
 

 

The Way Back Home Puppets A still from The Way Back Home, Photo: Teater Refleksion
As the Arts Enrichment Coordinator at LearningSpring School, a school for students on the autism spectrum, I make it a priority to create opportunities for my students to experience the New York City cultural community. 

Our Magnolia class (kindergarten), will see The Way Back Home at the end of March. Early experiences of theater can shape students’ understanding of the world and the New Vic provides theatrical experiences that challenge what theater is and can be. If young children are presented early on with varied and imaginative examples of theater, they're more likely to explore varied possibilities and experiences in the future. Bringing young students to the theater is also critical for the development of their imagination. Theater is imagination come to life, and if children experience it in this way at a young age, they are opened up to possibilities before their worldview begins to form. The possibilities are endless! 

Developing and stretching students' imaginations through theatrical experience allows work in the classroom to be equally exciting, creative and inventive. As a teacher, I try to meet this challenge by building the show into our curriculum and our work in the classroom. For my young students, this not only prepares them to see the show, it allows them to fully experience the show by enacting artistic elements, diving into the story and connecting the experience of the show to their everyday adventures. In preparing to see The Way Back Home, we engaged in many adventures in the classroom:
 
Experimenting with the form:
When I start to teach a show, I usually begin with the element of the show that is the most foreign to my young students. In the case of The Way Back Home, we began with sounds. In watching the trailer, I noticed the unique soundscape created by the puppeteers as they told the story. We started by listening to sound effects and making movements to go with what we think the sound effects may be (riding an airplane, walking on the Moon, meeting a martian).  

 


The Way Back Home Puppets Aliza Greenberg's puppet making activity
Experiencing the story:
Small objects and puppets are used to tell the story in the play. We created small, puppet versions of ourselves, using pipe cleaners, tape and paint. We then went on a journey with our puppet-selves! This activity challenged us to use our imagination to see objects in a new light. We used dollhouse furniture to model what happens in the show, thinking of all the things the furniture could be and using sound and movement to bring the action to life. 

Stepping into the world:
The Way Back Home includes a trip to the Moon, so we physicalized our own walk on the Moon in our classroom! We used pantomime to fly to the Moon and explore, practicing spacewalks and soil experiments.  Students shared what they might see on the Moon and who they might meet. Sitting and watching theater can be hard for the very young, but given the opportunity to act it out ahead of time, the action on stage can be better understood and more interesting to watch. 

Preparing to see the show:
The book on which the play is based also provided an excellent way to explore and prepare for the show. We read the story several times, sometimes physicalizing different moments. For every show we go to at LearningSpring School, I create a social story, a story about what to expect on our trip. We read the story to help us prepare to go to the theater. After reading about the trip and learning about the show, the students can't wait for their theatrical experience!

Last year, I took my youngest students to Handa’s Surprise. They still sing the music from the show. Seeing a show at The New Victory Theater was a very memorable moment for them and I have no doubt seeing The Way Back Home will have a big impact on this new class of students.  
 
 
Aliza Greenberg Aliza Greenberg is the Arts Enrichment Coordinator at the LearningSpring School, a school for students on the autism spectrum, where she teaches the arts and coordinates cultural partnerships. Aliza is also the Project Leader for Supporting Transitions with the Museum Access Consortium and a consultant with Trusty Sidekick Theater, CO/LAB Theater, and other arts organizations. B.A., Bryn Mawr College; Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Written by Auriane Desombre, Spring 2017 Communications Apprentice

The New Victory Theater prides itself on its interactive activities and enriching programs for kids and their families. However, it's rare that we get to see kids performing up on our stage. This season is the exception with 26 kids under the age of fourteen taking their bows in Aging Magician! Narrating the opera-theater work, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus joins Harold onstage as he reflects on his unusual life. Giving us the inside scoop are two members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Mariana (12) and Andrei (13).

Mariana"Aging Magician—it's complicated." Mariana says. "It's about this man who has a heart attack on the subway, and throughout the show he goes between being in reality, and being in a story he is writing. He remembers things from his childhood and rediscovers the magic of his life. There are so many different aspects to discover."

"It fills me with a sense of both melancholy and joy since it's a very profound piece," Andrei tells us. "It’s a beautiful piece of music that combines songs with theater and even puppetry to illustrate a man reflecting on his life, memories and aspirations."

Mariana wholeheartedly agrees, "It's just an amazing show that I love a lot."

Joining the show as part of the chorus comes with a lot of challenges, and requires a whole new way of thinking about your performance. "When you're working in an ensemble, you always feel that you have to be more reliable," Andrei says. "You not only think about if what you’re doing will help you, but how will it affect the larger ensemble." Of course, as members of a chorus dedicated to artistic innovation, these performers are more than up to the task.

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus has been working on Aging Magician for three years, so bringing the show to life has been a long process. Being a part of that creative journey can be the most rewarding part of the performance, though. As Mariana says, there's nothing like seeing the results of your creativity coming together to make you feel inspired.

Andrei"I feel like the show is a puppet in itself. You're putting it together, creating its personality, and creating the way that it moves and speaks," Mariana explains. "The way we do that makes me feel like I have a part in that 'puppet' and its way of life."

Taking that "puppet" and performing in front of a live audience might sound daunting to many, but Mariana and Andrei feel right at home onstage. "The stage is like a home away from home,” Mariana says. "It just brings a familiar feeling to me that I love."

The New Victory stage certainly feels like home to Andrei. When he saw a show at the New Vic for the first time, he was so enthralled by the performance that he told his dad,  "Wow, I'd really like to do that when I grow up!" Andrei is thrilled to be living out his dream on the New Vic stage, where he was first inspired to become a performer.

For Mariana, the New Vic stage comes with another ingredient—the audience. "The fact that we’re performing for kids that look up to us makes it even better. To see the wonder on their faces—I can't wait."

Neither can we! Come see Aging Magician next week to catch Mariana, Andrei, and the rest of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus in action on the New Vic stage.
 
 
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.
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