At New Victory Theater, multi-generational learning is an integral part of the performance.
Dubbed “New York’s theater for kids and families,” the organization‘s frequent “Family Engagement” initiatives offer up a slate of programming — from lobby activities to talk-backs — that prompt audiences to come early and stay late to engage and explore themes that come across the stage. On their website, a message reads emphatically: “The show on stage is just one act of your family’s visit to the New Victory!”
So when the theater closed their doors to the public last week, suspending all programming and performances through June 14, the organization was faced with a unique challenge: How do you continue the hands-on community element at the core of its programming without a physical space?
Their answer comes in the form of “New Victory Arts Break,” a series of curated videos that walk an at-home audience through various lessons. New Victory teaching artists guide the sessions, which are broken down into days of the week with instructions about what materials might be needed (think your own body, writing utensils, sheets of paper). Some days incorporate mini-discussions and family exercises, while others include games that were played during the theater’s live programs. All videos are marked with age guidelines.
“You can create a mini art class and do every activity at once, or just pick one or two to get your wiggles out,” the website states. “Whether you have some energetic kids (or some curious adults), explore these activities to make it work for you.”
The first week of videos are culled under the banner of “Percussion Week.” Featuring rhythm lessons, beatboxing and body percussion, the videos source their material from past and current shows, including Step Afrika’s “Drumfolk,” the run of which was cut short by coronavirus closures.
The theater’s move to the digital space mirrors that of many artists and organizations, which are now tasked with how to maintain community in a time of physical distancing.
“As you are no doubt aware, unprecedented times demand unprecedented art to guide us,” New Victory President Russell Granet said in an announcement about the closure last week. “While we continue to imagine new ways of providing the best of the performing arts to the widest possible audience, we busily prepare for New Victory Dance this summer, and many more celebrations to come.”
Top Image: New Victory Theater.