The New Victory Theater offices, on West 42nd Street in the epicenter of Times Square, are colorful and vibrant in a way that seems naturally fitting given the theater’s ambitious mission and diverse line-up of performances for the 2013-14 season.
A “presenting house” (as opposed to a traditional “theater” company that produces its own work), New Victory handpicks shows that promise to appeal to a wide range of children while still entertaining the adults who accompany them. As Mary Rose Lloyd, the Artistic Programming Director, says, they offer multi-faceted work for a multi-faceted audience.
The theater’s long-standing leadership team, which includes President Cora Cahan and Vice President Lisa Post in addition to Llyod, are deeply passionate about its special niche in the world of children’s theater. The hallmarks of a New Victory season are shows that are at once sophisticated and accessible, containing culturally rich, often globally sourced material that is a lot of fun. This season everything from movement, music, and marionettes to circus, cabaret, and Shakespeare will hit the stage—not to mention an all-new baby rave.
“What we’re seeking always is to break the mold in terms of what we put on the stage without it being too violent or erotic,” Cahan says.
As head of programming, Lloyd spends a big part of her job traveling the world to discover shows that are right for the theater. Her hope is that their constantly evolving roster of engaging programming will inspire “empathetic souls [who] will grow up to be running the world.” Whatever their future brings, this much we can confidently tell you about New Victory’s young patrons: They really like the shows, and the adventure of coming to a theater in the middle of Broadway and Times Square is the icing on the cake.
The mix of shows presented in the 2013-2014 season reflects the venue’s commitment to variety: their big holiday show, “Mother Africa,” melds circus arts with dance and music and traditional masks, highlighting performers from several African countries; a rendition of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” led by Fiasco Theater (a local ensemble theater company formed by Brown graduates); “Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds,” a jammin’ musical based on a children’s book written by Marley’s daughter Cedella, and featuring some of the legendary reggae musician’s classic songs; and the return of “Bello Mania,” the gravity-defying clown with the foot-high hair.
This season, Australia—which is known for great children’s theater—is especially well-represented in shows like “Fluff,” a comic concoction about abandoned toys and the quirky family who cares for them; and a remake of “Peter Pan,” which one critic described as “the playtime to end all playtimes.”
While New Victory has always aimed to please a wide range of ages, with a core audience of 4-year-olds to tweens, this season they’re planning some theatrical treats for even younger kids with three new shows: “Songs From Above,” “This [Baby] Life,” and “Baby Rave.”
“Songs,” for ages 2-5, takes place in a magical tent where puppetry and animation are used to reveal special kid moments like the joy of splashing in puddles. True to their name, the Baby productions are recommended for little ones as young as four months—and true to the New Victory ethos, they are much more than generic baby fun.
Another production from Australia, “This [Baby] Life,” is a contemporary dance piece that welcomes its very young audience, sitting on the floor with their parents and caregivers, to respond to its simple playful choreography.
Complete with a DJ, tons of interactive activities, video projections, and a come-and-go-as-you-please vibe, “Baby Rave,” is easily going to be the coolest party around for babies and toddlers and the adults who love to dance with them.
With her son beginning college this year, Post gets a bit nostalgic talking about these baby-centric offerings. “I only wish they’d been around when my son was a baby,” she says, noting that she sees nothing “crazy” about exposing infants to dramatic or edgy performances.
In fact, for slightly older kids (4-plus) New Victory has also instituted a Bridge To The Big Theater series designed for young theater-goers ready to move from the company’s smaller studio spaces into its main theater. Paired with the new Baby shows, the Bridge productions—“Me And My Shadow,” and “Still Awake Still!”—demonstrate how carefully and creatively the New Victory cultivates its audience in ways that mirror children’s growing interest and intellect.
After all, it won’t be long before those babies, toddlers, and preschoolers will become young teens ready for Shakespeare—and New Victory, of course, will be ready for them, with productions like this season’s “Measure For Measure,” the classic Shakespearean dark comedy and moral hypocrisy, which, for good measure, will be presented with live music.
For more info about New Victory, visit newvictory.org.