I often praise the New Victory Theater on my site. I am not employed by them, or under contract with them at any capacity. However, I do like to give them a lot of mention because they are among few great non-profit organizations in the city dedicated not only to the arts, but to exposing children to it. The calendar of upcoming performances at the New Victory has always been good, but I find it even more exciting this year.
When not providing the experience on stage, they open their doors to welcome young audiences and their family to workshop events. For kids from as young as 4 to teens, these workshops allow for the family to come together and experience things from the performers’ perspective. They provide children and adults an opportunity to engage and perform through a series of exercises, activities, and role-playing that is not only educational but incredibly entertaining.
I recently attended a workshop geared towards tweens and teens focused around the New Victory’s current production of Nearly Lear, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear and which the New York Times described as “a frisky, funny, vaudevillian gloss on a great play and could certainly serve as a tantalizing introduction to the lifelong pleasures of seeing and reading Shakespeare, who was, among many other things, a great spinner of yarns”.
I failed to make it to the performance beforehand, and worried that it might mean the workshop would be irrelevant. However, the Re-inventing Shakespeare workshop – lead by teaching artist McKenna Kerrigan – did not allow for any thing or anyone to feel irrelevant. Within this 1 1/2 hour workshop, adults and teens/tweens not only had the opportunity to examine and discuss the lines and verses from the original King Lear, but also participate in playing out scenes as they understood them, both in a group and individually. There was no wrong way to do things, no moment of awkwardness or embarrassment. Ms. Kerrigan was encouraging, energetic, and brilliant.
I worried that my 13-year-old would not participate, or would moan and groan through the process. I was pleasantly surprised to witness him engaging with others in a separate group from my own, and fully act out the roles given without a negative word or expression. Some other kids, and parents, were extremely outgoing and expressive. There were even a few who were true lovers and fan of Shakespeare and were familiar with his works. Not my son, but this didn’t really matter.
In speaking to other teens in the class, it is clear that the New Victory’s workshop team has mastered the ability to connect with this audience group. A few even shared that they have come to several of the workshops, and some expressed a preference to attending the workshops before they see any of the Shakespearean productions at the theater. “I like coming to the workshops before the shows because I feel like I understand the play a lot better,” said one loyal 12-year-old attendee.
The workshop space is also a great place to be. Over looking 42nd Street, in a large rehearsal studio, you can’t help but feel excited to be standing in a place where so much talent has stood before.
As we left the workshop, I asked my son what he thought.
“It made me feel like a little kid…and I like that. I liked that I was able to just have fun and not worry about it not being cool, cause it kinda was.”
I’m sure you think me a sensitive fool when I tell you his words made me tear up a little. But if you have a 13-year-old, you probably understand what a big deal those words were.
Thank you again to The New Victory theater for all they do, both on stage and off, and for providing us the opportunity to experience the workshop.
Please check out their site at www.newvictory.org for more information on the workshops and other family events. These workshops are $17/$12 for members and require pre-registration.