N is for "New"-nothing stodgy about these unpredictable, entertaining shows, representing cutting edge creativity from all around town and around the world. And, of course, V is for "Victory"-the giddy triumphant feeling experienced by savvy parents and curious kids who have a ball at this affordable theatrical palace in the heart of the Big Apple.
When the theater-built by Oscar Hammerstein, no less-opened its doors in 1900, it was dubbed the "perfect parlor theatre... a drawing room of the drama dedicated to all that is best in dramatic and lyric art." Featuring ornate cast and wrought iron lamps and a large dome decorated with plaster angels, it arrived bearing the ham-fisted name "Theatre Republic." Hard to believe that 95 years later, after an eclectic history as a legitimate Belasco theater, Minsky burlesque house and X-rated movie house, it would reemerge on the 42nd Street entertainment scene as NYC's "first and only full-time performing arts theater for kids and their families and classmates." Three cheers for happy endings.
Today, should you ask a child whose maiden theatrical voyage took place as a New Vic audience member (perched on a booster seat, clutching a kid-friendly program, watching with bated breath as the stage lights dimmed then soared), you'd find out just how magical the New Vic is-even to the youngest of theatergoers. Comments echo through the theater on a regular basis: "The bestest!," "Can we come back again tomorrow?," and, "I want to do that, too-can I, please learn to do that?," etc., etc., etc.
Mary Rose Lloyd, The New Vic's Director of Programming since 1996, notes, "When we started out, there weren't a lot of theaters presenting any sort of large-scale family programming, and we felt it was important for us to open a window to families."
She continues, "I like to think we were in on the beginning. Certainly now there are more and more options for families to share and I do think we were instrumental in showing other producers that theater for families can be successful... and that you don't have to dumb down performing arts for kids."
As a result of its philosophy, the New Vic has built a reputation on seeking out what Lloyd refers to as "intelligent and thought- provoking works for young audiences," a task that takes her and other key staff members around the world, checking out new performance troupes, festivals and kid-friendly productions.
"We see about 250 shows a year and love discovering new companies and having them come to the U.S. and New York for the first time. Presenting performances from different cultures is an important part of what we're about," says Lloyd, who is especially proud of the relationships the New Vic has built over the years with such internationally acclaimed groups as Circus Oz and The Flaming Idiots (in residence through January 3rd with their hilarious holiday buffoonery fest, Chestnuts Roasting on The Flaming Idiots).
Which is not to say the New Vic neglects local talent. Lloyd is quick to point out that one of their key interests is in exploring the works of companies in and around the greater New York area.
"The most fun is when we discover a new company- the thrill of the hunt," she says, referring to their heavy-duty screening process that includes watching large numbers of videos that arrive every day.
A champion of variety, the New Vic is proud that no two seasons have, or will ever be, identical. Its focus is on presenting a balance of different genres-theater, dance, puppetry, clowning, music-for children as young as one through those in their teens.
At the moment, teens are the focus with Once and For All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen, a mega-hit from the 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe described as "a mind-blowing and potent look at adolescence through the eyes of 13 astoundingly talented teenagers." This show runs January 8-17 at The Duke on 42nd Street, the New Vic's satellite venue that offers a sophisticated intimacy to shows.
From February 5-21, the New Vic will present the British children's opera (for ages 7 and up), The Enchanted Pig ("An off-beat, funny and free-spirited opera with Anglo-glam edge"). The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (for ages 11 and up), featuring two original cast members from this fast paced romp through the Bard's abridged portfolio, returns to New York from March 5-14.
Over the years, the New Vic has also developed family workshops, school outreach programs and FYI Exhibits offering information about the show or the company or the art form itself. Occasionally in the lower lobby, kids can take part in interactive exhibits: instruments to play, clown makeup to apply, stuff to juggle... things reflective of the current show. And as for the New Vic's ushers, they're all high school and college students learning the ins and out of performance culture first hand.
Concludes Lloyd, "Every year we ask, 'What else can we do, and what can we do better?' and each new season there's something new to discover... new traditions to create."
Price-Less Productions? Oh My, Yes!
When it comes to ticket pricing, The New Vic is a paradigm of affordability. In fact, a family of four can take in a New Vic show for the price of a single Broadway ticket. However, the biggest savings and really cool perks come with membership.
By ordering tickets for three or more productions at one time, you'll automatically become a member (no-fee) and save 30 percent off ticket prices and enjoy a full season of exclusive member benefits.
Exclusive Membership Benefits:
- Three free ticket exchanges
- Priority ordering for the 2010-11 season
- Season-long savings on tickets
- "The More The Merrier" discount on tickets for family events
- Free 12-month subscription to Time Out New York Kids
- Email notices and newsletters with behind-the-scenes info and access to special events
- Exclusive member discounts
For more information regarding membership, productions and playing schedules visit www.newvictory.org.