Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Right Show at the Right Age - Director of Programming, Mary Rose Lloyd Sheds Some Light on New Victory Age Guidelines

You know your kids best, so if you’re trying to figure out whether a show is going to be too scary, go with your gut. Many companies and venues for the very young don’t turn the lights down all the way and are sensitive to loud sounds. As kids mature their tolerance for surprises goes up. First shows should be gentle and reassuring. They may even engage all of your child’s senses so they could be asked to watch, listen, touch, smell, even taste at some point during the performance. Reassure your child in advance by reading up on the particular event you are attending and describe some of its special features to them. Talk about stories in books and on the screen. Begin conversation about their imaginations . Making the distinction between real life and pretending/imaginary play is an important milestone for a young child. Experiencing live theater can help bring this distinction to life.
- Introduction by Dr. Edie Demas

(This introduction is an excerpt from the forthcoming book Arts Smart: Raising Creative, Cultured, and Capable Kids, by Dr. Edie Demas. It may not be reproduced without written permission of the author.)

When we first consider a show for The New Victory, we start by conferring with the producing Company about which age group they feel their show is best geared toward. Then, we discuss as a staff, together with our Education department, the factors that might affect how the work is received by New York school and family audiences. These include: cultural differences, language, production elements, lighting effects and/or sound cues, and stages of child development. For example, one play in our 2010-11 season, SKELLIG, requires children to have reached a certain maturity level in order to understand some of the concepts introduced in the work, such as the natural vs. the supernatural and coping with the stresses of moving and having a sick family member.

On the other hand, a more visual, less text-based production like ZOOZOO, has a much broader scope that plays from pre-K through pre-teen audiences. Young children can immediately identify the colorful, recognizable characters and easily appreciate the humor in the non-verbal physical comedy. Older children will enjoy the theater magic of the beautifully constructed costumes and the remarkable physicality of the performers as they bring the many furry, feathered and funny creatures to life.

For those with really young families, we have begun presenting work for kids under the age of four. These intimate shows take place in the New 42nd Street Studios or The Duke on 42nd Street Theater which are just down the block from The New Victory at 229 W42nd Street. By targeting this very young age group, artists like Shona Reppe (creator of CINDERELLA and this season’s POTATO NEEDS A BATH) are able to tailor production elements to cater to the needs of these littlest audience members. What exactly does that mean? No scary blackouts before the show begins, no loud music or startling sound effects, and performers who bring the show right to the kids’ level — by eliminating a raised stage or fixed audience seating — to bridge the usual divide between artist and audience.

Since many families have children of varying ages, we often present shows that are geared toward the “whole family.” At The New Victory, this means the work will be enjoyed by anyone over the age of four. Shows in this group are accessible and appropriate for children as young as 4, but will also have elements that older children and adults will definitely respond to. Generally, they will have strong visual elements, playful physical comedy and multi-generational appeal. For example, this season’s holiday show, MOMENTUM, is considered fun for the whole family (best for kids 4 and up) because of its high-energy spectacle, laughs and upbeat spirit, and theatrical technology that encourages audience participation.

We are committed to presenting thought-provoking, terrific shows that are smartly layered and which we hope will play a crucial role in the development of life-long theater goers. In addition to providing suggested age ranges, we also try to highlight relevant details of a production in print, online and with video in order to give parents the specifics they need to select the best shows for their families. We encourage parents to use the resources provided on our website, together with their best judgment, when making their show choices, and of course, if they have any questions, they can always give us a call at 646-223-3010.

Mary Rose Lloyd is the Director of Programming at The New Victory Theater. A staff member since 1996, Mary spends a lot of her time on the road, usually seeing more than 200 shows a year worldwide in order to build each New Victory season. In the field of theater for young audiences, Mary has served on the Boards of Directors for both TYA/USA and the INTERNATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS FOR YOUTH. She is passionate about books, travel, family and anything to do with puppets.
See more of Mary Rose
here on The New Victory's YouTube channel.

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