Friday, September 21, 2012

Ushering in the 2012-13 Season: The Joy of Family Workshops

The 2012-13 New Victory season is bigger than ever! To help you navigate every small detail, we're shining a spotlight on a few key topics. Let our staffand outside experts we've enlisted--share their insights and tips for deciding what's just right for your family.

This week, Lindsey Buller MaliekelDirector of Education/Public Engagementprovides insight on the careful planning of each Family Workshops and offers her perspective on what makes this part of her job so special.

I have been managing the Family Workshop program since 2004 (with a 1.5 year break when my husband and I were in California) first as a Manager, then Assistant Director, and now as Director of Education/Public Engagement. Supervising this program has always been one of my favorite parts of my job because it gives me the chance to get to know New Victory families and watch them discover their own artistic skills. Over the years, I have seen New Vic kids, parents, grandparents and extended family perform their own acrobatics tricks, create a family fairytale and make thousands of quirky, charming puppets.

Each year when our Programming Department unveils the new season, the staff of the Education Department starts thinking about the art forms in the different shows. We want Family Workshops to be an exciting way to learn a new skill or experience a theatrical genre you have always been curious about–deepening your understanding of what’s on stage and creating a really great memory as a family. It’s this latter idea that’s the heart of the program for me–the workshops are created to help all ages feel inspired and learn something new together. Instead of dropping your kid off at a class and watching from the sidelines, the focus of these workshops is on the family as a unit and that’s what makes Family Workshops a special experience.

We also make sure there are a mix of different age ranges and a diversity of titles so that families can come multiple times over a season and continue to attend as their kids get older. The Teaching Artists selected to lead each workshop meet with me and my colleagues to brainstorm activities (our awesome “white board” wall gets a lot of use during these sessions). This season, we’re offering 18 different workshops and will be meeting with a lot of different Teaching Artists to figure out the best way to translate all their individual artistic skills into 90 minute* experiences that will make families comfortable, teach somekey skills and give everyone a chance to exercise their creativity as a family.

While there is no requirement to see the production that inspired a particular Family Workshop, we do our best to guarantee that your experience is an imaginative extension of your time spent as an audience member. The first two workshops of our season offer a snapshot of our efforts to provide an experience that serves to deepen a family’s appreciation of the artists on our stage. The performers in Urban prepare for each performance by carefully applying make-up that is an homage to both the culture of their native Colombia, and street dance forms like clowning and krumping. Participants in our Special Effects Make-up workshop will get the chance to express their own personalities and cultures while simultaneously learning skills in theatrical make-up. Next, in our Modern Dance workshop, we’ll recreate the collaborative, playful nature in which Theatre-Rites created Mojo in the heart of New York City. Theatre-Rites’ unique approach to creating choreography is a perfect creative outlet for even the most restless kids.

Before either workshop ever begins this fall, we’ll also meet with our Ushers to prepare them to be supportive assistants to both our Teaching Artists and your family. The ushers will be there with me or another Education Staff member to play along with you, and to help provide a learning experience in which joy and laughter are just as important as the learning itself. We believe that it’s important for everyone to have a place to be creative, and a family that plays together, well, has a lot more fun than a family who doesn’t!

* Family Workshops for our patrons who are 3-6 years old last only 45 minutes (our smallest guests tend to also have the smallest attention spans).

This blog was written by Lindsey Buller Maliekel, Directer of Education/Public Engagement.

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