Monday, January 7, 2013

New Victory LabWorks Launches!

Last year, I wrote about our efforts here at The New Victory to support professional development opportunities for artists. So it feels appropriate to jump straight into 2013 with big programming news: The New Victory is officially launching a new work development initiative to support the creation of innovative performing arts for young audiences! Called the New Victory LabWorks Project, this program also encompasses the professional development work of the former New Vic Collaboratory, as well as advocacy for performing arts and arts education.

Right out of the gate, we are conducting a residency program with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company’s development of The Boy at the Edge of Everything by Finegan Kruckemeyer. New Victory LabWorks provides the company with rehearsal space in the New 42nd Street Studios, mentorship and feedback to help them bring this promising new play to life.

Spencer Lott and Will Seefried are hard
at work in rehearsal at

the New 42nd Street Studios!
Fin is the writer of The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy, a play presented in the 2010-11 New Victory season. His equally lovely piece The Girl who Forgot to Sing Badly will close out the current New Victory season this June. Fin is a wonderfully prolific writer—he has had 52 plays performed on five continents. In 2012 alone, 20 works (including nine premieres) have played worldwide, with performances in Argentina, Australia, China, England, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland. Not bad for a young playwright from Tasmania (who, if you ask me, is quickly becoming a celebrity in the world of theater for young audiences!).

Trusty Sidekick Theater Company is a New York City-based, not-for-profit theater company that specializes in creating “bold, sophisticated and imaginative performances for young people and their families.” The company was founded only two years ago; however, their ensemble has already produced four inventive works for young audiences: Beast, an outdoor installation on Governors Island; The Little One and the Sea of Letters, an enchanting puppet piece; Shadow Play, a multi-media solo performance; and the spooky and immersive production The House of Ichabod Crane, set in the Revolutionary War era Old Stone House in Brooklyn. Trusty Sidekick is dedicated to introducing young people to exciting, fresh and often experimental theater—a dedication that is evident in their canon of work.

It was during the run of Cheeseboy at The New Victory that Fin met Jonathan Shmidt, the Artistic Director of Trusty Sidekick, and soon after, they decided to work together. Within a year, Fin wrote The Boy at the Edge of Everything for the Trusty Sidekicks and, in May, The Boy at the Edge of Everything started its development as part of the 2012 New Visions/New Voices Festival at The Kennedy Center. Immediately after, the company traveled to Cleveland to take part in PlayhouseSquare’s LAUNCH Program for further exploration of the play. I was lucky enough to observe both of these early workshops and I immediately fell in love with the work. I wasn’t the only one; the buzz about Boy among the conference attendees at New Visions/New Voices was huge.

It’s hard not to love the play’s quirky and charming protagonist, Simon Ives, who, in the middle of his over-scheduled, hectic, 12-and-a-bit-year-old life, dreams of a place where he can just stop and think and "be." Meanwhile, at the farthest point of the ever-expanding universe, The Boy at the Edge of Everything lives by himself, as lonely and bored as "only someone with all the Time in all the History of the Universe can be." When Simon is rocketed into the cosmos (through an unlikely series of events involving "lots and lots of fireworks"), their worlds collide, and neither will ever be the same again.

Over the summer, Trusty Sidekick spent three weeks in a studio at the New 42nd Street Studios, experimenting with concepts for the staging of the play. The company devises their work collectively, using contributions from the cast and designers to inform the structure of each production. This was their first collaboration to have a script in hand at the start of the process and they wanted to find a way to explore while incorporating their company’s devising style. They decided that each week they would invite a different cast of actors and designers to take part in the exploration of the play.

This method worked really well and generated a wealth of ideas. A certain unselfconscious creativity came from the freedom to experiment with the scenes and themes of the piece without having to set anything in stone. The atmosphere in rehearsal was bubbling with energy, giddy enthusiasm and sparkling imagination. Trusty Sidekick has since returned to the studios for another three-week period in which they worked with a revised script, a sound designer and 5-person cast. Fin even Skyped into rehearsals to add to the process, despite the 14-hour time difference!

Jonathan and the Trusty Sidekicks have been very inclusive and I've spent a lot of time observing their process. As a presenter who typically sees shows in their final, fully-produced state, it’s great to be reminded of the vigorous work, trial and error, and brilliant discoveries that are part of the development and discovery process of a new play.   
Carrie DuBois, Assistant Director of Programming

This pilot residency, hosted by The New Victory, will culminate in a staged reading on January 15 in The Duke on 42nd Street. The company is eager to receive feedback, especially from kids ages 8-12, on the direction they've taken with The Boy at the Edge of Everything. The New Victory is thrilled to invite our Members to the reading (you may even RSVP here!) I’m eager to see if everyone else is as blown away by Trusty Sidekick’s work on Fin’s beautiful play as I am.

This June, the company will return to a New 42nd Street Studio for the final phase of their New Victory LabWorks residency and continue to work on the piece. We hope to expand LabWorks projects in the future, and this pilot season with Trusty Sidekick has taught us so much—these discoveries will no doubt benefit our program for years to come.

This blog was written by Carrie DuBois. Photos by Heather Nicholson and Alexis Buatti-Ramos.

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