NYC Children’s Theater Education Department is proud to partner with schools in District 75, the Special Education District within the New York City Department of Education. Our arts programs for students with disabilities support language and social development with a focus on emotional literacy. This blog post chronicles NYC Children’s Theater Education Associate Sara Hunter Orr’s recent site visit to a District 75 school in Queens. NYCCT teaching artist Matt Mazur is currently leading a Literature at Play residency there for students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Read more
I remember babysitting a young boy and his sister when I was in college. We were on a walk and we spotted a nest with a colony of thousands of ants. They sped up and down their small domed hill, weaving in and out of one another with carefully choreographed precision.
The young boy seemed unimpressed by our discovery, but his sister was quite fascinated. She asked me what the ants were doing and I told her that they were practicing a new dance, which they were all going to perform at their annual colony barbeque. Her eyes widened with interest and she bent down to get a closer look at the dance practice. Her brother, on the other hand, thought my answer was ludicrous.
I recently had the chance to read through Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth’s excellent Dear Albert Einstein script. I loved the story and flew through the pages. Then I immediately found myself recollecting my own school memories and relating to Susan.
Dear Albert Einstein tells Susan’s story. She is a 12-year-old math ‘nerd’ who upon entering middle school decides she wants to leave that behind in favor of trying to fit in with the popular girls. Luckily, she conjures up her idol, Albert Einstein, in her imagination and he helps her find her way. What follows is a touching, smart and funny story of self-discovery.
10 years ago I was a high school introvert, wanting to go about my days without being noticed while also wanting to make friends and have the social life I thought high school students should have – a major conundrum. It struck me while reading Mr. Kaplan and Ms. Wordsworth’s words, how after all the time that has passed, I still found myself relating to Susan’s journey.
There is so much pressure to look and act a certain way, especially by your peers and especially in that middle-to-high school age bracket, which is why it is so important to have a passion and to nurture it. For Susan it’s math; for me it was days spent in the back of the library writing; creating characters and worlds that were all my own. And it was my love of writing that allowed me to stay true to myself, not concern myself with what others thought and eventually did find me those friends I thought I should have.
Like Susan, we all leave school having gone on a journey that ends with a better understanding of self. Although it’s probably more fun to have Einstein pop up when you least expect him!
How did your middle and high school experiences help shape you?
As the Director of Education at New York City Children’s Theater, I have the task of creating age-appropriate curricula for both elementary and middle school students. In creating these programs, I’ve had to pay close attention to the developmental difference between the ages of these children so that I could address relevant and interesting topics that appealed to these specific ages, and respect (yet challenge) the inhibiting social/personal barriers that develop and strengthen with age. Read more
With Wanda’s Monster opening this Friday, I’ve got audiences on my mind. What is a good audience member? Is it only someone who is willing to pay the ticket price? Or is it more than that—is it someone who laughs and responds and listens at all the right moments the creative team wants them to?
(It’s a lovely, lovely pipedream to think that we can control our audiences.)
For the last few shows I’ve been a part of at NYC Children’s Theater, we’ve had pretty diverse audiences, from little ones to grandparents. In general, they’ve all been engaged, responsive audiences, leaving us very little to complain about.
Wanda’s Monster, unlike The Butterfly or Louis Armstrong: Jazz Ambassador, is aimed at a very young audience, 4 to 8 year olds (Even though I know we will have some babes in arms). The expectation from our audience is completely different. We’ll be doing well if the little tykes dance and bounce and clap in the aisles.
What kind of expectations do you have of your audiences, if any? Do you think it’s best to prepare your audiences, or do you just roll the dice and let them respond and behave naturally?
Wanda’s Monster tells the story of Wanda, a spunky 5 year old with a vivid imagination, is convinced there’s a monster in her closet. Granny agrees, and contrary to Wanda’s expectations, convinces Wanda that “Monster” is in her closet because he is shy and friendless, not because he’s scary. With Granny’s encouragement, Wanda befriends “Monster,” turning a potentially fearful situation into a lesson in acceptance and friendship.
Filled with catchy new songs from children’s music star Laurie Berkner and featuring “Monster Boogie,” one of her all time hits, Wanda’s Monster will delight 4-8 year olds and their parents too!
NOTE: Laurie Berkner will NOT be performing in Wanda’s Monster, but we hope you enjoy her new songs!
New York City Children’s Theater is a WINNER of the Townsend Press Prize through Donors Choose in the Ashoka Changemakers Activating Empathy Competition!
$5,000 will go towards bringing our anti-bullying program, Alice’s Story, to PS 144 in Queens.
Prizes went to the top five solutions submitted by a U.S. public-school teacher, student, or administrator to advance the mastery of empathy in a way that addresses bullying.
Read more about other Activating Empathy prize winners to see what schools and organizations all over the country are doing to combat bullying.
Promoting empathy and teaching emotional literacy are central to the mission of New York City Children’s Theater, and we are thrilled to get this kind of encouragement from organizations that share our values. Thank you Ashoka Changemakers, Donors Choose and Townsend Press!
Alice’s Story is an interactive theater performance and workshop designed to help 1st to 3rd grade students understand and deal with bullying. This show has been performed in over 200 schools to thousands of students. Two actor-educators visit a classroom and facilitate a 45-minute drama exploring the serious issue of bullying. The workshop includes moments of scripted performance, guided discussion and improvisation.
Alice’s Story has three goals:
•To create safe learning environments for all students
•To cultivate communities of respect and inclusion
•To empower students to be agents of positive change
When Deanna spreads a mean rumor about Alice at school, Alice is crushed. Will she learn how to safely deal with bullies, and will Maria, a classmate who witnesses the bullying, come to Alice’s defense? Throughout this interactive drama and workshop, students will explore the themes of empathy, kindness, and community building.
New York City Children’s Theater Artistic Director Barbara Zinn Krieger is the NY1 New Yorker of the Week!
The segment, which aired on Fri., April 6, 2012
Barbara works tirelessly to bring theater and arts education to students all over the city, and it is so great to see her efforts acknowledged like this.
We are very proud of Barbara, and very excited about exposing NY1 viewers to our programming!
More About Barbara Zinn Krieger
Barbara Zinn Krieger founded New York City Children’s Theater during her 22-year tenure as Executive Director and Founder of New York’s Tony Award-winning Vineyard Theatre. Barbara has been writing children’s operas and musicals for more than 20 years. With composer James Kurtz, she wrote The Merry Muldoons (Kupferberg Center at Queens College) and Appelemando’s Dreams (Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Kupferberg Center at Queens College). She’s collaborated with composer Charles Greenberg on Little Kit (Eugene O’Neill Theater Center), Young Charles Dickens, The Butterfly, Jose Limon: The Making of an Artist, and Sky Boys: The Building of the Empire State Building (New York City Children’s Theater). Also for New York City Children’s Theater she wrote the book and lyrics for Beautiful Warrior (Jin Xiang, composer), the book and additional lyrics for The Upside Down Boy (lyrics by Juan Felipe Herrera, music by Christian Amigo), and the books for The Orphan Singer (music by Antonio Vivaldi), Wanda’s Monster and The Amazing Adventures of Harvey and the Princess,(music and lyrics by Laurie Berkner), and dance/drama, Ballerina Swan, (choreography by Michael McGowan). Barbara is currently librettist for Clara: The Life and Loves of Clara Schumann, music composed by Victoria Bond; and Dickens and Nelly, an adult two act musical with composer Charles Greenberg. Barbara’s latest new projects for NYCCT include Ballerina Swan and the Nutcracker, a sequel to Ballerina Swan, Interstellar Cinderella and Fish in a Tree. Barbara is a recipient of the Opera America Distinguished Service Award. She holds a BFA in Theatre from Columbia University School of the Arts, and an MA in Speech and Theatre from Columbia University Teachers College.
In New York City Children’s Theater Residencies, our teaching artists lead students in acting, playwriting and songwriting workshops to adapt a children’s book into an original play.
Before the teaching artists step foot in a classroom, we prepare them with the tools necessary to use our curriculum in professional development workshops. In this professional development, we encourage the teaching artists to use the student’s own original language as they create the script and lyrics in the playwriting and songwriting workshops. In this process, students are prompted to activate their prior knowledge and be the sole creators of their work. This sets up a “mantle of the expert” tone for the classroom, where the students will hopefully feel ownership over the finished product.
New York City Children’s Theater (formerly Making Books Sing) was named a top theater for NYC families by New York Family magazine!
Check us out in their article Plays for the Pint Sized.
Making Books Sing: This critically acclaimed non-profit serves up a unique mix of literacy
and musical theater with its lively reproductions of contemporary children’s
Coming Soon: The Butterfly (Apr. 14-29)
The article is also included in their January 2012 issue, with Moomah owner Tracey Stewart, wife the hilarious Jon Stewart, on the cover.
We are extremely grateful to New York Family magazine for including us on this amazing list! Thank you!
– Kimberly Wilson Marshall
Our New Name
As a result of our accomplishments and expanded programming, the staff and Board felt that we needed a new name that would more accurately reflect the breadth of our work and help us to more clearly define our role in the City’s nonprofit landscape.
On October 21, 2014, Making Books Sing officially changed our name to New York City Children’s Theater at a press conference at The Vineyard Theatre.
Over the years our programming and breadth of work have grown immensely. We’ve gone from producing one new show a year to four, from having education programs in 20 NYC schools and community centers to 100, and from reaching 10,000 kids a year to 20,000 across all five boroughs. While our theater work used to only consist of musical adaptations of books, we now explore a variety of different sources and genres for the stage including dance, puppetry and interactive applied theater. We are currently commissioning more new pieces for family audiences than any other organization in New York City.
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