Wanda's Monster

Audience Member Expectations

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!

Wanda's Monster

The New York Times Reviews the ‘Charming’ Wanda’s Monster

This weekend, Laurel Graeber of The New York Times came to see our latest production, Wanda’s Monster – created by our Artistic Director and Founder Barbara Zinn Krieger and Laurie Berkner! In her rave review, Ms. Graeber calls the show a “charming musical”. Read highlights from the review below then check out the entire review on The New York Times.

the new york times logo

This charming musical brings home a point worth considering at any age: embrace what you fear, and you just may find a friend.

Ms. Berkner has filled it with catchy, folk-flavored pop, arranged by the production’s music director, Kristen Lee Rosenfeld.

While the hulking, horned Mr. Ortiz may frighten a few little theatergoers at first, most, like Wanda, will want to hug him at the conclusion.

— Laurel Graeber, The New York Times on Wanda’s Monster

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!


 

 

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Alices Story NYCCT Anti-Bullying Program

We’re so Excited we Won the Activating Empathy Competition!!

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.

 

Literature at Play Sharing Day

The Fight to Keep the Arts in Schools Can’t Take a Summer Vacation

With our current educational system placing an enormous emphasis on children’s ability to perform in a variety of standardized tests, it is no wonder arts-based curricula, which are harder to assess, are getting pushed out of the schools. Children can learn the history and theories behind each artistic medium, and sure, you can test them on their ability to memorize those facts, but when it comes to creativity, there are no tiny ovals that a child has to blacken in order to get the answer correct.

The arts provide an outlet where imagination, playfulness and inspiration rule. Within this right-brained centered medium, there are no right or wrong answers. Children are encouraged to think outside of the box, to take creative risks, to dance wildly and sing at the top of their lungs. From an outside eye, one that places importance on test scores and statistics, this practice might seem chaotic and void of educational value…but they would be wrong. In our attempt to prepare our children with all of the right answers, we are forgetting to encourage them to play. In classrooms, I have seen many children who are frightened to raise their hands and offer up an answer for fear that their answer might be wrong. Those same children light up with utter joy when the silly, nonsensical lines they suggest for the chorus of an original song are praised by their teaching artists.

In his article, Considering the Underlying Rationale for Using Interactive and Improvisational Drama, Dr. Adam Blatner, a psychiatrist, explored the importance of providing children with a well-rounded education.

“Since the emergence of science in Western culture–and before that, even, with the development of the technology of writing, the left-brain functions have been increasingly emphasized and the right-brain functions relatively neglected. Research in creativity in the last century has shown that both left- and right-brain functioning is needed for optimal mental flexibility, especially that which has to include considerations of human relationships, morale, motivation, and a sense of team spirit or community.”

With schools currently unable to afford quality arts programming, I fear what will happen to those children who don’t get an opportunity in their school day to balance the test prep with creativity—left with right brain learning. Are the lack of art programs in our schools training children to be only literal thinkers? Are we ignoring the definition of multiple intelligences by serving up only one option for learning? How can we reshape our curriculum in order to value children’s imaginations as much as we value their logic? If we can appreciate the delicate, necessary balance of engaging both sides of our brain, we must then support various methods for learning. While the arts, particularly theatre, engage the right side of our brains creatively, they also support and challenge the left. Dr. Blatner also speaks about this exchange in his article.

“(Theatre provides a platform for) thinking about thinking–questioning assumptions, the meanings of words (semantics), the emotional power of images (semiotics), the way language and arguments are structured (rhetoric), looking at forms of personal and cultural self-deception (psychoanalysis and propaganda analysis)–this is an unending challenge.”

The beauty of the arts is, while they have merit as enrichment programs, they can also be integrated into our core curriculum as educational tools to extend and deepen the learning experience. They are at our disposal, beckoning us to find creative ways to inspire learning.

Barbara Zinn Krieger - Artistic Director

Barbara Zinn Krieger is the NY1 New Yorker Of The Week!

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

Literature at Play Workshop

In the Classroom: Student as “The Expert!”

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.

Read more

Wanda's Monster

NYCCT: Top Theater for NYC Families

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
books. makingbookssing.org
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.