Read about NYC's best theatre and dance productions and watch video interviews with innovative artists
Welcome to Geek Out/Freak Out, where theatre fans get super enthusiastic about things.
This week, Stages editor Mark Blankenship geeks out (via an in-person conversation) with Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming at New Victory Theater.
Today's topic: Our earliest theatre memories
Editor's note: New Victory Theater specializes in presenting shows from all over the world that are appropriate for young audiences. The New Vic even made a video for our Theatre Dictionary that defines Theatre For Young Audiences. Go watch… and enjoy the charming, singing children!!
Mark Blankenship: Okay, first… I want to ask you about the bios I've been seeing in New Victory Playbills. I notice you've got people discussing their "#loveoftheater," which is a Twitter hashtag you guys have been using all season. What prompted you to get your visiting artists involved in that particular conversation?
Mary Rose Lloyd: That was the smart idea of some folks in our marketing department, but personally I have found that it's very interesting to read about what it was in an artist's past that gave them the bug to pursue that as a career or to fall more deeply in love with the art form. And one thing that I think is interesting is that kids can see this – or they can come to the talkbacks after – and they can look at the theatre as a place to work. They don't have to just be actors. There are people called designers. There's a crew. There's a stage manager. There are all these different jobs they get to learn about, which I think is cool. Until I started seriously considering working in theatre, I didn't think about that. Who among us really did consider that we could make a living?
MB: Tell me about it! When I went to college, I had no idea what a dramaturg was, and then I ended up going to graduate school for dramaturgy. That training led me to my current career. I've always felt like my path is a reminder that no matter what we love to do, the theatre has room for us all.
MB: But obviously, you cared about the theatre before you ever dreamed of working in Theatre for Young Audiences. So what's your earliest theatre memory?
MRL: My first real memory of theatre is here on 42nd Street [where the New Victory is located]. She brought me up from Georgia for a trip to New York. She was a social studies teacher, so we did all of it – Philadelphia, Massachusetts – and I remember being on 42nd Street. I swear, I think it was the corner where Skechers is right now. And the family we were with, the other mother asked this man for directions. And it was this man in an all-white jumpsuit and a cowboy hat with a big feather coming out of it.
MB: I think I saw him earlier today!
MRL: You might have! When he walked away, I said, "Who's that, Mama?" And she said, "He's a pimp. You don't want to know what that is." But I still remember it! And the other big thing I remember from that trip is that we saw the musical Shenandoah. I remember it being amazing and being completely absorbed, and I remember thinking, "I want to do this. I don't want to do anything else. I want to do this right here. And there are pimps!" What about you?
MB: I vividly remember being in my kindergarten play, which was based on a Rudyard Kipling story about how the elephant got his trunk. I was a lizard, and I only had one line, but I worked so hard on memorizing that line that I can still remember it to this day. But anyway… I've noticed that –
MRL: Wait! What was the line?
MB: Ahem. "At last they came to the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees, just as the Kola-Kola bird had said.
MRL: Wow! That's pretty hard for kindergarten.
MB: I'd like to think my performance helped me land the lead in my second-grade play, Not Enough Room for a Sneeze. I played a harried father of 12 children. Before we get too far afield, I think it's pretty cool that your first theatre memory happened on 42nd Street, and now you work on 42nd Street.
MRL: In my mind, it's always been about this very block, but back when I was starting out in the theatre and going to grad school, never once did I think about Theatre for Young Audiences. It never came across my radar.
MB: Isn't it funny how as theatre professionals, we can distance ourselves from discussing it? Just because it's appropriate for children doesn't mean it's childish, and there are some astonishing works of children's theatre being created. The art is not diminished simply because a young person can appreciate it, too.
MRL: Exactly! Because all that matters is if it moves you. When I'm watching something that I'm considering for the New Victory, I put the job out of my mind. I am just Mary Rose Lloyd watching a show. And if a show ends up on my list of what I want to try to do, it's because there's a point where it surprises me or gives me the chills that you can get. It has to make me feel something. If I'm sitting through something that's technically well-done, but I don't feel anything… then what's the point?
MB: I agree. I've been a professional critic for a long time, and while I'm obviously considering everything from dramatic structure to design elements to individual performances, I try to begin with the show's visceral impact. I start with my gut and then go to my head.
MRL: Right. And we're not saying that it doesn't matter if the rest of a show is a shambles. Ultimately, all those things have to balance. But starting from an emotional place feels like a very pure place to start.
Your turn! What's your first theatre memory? Tell us in the comments, or tweet us at @TDFNYC.
Follow Mark Blankenship at @IAmBlankenship.
Top photo: A scene from FLY, produced at the New Victory from March 11 -- 26 at the New Victory Theater. Photo by Jim Cox Photography.