The New Victory Theater is located in the heart of the city, on 42nd Street at Times Square. Mary Rose Lloyd is artistic director here. Both the theatre and Mary Rose are internationally recognised for quality, innovation and courage within dramatic art for children and young people.
In order to find performances for her young audience, Mary Rose travels around the globe. She watches shows, attends festivals and meets innumerable artists. When she celebrated 20 years in the job, tributes poured in to the hard working Mary Rose, who puts together an enormous patchwork of plays, circus, puppet shows, vaudeville, musicals, dance, chamber plays and mime artists.
- We don't put on our own productions, but rather bring in dramatic art, Mary Rose says. The aim is to show American children and families that there are wonderful performances out in the world. We want to give the children a broad perspective and humanism.
Why is dramatic art so important for children and young people?
-It is a an art form of great value where children can make comparisons with their own situation. We want to tell stories that become important in their lives. Furthermore, the children have the opportunity to experience something together with others. A child who has been to the theatre becomes more emotional and open minded. It's true!
The theatre offers activities for the families in connection with the performances and also has an education department which presents the plays' context and country, including for the teachers. The students can talk to the artists after the plays.
-What is completely unique is that the staff at New Victory are young people. They are our outward face, they know the parents and make the children feel comfortable.
Swedish dramatic art is not exactly unknown to Mary Rose.
-Oh, I would like to get involved in it! The work in Sweden and the neighbouring countries is intelligent and uncomplicated. I have seen Backa teater and Unga Klara, met Suzanne Osten and talked about her baby drama. It was fascinating! There's lots of life in your part of the world. Your theatre is extraordinary. We have produced Danish works, and would like to put on some Swedish ones. That's one of my reasons for coming to Helsingborg.
The fact that the emperor actually was naked in a Danish production of the Emperor's New Clothes was viewed as absolutely unacceptable in the USA. So what then is the difference in repertoires and norms compared with Sweden?
- There's a massive difference! In the USA the plays have to be well known. People want to be entertained, absolutely no demands. Parents don't want to be exposed to anything they have to explain to their children. In Sweden you look the children in the eyes, you understand that they are intelligent beings. You are much freer and can address important subjects. We can't bring up certain topics without warning the parents. In the USA we are afraid of challenging young people's feelings. It is misdirected protection of children.
-My mission is to increase awareness of children's theatre. We are trying to interest the media, but it is hard to get reviews. We are also trying to influence the drama schools. When I was training, nobody ever spoke about children's theatre. Today's young actors learn about freedom and innovation and perform the classics, but don't talk particularly much about young theatre either. We are now hoping that more children's theatre will be produced in the USA so that we can also tour in other countries and put ourselves on display, Mary Rose concludes merrily.
Mary Rose Lloyd has been on the boards of both TYA/USA (Theatre for Young Audiences/USA) and IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth) and has received several awards. Master's degree (MFA) from Yale School of Drama.