In a world with fewer and fewer certainties, Pleasantville’s Lisa Post has two ironclad guarantees: If you take your child to a performance at her New Victory Theater, he or she will have a great time.
And you won’t look at your watch.
For more than a dozen years, the New Victory has been the only New York stop for shows geared to children but entertaining to adults.
Post and her team at New 42nd Street – the group that helped turn a boulevard of ’80s peep shows into a 21st-century kid-friendly thoroughfare – this year offers 15 shows: circuses, dance, music, theater, puppetry, physical comedy and “daredevil theater.”
It all takes place in the oldest operating theater in New York: a 499-seat jewel built in 1901 by Oscar Hammerstein, the father of the great Broadway lyricist and librettist.
“It’s not red, blue and yellow,” says Post. “It doesn’t look like kiddies’ theater. It’s like going to any other theater in New York. The theater, like the programming, is respectful of the audience.”
The only concession to the audience’s age is that the shows tend to be short; most are less than an hour. Only two of this season’s productions – “La Famiglia Dimitri (March 27 to April 19) and “Henry V” (Feb. 27 to March 8) – have intermissions.
“People want to get in and get out and we find that with adults, as well,” Post says.
Billed as “family theater your family never outgrows,” New Victory’s Post and her programming chief, Mary Rose Lloyd, scout the globe, looking for worthy works.
“People want to come to New York,” Post says. “We have a great reputation among theater groups and once they sign with us, they then book a tour around their stop here.”
Sometimes, the New Vic is added to an established tour, as the only New York stop for the acts.
“And we do a lot of premieres,” she says. “Most of the stuff people are seeing here hasn’t been to New York before.”
This year’s schedule – which is under way with Seattle Children’s Theatre’s production of “The Green Sheep,” for audiences ages 1 to 5 – was nailed down in January.
What is it like to be in the audience among 1- to 5-year-olds?
“We’ve done shows for 4- to 7-year-olds, but never for this age group,” Post says.
Lucky for Post that this show, based on Mem Fox’s stories, is about sheep – and the audience will be fenced in the sheep pen.
“They’re penned in and the performers act around the pen,” she says with a laugh. “The kids are encouraged to wander around and touch things. It’s a sensory experience for them.”
“The Green Sheep” is not at the New Victory but in the New 42nd Street Studios next door.
The season’s first show in the New Vic is “Knucklehead Zoo,” (Oct. 3-19), featuring two-time world-champion break-dancers from Las Vegas.
Chicago’s Redmoon Theater follows with the puppet-live actor combination “Hunchback,” a retelling of the Victor Hugo classic, with a mix of humor and drama.
“It’s a great story,” Post says, adding that the production wasn’t created for kids.
“More than half of our programming is not kids’ theater,” she says. “When we choose a show, the first criteria is: ‘Was that fun? Did we like it? Did we have a good time?’
“We don’t go in saying: ‘Oh, that would be educational.’ The adults are coming, too, and the shared experience is what’s important. We want the adults to have as much fun in the theater as their kids do.”
Post is well aware that the New Vic may be the first theater experience for much of her audience.
“But we know that if they come here first, they’ll come back,” she says.
Post’s 13-year-old son, Will, has been seeing New Vic shows since he was 4. He is particularly looking forward to “Knucklehead Zoo” and Taoub (Feb. 6-22), a Moroccan acrobatic troupe that the family saw in London a few summers ago.
Post says she’s particularly interested in “Cirque Mechanics,” a Las Vegas “nouveau circus” making its New York debut Nov. 14 to Dec. 14.
The final show of the season is Australia’s Tom Tom Club, making its American premier May 29 to June 14.
“Daredevil theater – crazy acrobatic guys doing stuff that you tell kids not to try at home,” Post says.
Most New Vic performances are on weekends, but schools can sign up on the theater’s Web site and see the same shows during the week at the rate of $2 per student.
“That’s the best deal in town,” Post says.
Members – the New Vic doesn’t call them “subscribers” – can choose three or more shows and get 30 percent off ticket face value and 30 percent off any other shows.
Members can also exchange tickets for other dates. “Because if you have a kid who has soccer and basketball and the chicken pox, being able to call up and switch your date is terrific for parents,” she says.
Post’s commute from Pleasantville couldn’t be easier. She takes the train to Grand Central, the Times Square Shuttle to 42nd Street and, when she gets back to street level, she’s steps from the New Victory.
“I don’t even have to cross the street,” she says.
Like any commuter, she proudly relates her best traveling time.
“From my desk to the train going home was nine minutes,” she says with a broad smile. “Nine minutes. That’s as good as it gets.”
Post hopes her 2008-09 season is as good as it gets and she’s confident it’ll be so. In fact, she practically guarantees it.
NEW VICTORY THEATER
Where: 229 W. 42nd St., Manhattan.
When: The 2008-09 season is under way, with “The Green Sheep.”
Tickets: For 13 of the 15 shows, tickets are from $8.75 to 24.50. Cirque Mechanics (Nov. 14 to Dec. 14) and Dan Zanes and Friends (Dec. 19 to Jan. 4) are $10.50 to $35.
Photo by Seth Harrison/The Journal News: Lisa Post of Pleasantville is a senior vice president of New 42nd Street, which oversees the New Victory Theater, which is geared to children and also aims to entertain adults.