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From Events to Arcs: Designing Aesthetic Experiences

The New Victory Theater is a project of The New 42nd Street, located in Times Square, NYC. The New 42nd Street is an independent nonprofit organization committed to the transformational power of the arts. As a part of that larger project, the New Victory Theater focuses exclusively on presenting work for children, schools, and families. Based on their work with young theater-goers, the theater and its staff are re-defining “the event” — and along with that, where and how we ought to be investigating intrinsic impact.

As far as the “New Vic” is concerned, a performance begins with anticipation and never ends until you stop remembering and connecting to what you saw and experienced. The instant you purchase a ticket for public shows you get email connections to print and video materials that connect you and yours to the “backstory” of the production. You get invitations to free family workshops and links to creative activities to do in the days ahead of the performance designed to build insight and anticipation. Participating schools even get juicy questions to discuss en route to the performance from NEW VICTORY SCHOOL TOOL™ Resource Guides. Intermission includes a “Try this…” space where you can experiment with the characters, props, and ideas in the performance. Afterwards, on the way home, or in the days following, there are suggestions for projects, further research, and ongoing discussions. (Check out examples at their website.) In short, any given hour-long performance has been redefined — and explicitly designed — as a long-running immersion in the world of a performance. The effort is intended to build the intrinsic impact of a “single event” for young audiences, but it has everything to say to how we think about concerts, exhibitions, and performances for audiences of all ages. It should force us to ask, “When we look for intrinsic impact why do we focus on such a thin slice within the longer arc of aesthetic experience?”

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