New Victory Theater to host Town Meeting on January 30

Teens and their families are invited to discuss bullying and peer violence at an open forum led by a panel of scholars, lawmakers and peers, including: NYC Council Member ALAN JAY GERSON,New York Times bestselling author RACHEL SIMMONS, 14 year-old, Paperboy author OMARI JEREMIAH.

At the conclusion of an exclusive engagement of The Shape of a Girl, The New Victory Theater will host a special TOWN MEETING on Sunday, January 30, 2005 (4:30 pm - 6:00 pm) to provide an open forum for discussion around the play's themes. Written by one of Canada's most respected authors, Governor General's Award winner Joan MacLeod, The Shape of a Girl is a dynamic one-woman show that looks at the realities of teenage relationships, aggression and codes of behavior. Facilitated by a panel of experts and special guests, the TOWN MEETING provides a platform for teens and their families to voice opinions and ideas about the issues of bullying and peer violence. As New York City's premier theater for kids and families, The New Victory is proud to create a rare opportunity for art to stimulate public discourse on this critical subject and has assembled a panel of students, authors, school and public officials to participate in the discussion, including:

  • NYC Council Member Alan Jay Gerson, civic leader who authored Local Law 42, which protects students from acts of harassment at schools.
  • Rachel Simmons, author of the New York Times bestseller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.
  • Patrick McDonald, director of The Shape of a Girl.
  • Omari Jeremiah, 14 year-old author of Paperboy, an illustrated book series featuring a young superhero who defends students from bullies.
  • Jennifer Levine, high school senior and president of Ossining High School's Gay/Straight Alliance. During the summer of 2004, Ms. Levine worked as a New Victory apprentice and contributed to the development of The Shape of a Girl Study Guide and in-school classroom workshops.

The Shape of a Girl is inspired by the 1997 murder of 14-year-old British Columbia high school student Reena Virk. Her school peers savagely beat her, and ultimately drowned her in a pool of water. Not long after reading the story, playwright Joan MacLeod began developing a character named Braidie, who must confront the truth of her giddy, terrifying teenage world. What particularly disturbed Ms. MacLeod about the Virk case was that dozens of other students who were not involved in the killing knew about it and didn't report it to anyone. In The Shape of a Girl, MacLeod looks at the way little incidents of childhood cruelty can escalate, and the role every student, like Braidie, can have in stopping it. The Shape of a Girl is presented by The New Victory at The Duke on 42nd Street (229 West 42nd Street) from January 22 through January 30, 2005.

NYC Council Member Alan Jay Gerson is a lifelong New York City resident and a proud graduate of P.S. 41, I.S. 70, Stuyvesant High School, Columbia College and Columbia Law. A lawyer by trade, he began his civic activism as an aide to Assembly Member William Passannate, and over two decades, he served in many leadership capacities including: President of the Chelsea Housing Group, President of the Village Reform Democratic Club, President of Congregation Emunath Israel and an officer of the Consumer Council of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater NY. Mr. Gerson contributed to the lives of young people as a member of the Board of the Chinese-American Planning Council, the Advisory Boards of the Puerto Rican Family Institute's New Arrivals Youth Group and the St. Anthony of Padua after-school program. A longtime supporter of the project Open Door Service Center and the Caring Community, he helped provide a better quality of life for senior citizens. As Chair of Community Board 2, he launched an unprecedented number of initiatives including: new youth swim team, evening teenage center, free community mediation facility, heart defibrillator pilot program, new emergency shelters for homeless (runaway) teenagers, starting work on the Hudson River Waterfront Park, the first Arts Committee and Calendar, new Public Safety committee and Community Court Proposal.

Rachel Simmons is the author of the New York Times bestseller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, the first book to explore the phenomenon of bullying between girls. Ms. Simmons has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today, Dateline NBC, and NPR's Diane Rehm Show and Talk of the Nation. She speaks all over the country to girls, parents, and teachers about female aggression and its implications for girls' and women's lives. Ms. Simmons grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. After graduating from Vassar College, she worked for Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani as an Urban Fellow. She won a Rhodes Scholarship in 1997 from New York. She worked for New York Senator Charles E. Schumer as deputy finance director for his US Senate campaign in 1998, and after the election attended Oxford University, where she began studying female aggression. Ms. Simmons is currently the director of 'The Girls Leadership Institute, a Sidwell Friends summer program, a trainer for the Empower Program, and a consultant to schools all over the country.

Patrick McDonald has been the Artistic Director of Green Thumb Theatre for Young People since 1987. Prior to that, he was the Artistic Director of Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa. For Green Thumb, he has directed numerous productions, and won a special Jessie Richardson Award in 1998 for "Continued Excellence in Vision in the Field of Theater for Young Audiences." Productions Mr. McDonald has directed for Green Thumb include Problem Child, for which he received a Jessie in 1999 for Outstanding Direction; Leaps & Bounds; Land of Trash; Tough!; and Showdown. In recent years, he has also directed 2000 (Vancouver Playhouse) for which he received a Jessie Nomination for Directing; Vigil (National Arts Centre and Grand Theatre); Fault Lines (Gateway Theatre and Green Thumb Theatre Jessie Award winning co-production); Escape From Happiness (Arts Club Theatre) and co-directed Nothing Sacred (Winter Garden Theatre).

Omari Jeremiah wrote his first novel Paperboy when he was 12 years-old and attending P.S. 145 in The Bronx. This book, illustrated by Bernie Rollins, tells the story of an 11-year-old superhero who defends students who are being tormented by a gang of bullies. Mr. Jeremiah has recently transferred to the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NJ, but continues to work on his Paperboy series. This summer, he completed five more books, and the second was in released in December 2004. This series is being considered by Nickelodeon to be developed into an animated series or special.

Jennifer Levine is a senior at Ossining High School. This past summer, she was an apprentice with the New Victory Education Department and contributed a great deal to the development and creation of The Shape of a Girl Study Guide and the in-school classroom workshops around the show. She worked very closely with the staff to create a new Student-to-Student section of the study guide for this particular production. As president of her school's Gay/Straight Alliance, Ms. Levine is quite active in promoting tolerance programs in her school. Last year, she stage managed and co-directed The Laramie Project in her school. To ensure that each student in the school experienced the piece, she and her fellow peers cut the play down to fit an assembly time slot and facilitated a student talkback session about the issues in the play.

Tickets for the TOWN MEETING are free and can be reserved by calling 646-223-3010 or by visiting the New Victory box office (209 West 42nd Street, just west of Broadway), Sunday and Monday, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm, Tuesday - Saturday, 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm.

The New Victory Theater, a New 42nd Street® project, is New York City's premier theater for kids and families. Built by Oscar Hammerstein in 1900 and opened as the Theatre Republic, it established 42nd Street as the heart of New York's theater district. Ninety-five years later, The New Victory was the FIRST historic theater to be renovated on the block, and its opening, on December 11, 1995, sparked the renaissance of 42nd Street. Today it is one of the City's most respected cultural institutions and has "pioneered a new, sophisticated vision of family entertainment" (Time Out New York) with cutting-edge productions like Shockheaded Peter, Grimm Tales and The Junebug Symphony; dynamic dance companies like the Seán Curran Company and Rennie Harris Puremovement; puppetry masterpieces like Kwaidan and Peter and Wendy; new vaudeville/circus spectacles like AntiGravity's Crash Test Dummies and Circus Oz; and Tony-nominated, Broadway-transfers like A Year With Frog and Toad and It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues.

Founded in 1990, The New 42nd Street Inc. is an independent, nonprofit organization charged with long-term responsibility for seven historic theaters on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. In addition to running The New Victory Theater, The New 42nd Street Inc. built and operates the New 42nd Street ® Studios - a ten-story building of rehearsal studios, offices and a 199-seat, workshop/experimental theater named The Duke on 42nd Streetsm - for national and international performing arts companies. With these institutions and the other properties under its guardianship, The New 42nd Street Inc. plays a pivotal role in fostering the continued revival of the Crossroads of the World.

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