Seeing The Mark of Zorro last week was an eerie experience. That's because my daughter and I went the night of the blizzard and there was barely anyone in Times Square, let alone the theater. So it's a testament to the three energetic performers that the show was still totally engaging. In fact, my daughter liked it so much, she spent the entire weekend running around the apartment pretending to fence with chopsticks.
While this kinetic show about a masked hero who defends the poor with his sword and whip is certainly worth seeing on its own, part of what made our experience so memorable was the post-show event TXT Marks the Spot. After it ended, we got a map and a number to text, and soon we were running all over the theater, answering questions, making art and completing various challenges, all related to the show. It was super fun, kind of like a digital scavenger hunt meets theater workshop, and was free to audience members.
There will be another TXT Marks the Spot event after this Friday's performance of The Mark of Zorro as well as new editions of the game after select performances of other New Vic shows this season. Read on for my thoughts on Zorro and the scoop on TXT Marks the Spot.
Scottish theater troupe Visible Fictions is behind The Mark of Zorro and they really know how to put a story across. Since Zorro covers a lot of ground, they use narration to get through the exposition, but they're careful to keep it lively. The three performers share narrator duties and also play multiple parts, so it really keeps you on your toes. While they're careful to differentiate each character, younger kids still might be confused. Even my seven-year-old had a bit of trouble following the plot.
But the story isn't the main attraction here. It's the action and the comedy. Zorro (mostly played by Neil Thomas, although occasionally a cardboard cutout stands in) brandishes his sword, cracks his (imaginary) whip and faces off against the villains, notably corrupt soldier Esteban, played by Tim Settle, who clearly loves being the bad guy. Denise Hoey is both men's love interest, Isabella, but all three actors play lots of little parts, move the set and cardboard props around, engage in lots of slapstick humor and sight gags, and even do a bit of puppetry. Watching them multitask is almost exhausting! The whole thing has a very broad, "You must pay the rent! But I can't pay the rent!" old-time vibe, and never stands still. There's always something going on and often it's wonderfully silly.
If you're able to catch the show this Friday, February 15, you'll get an extra special treat: TXT Marks the Spot. After the performance, pull out your smartphone and your map (it should be in your program) and text the number given. That will start you on your Zorro-themed adventure throughout the theater. My daughter created an alter ego paper puppet, and then completed a series of challenges like fencing with Twizzlers. At every stop, she engaged with a New Vic arts educator and we had to answer questions via text to get to each next step. It took about half an hour and was a really fun way to end our evening. Plus she snagged a small goody bag.
TXT Marks the Spot only takes place at select performances of certain New Vic shows. You can find the upcoming schedule on the website. Each edition is tailored to the show you're seeing, so you'll never do the same one twice. Since TXT Marks the Spot is best for school-age kids, it's offered in conjunction with shows aimed at older audiences, like Zorro, which is for children ages seven and up.
I also want to give a shout out to New Vic's School Bus Fund Drive. Due to the school bus strike, lots of classes have had to cancel their trips to the theater, especially special needs schools. So the New Vic is paying for buses to get them there and hoping contributions from patrons can cover at least part of the cost. So bring a couple of extra bucks when you go to your next New Vic show to donate at the end or make a tax deductible donation online.
The Mark of Zorro is playing at the New Victory Theater through Sunday, February 24. Visit the website for the complete schedule. Tickets are $14-$38.
Find out about other great family shows playing this season in our Winter Fun Guide.