In Real Time: Educational Theatre Presents Six Original, Student-Directed Plays

In Real Time, a premiere performance of six new short plays written by NYU Steinhardt faculty member Joe Salvatore, will be presented by the NYU Steinhardt Program in Educational Theatre February 27-March 8, 2015. Each play is directed by students, working closely with Salvatore and 14 student actors.

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The six short plays that make up In Real Time come from a series of eighteen plays that Salvatore wrote in 2012. Three of the plays were subsequently developed as part of a Writers Roundtable sponsored by the Program in Educational Theatre during the 2012-13 academic year. Salvatore also taught playwriting workshops to 180 middle school and high school students throughout New York City, whose feedback provided additional insights to develop the plays. Many of those students will attend the show in special school matinee performances on March 2 and March 6 at 10 a.m.

In Real Time features scenic design by Andy Hall, lighting design by Emily Stork, costume design by Márion Talán, and sound design and composition by Sam Crawford and Zeb Gould. The production stage manager is Talia Krispel, and Keith R. Huff serves as the production’s dramaturg. The directors are NYU Steinhardt students Katie Braun, Elena Stephenson Campbell, Yulissa Hidalgo, Haven Mitchell-Rose, Nick Robertson, and Shanae Sharon. The cast features NYU Steinhardt students Isaiah Bent, Kyla Blocker, Kordell Draper, David Ello, Nicole Gebler, Megan Ibarra, Kirsten Kammermeyer, Alexis Lounsbury, Adam Miller, Charlie Ponty, Sarah Smith, Devin Miranda Weise, Rachel Tuggle Whorton, and Peter Zerneck.

NYU’s production of In Real Time runs February 27-28, March 5-7 at 8pm, and March 1 and 8 at 3pm, at the Provincetown Playhouse (133 MacDougal Street). Tickets are $15 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. For tickets, contact NYU Box Office at tickets.nyu.edu or call the box office at 212.998.4941, or visit in person at 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South).

New Plays: The Visceral Spirit of Theatre

By Jason Boxer

Perhaps appropriately, I am in many ways an academic lover of theatre. The nuanced design of each Spolin game is an incredible feat to me – the meticulousness with which Aristotle explains story structure is as entertaining to me as any of the plays he influenced – and at the risk of brownnosing, I’ll admit that the history and overarching philosophy delineated in Theater for Change is a great read. (Incoming freshmen, bug David Montgomery to let you read more of that in Intro to Ed Theatre; it’s awesome and it’s a hell of a lot more exciting than Everyman).

Despite all this, I am happy to report that I was pushed out of this theoretical, theatre-nerd comfort zone when I was cast in John P. McEneny’s play Pollywog this past summer. Pollywog was the first of three plays produced for Ed Theatre’s annual New Plays for Young Audience series, and in it I was tasked with bringing to life a 14-ish year old kid named Francis. Punky, misunderstood, and confused, Francis is a supporting character whose biggest contribution to the play is his in-flux sexuality. There are rumors all over school that he is gay.

He eventually comes face to face with the primary spreader of this gossip – Tammy, McEneny’s main character – and the confrontation is a harsh, inelegant one. To put it as the character probably would, the scene hinges upon Francis being really pissed off.

He’s so mad he can’t get his words out. He can’t think. His dialogue – which could ideally be a delicate explanation of profound frustration – comes out bluntly and sloppily. McEneny placed him in the throes of a rabid, involuntary, and quintessentially teenage outburst.

The scene called for a wholly unacademic performer giving a wholly unacademic performance. The words of Spolin, Aristotle, and even our fearless leader David Montgomery weren’t going to help me this time.

I didn’t get it right until our second and final performance. I clenched my fists and felt them moisten with sweat. I spit my lines out antagonistically, genuinely hoping they would hurt Tammy. I began to feel dizzy and nearly out of control. For the first time in my life, I think I was really getting a taste of the living, visceral spirit of theatre, and I loved it. The audience did too.

My identity as a theatre practitioner was challenged by this experience. What kind of phony actor only gets excited about theory – I thought – and worse, what kind of phony teacher only gets excited about the on-paper potential of his field of study? I hope to be neither of those phonies, and New Plays for Young Audiences helped me realize that.

I’ll conclude by confessing that I’m uncertain of one thing and certain of another. The uncertain thing is if the words of Marceau and Lecoq will prove my next big theoretical inspiration. The certain thing is that Everyman is the most boring play ever, and I wish the incoming freshmen good luck in trudging through it.

Educational Theatre students perform in Think Pink, New Plays for Young Audiences 2014; Photo courtesy of Chianan Yen

Forum: Developing New Work for the Theatre

By Matt Cohen

On Saturday, April 27th, I attended the Program in Educational Theatre’s 2013 Forum, Developing New Work for the Theatre.  For the first session, I attended the Case Study on New Play Development, moderated by Professor Joe Salvatore.  This seminar featured representatives from the New York Theatre Barn and Luna Stage.  For the second session, I participated in a workshop in Entry Points for Devising New Work, facilitated by Dr. Nan Smithner.

The Case Study on New Play Development provided a fascinating take on the development process of original musicals and plays.  Sammy Buck and Brandon James Gwinn, respectively the librettist and composer/co-lyricist of Speargrove Presents, NYTB’s musical about the drama surrounding a high school production ofRent, discussed how in the beginning of the process, they were two of numerous writers involved in the project, until Joe Barros (director) and Jason Najjoum (producer) whittled down the pool.  The musical is still a work in progress.

Nikkole Salter, playwright of Carnaval, discussed how she moved to New Jersey and discovered a theatre near her new home, Luna Stage, which accepted open submissions of new work.  She submitted Carnaval, and she and Cheryl Katz (Director of Play Development) discussed how impactful it was to have multiple readings of the work in her writing process, as well as the often surprising reaction of the predominantly blue-haired audience.  The seminar concluded with a brief question and answer session, and all of the panelists were wonderfully open in answering our questions.

In the workshop in Entry Points for Devising New Work, we learned about the various approaches to creating new theatrical work in many different settings.  These ranged from brainstorming specific topics to simply using inspiration from props.  At the end of the session, we were divided into two groups, and each group devised a brief piece about internet dating.  Both performances were indicative of a great deal of growth within the short time period.

The afternoon concluded with a Plenary Session, in which we discussed what was learned in the previous sessions.  We primarily addressed the topics of establishing rigorous, intentional new works development processes that are innovative and sustainable, holding the stakeholders accountable, and defining and measuring success in the process.  All in all, my peers and I attained a wealth of knowledge that day, and I appreciate having been given the opportunity to participate in such an enlightening forum.