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Drama Therapy Theatre and Health Lab

The Theatre and Health Lab is the research hub of the program in Drama Therapy at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. We study how drama therapy and related theatre processes such as imagination, pretend play, improvisation, storytelling, playwriting, acting, and witnessing can facilitate health and wellbeing. As part of our efforts, we document and share therapeutic innovations in drama therapy.  

The Theatre and Health Lab is part of the Center of Health and Rehabilitation Research and the Creative Arts Therapies Consortium. As documented by the World Health Organization, the arts and arts therapies have been used in treatment and prevention in a range of settings and across the lifespan. You can support research in drama therapy by making a donation to the Theatre and Health Lab.

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Annual Colloquium: Every February, we open the doors to our Theatre & Health Lab to share updates on our research and to examine current and emerging innovations in drama therapy. 

Open Lab: We host lectures and workshops to explore ideas and directions in theatre and health research. To be added to our mailing list, please contact us.

Focus Areas

Our lab has several areas of focus which are listed here with exemplary projects: 

Man in wheelchair shaking hands with one of three people sitting across table from him

Health Equity

Together with the Verbatim Performance Lab, the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Brock University, and the Jameel Arts and Health Lab, we are exploring how using theatre can help to reduce discrimination in health service delivery. The project involves the active participation of graduate students, with Nisha Sajnani (NYU, Drama Therapy) and Joe Salvatore (NYU, Educational Theatre) as research leads and Anamarija Vuic (NYU, research assistant) as project coordinator.

stage performance

Actor and Ensemble Wellness

Drama therapy may be an effective and suitable approach to supporting performing artists. We are working with TheatreWorks USA to develop and implement an actor and touring company wellness program led by drama therapists. Collaborators include Michael Harrington (TWUSA), Heidi Landis (lead drama therapist), student interns, Nisha Sajnani (research lead, NYU), Dr. M.E. Panero (research affiliate, Yale), Samantha Furst (NYU Alum/independent researcher), Deanna Ibrahim (doctoral candidate, lead statistician, NYU), Akhila Khanna (research assistant, NYU).

multigenerational group

Flipping the Script on Aging

The use of theatre-based skills to improve quality of life in adults with Parkinson's Disease: Alex Montaldo, StoPD; Andrew Feigin and Milton Biagioni, NYU Neurology, Roberta Marongiu, Weill Cornell Medicine and StoPD, eMalick Njie, NeuroStorm Studios, Noelle Mayers (research affiliate), Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

Creative expression across the lifespan: Musical theatre with older adults in collaboration with Penn South and Music Theatre International.

journal cover

Tele-Drama Therapy

The integration of augmented, artificial, and virtual reality in rehabilitation-oriented drama therapy with Neurostorm Studios.

Research and development towards therapeutic innovation integrating digital and dramatic reality in collaboration with

Tele-drama therapy with older adults in collaboration with Prof. Hod Orkibi and Dr. Shoshi Keisari, University of Haifa.

group of people with arms up in the air

Disability Justice

The Disability Justice group is coordinated by NYU faculty, alums, and students: Maria Hodermarska, Rosimar Hernandez, and Courtney Way. It centers on disability justice as a need within our program, the North American Drama Therapy Association, and our institutions. Using the principles of disability justice, this group facilitates discussions that ask us to think critically and open-heartedly about drama therapy in terms of welcome, interdependence, intersectionality, access, and opportunity.

6 performers gesturing

Stigma Reduction and Public Health

Theatre making as an approach to reducing self-stigma and an increasing sense of belonging amongst people diagnosed with HIV.

The use of therapeutic theatre in a public health strategy to raise awareness about opioid use in collaboration with COAAST.

group of performers with arms raised

Racial Justice and Healing

The experiences of therapists of color as explored through theatre-making and performance in Turbulence directed by Britton Williams.

The Collideoscope Repertory Theatre, housed in the NYU Program in Drama Therapy, is a virtual therapeutic theatre company with a mission to advance racial justice and healing through performance and beloved community.

hands touching

Community Drama Therapy

Non-stigmatizing, trauma and social justice-informed, theatre-based care in partnership with schools, arts organizations, hospitals, and community centers. Partners have included the Center Theatre Group L.A, the New York Theatre Workshop, the Penn South Program for Seniors, and the AHRC.

NYU Listens: In partnership with Listening Hours, we offer training to become certified guides of this approach to offering non-clinical, collective care online. Training imparts useful skills such as creating a conducive atmosphere online, inviting stories, listening, holding structure, metaphoric thinking, and closures.

Research Team

Director: Nisha Sajnani, 
Faculty Researchers: Maria Hodermarska, Joe Salvatore, Britton Williams, Cecilia Dintino
Lead Statistician: Deanna Ibrahim
Research Assistant: Anamarija Vuić
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