The monologues are derived from participants who range in age from 19-62, encompassing a wide array of ethnic, economic and social backgrounds. They hail from as far away as Washington State and as close by as Brooklyn.
But two things unite them; 1) sometime in their formative years, they suffered from bullying or were a bully or bystander themselves, and 2) their stories will be told as part of a bold new play, Towards the Fear: An Exploration of Bullying, Social Combat, and Aggression, running April 10-13 at the Provincetown Playhouse.
Towards the Fear is the brainchild of Joe Salvatore, clinical assistant professor of educational theater in the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions. The play takes its form from assembled verbatim testimonials delivered by 33 participants that Salvatore identified through posted advertisements, professional list servs, and email and social media outreach. He then had his students – who will also serve as the show’s cast – conduct the interviews and identify the most significant portions of each interview.
“Ethnodramas are incredibly poignant both as tools for learning and as artforms in themselves,” said Salvatore. “In addition to the experience it provides to our student cast members – and will provide to those who attend the performances – I would also like to generate a production that can be replicated in order to deliver valuable lessons for educators who are on the frontlines of dealing with the challenges of bullying and aggression in our schools.“
Towards the Fear is part of a larger therapeutic performance series sponsored by the Drama Therapy program, which commissioned Salvatore to create the piece as a collaboration between its program and the Steinhardt Program in Educational Theatre. Salvatore auditioned and cast eight researchers/actors from the Drama Therapy Program (4 masters candidates), the Program in Educational Theatre (2 masters candidates, one undergraduate), and the Gallatin School (1 masters candidate). Student actors were then trained in interviewing protocol.
“Participants were asked to talk about their own understandings and experiences with bullying, social combat, and aggression in childhood and to identify how those past moments have affected and influenced their adult interactions with others,” Salvatore said. “Once the interviews were complete, we coded the interview data and constructed a script that encapsulated the recurring themes from the interviews.”
Sixteen of the 33 interview participants have emerged as voices in the script. Salvatore has constructed ethnodramatic productions since his days as a graduate student, and has created works examining a variety of controversial subjects, from social class to the non-monogamous relationships of gay men. His original inspiration was Fires in the Mirror by Tisch Arts Professor Anna Deavere Smith.
“I think that Smith uses this style of performance as a way of building an understanding of others and of getting at difference and similarity. That kind of inspiration is at the core of this work,” said Salvatore.
Towards the Fear also includes original music composed by students of the Steinhardt Music Composition Program. The entire production was made possible by a grant from the Billy Rose Foundation.
Tickets for Towards the Fear are available at 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South, by phone (212-352-3101) or online at nyu.edu/ticketcentral/calendar. Tickets cost $15, $5 for students and seniors. Performance times are nightly at 8 p.m., as well Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. The Provincetown Playhouse is located at 133 MacDougal Street, between W. 3rd Street and Washington Square South. For more information, visit here.
Photo: Students rehearse for Towards the Fear, a play based on real testimonials from victims of bullying.