Towards the Fear at NYU Steinhardt's Drama Therapy program
An Interview with Joe Salvatore

Indie Theater Now asked Joe Salvatore a few questions about this upcoming event.

What’s this play about (in a few sentences); and what particular current issues are you addressing in it?

Towards the Fear is part of a larger performance series sponsored by NYU Steinhardt's Drama Therapy program and supported by a grant from the Billy Rose Foundation. The series produces three shows per year, all of which explore some element of Therapeutic Theatre, defined as a process of inquiry, an embodied investigation in collaboration with others. The focus of this particular project aims to explore the long-range impacts of bullying, social combat, and aggression from childhood into adulthood. I settled on the topic of bullying and social combat, given its ongoing presence in the current national news and because of New York state’s recent implementation of DASA, the Dignity for All Students Act, which attempts to provide all public school students (Pre-K-12) with “a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying."

Why is this issue/these issues important to you? Why should it be important to the audience?

The issue of bullying has taken a significant position in contemporary culture, and I think I have a responsibility as a theatre artist to respond to current events. Additionally, I have lots of questions about how my own past experiences of being bullied, being an aggressor, or being a bystander affect my current interactions with other people. As an artist, I like to make work that attempts to answer questions that I have about the world I live in.

Can a play actually bring about social change? How?

I think a play can bring about social change over an extended period of time. I think that real, sustainable social change happens very slowly, and my role as an artist in that change is to create work that asks people to think about possibilities. Upon seeing this particular play, I want adults who deal with young people on a regular basis--teachers, coaches, parents--to think carefully about how they can create environments where young people are interacting with each other in positive ways. Hopefully, by hearing the stories from other adults, people can understand the long-range effects of negative childhood interactions.

If you could get one real person (past or present) to be the spokesperson for your play, who would you choose and why; and what would you want them to tell people about your work?

We interview 33 people for this project, and 16 of them have emerged as voices in the script. All of our interview participants are spokespeople for this play. We have benefited greatly from their generosity and time. I hope that they would tell other people that the interview process was a valuable experience for them.

Which is more important to you in your playwriting, and why: to tell an authentic story, to make the audience laugh, to make the audience cry, or to make the audience think?

I'm most interested in an audience member leaving the theatre with new questions, as questions are great evidence of learning. I think of this interview theatre work as a meditation on a particular subject area. I'm not trying to preach one way of being over another, but more importantly, I want people to be intentional about their interactions with others rather than simply moving through life and interacting out of habits that have been formed. It's only through reflection that we find that intentionality, and that's what I hope Towards the Fear can facilitate for its audiences.

posted April 10, 2014