Drama Therapy Performance Explores Clinical and Social Implications of Spotlighting Queer Identities

"Not for Resale" rehearsal. Photo credit: Lap Yan Cheung

What happens when queer identities are in the spotlight and how can this create understanding that better informs therapeutic treatment? Not for Resale, a performance presented by NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Drama Therapy, examines queerness in socio-political environments and therapeutic spaces, grappling with questions of representation in both treatment and society at large.

The show, running April 5-8 at the Provincetown Playhouse, is comprised of queer-identifying clinicians, faculty, and students from Steinhardt’s drama therapy program and the Tisch School of the Arts. Its goals are to enhance cultural awareness around queer identity, allow queer people to tell their stories, and facilitate a space for self-exploration.

Not for Resale follows a successful queer television studio—its fictional repertoire includes shows such as LGBTQIA’s Got Talent and The Final Femme Frontier—trying to figure out how to maintain high profits without exploiting its actors. The play is structured as a live TV studio taping in the style of Saturday Night Live and explores televised therapy; the personal lives of black, gay superheroes; queer dating shows; and more, with programming directed by the character “Big Business”.

Written by Jess Barbagallo (My Old Man [And Other Stories]), the play’s voice draws upon active collaboration with cast members through therapeutic rehearsals.  The show is directed by Alexis Powell, founder of the Hearsay & Hyperbole performance ensemble and an alumna of NYU Steinhardt's Program in Drama Therapy.

 “The rehearsal process included some hard check-ins where we discussed what’s happening in the news and the world and individually. The playwright then distilled that therapeutic process and created a play based on everyone’s experiences, while thinking about the universal themes that emerged and which ones were most important to bring to the audience,” said Powell.  

“There’s something to be said for taking difficult themes and turning them into a playful experience. It’s hard to find plays where you can choose how you want to be seen. The result is irreverent, campy, and fun while still addressing a lot of the things that came up over six months of rehearsals.”

Amidst increasing calls for diversity and inclusion in the film and television industries, the play asks us to consider whether queer identities can exist within capitalist structures and brings queer communities and relationships into focus. The play also aims to promote greater cross-cultural awareness for audiences and clinicians by elevating queer voices in discussions about intersectional issues.

“We’re also thinking about the therapeutic space as a queer space and exploring how to educate therapists and clinicians about queer identities. This process will help us bring ideas that are heady and lofty into a treatment space and answer the question: How would an awareness of queerness contribute to an enhanced therapeutic experience for people?” said Maria Hodermarska, clinical assistant professor of Drama Therapy at NYU Steinhardt.  

The production of Not for Resale is part of the Program in Drama Therapy’s “As Performance” series, a laboratory in therapeutic theater. Therapeutic theater is defined by its intent to support the health and well-being of actors as well as audiences. It is one approach used by drama therapists to promote recovery, rehabilitation, and other therapeutic goals such as reducing isolation and anxiety, deepening empathy, and challenging social stigma.

Not for Resale will be performed at the Provincetown Playhouse on Thursday, April 5 at 8 p.m.; Friday, April 6 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 7 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 8 at 3 p.m.

Provincetown Playhouse is located at 133 MacDougal Street. For tickets ($15 general, $5 for students and seniors), visit tickets.nyu.edu, call 212-998-4941, or visit the NYU Box Office in person at 566 LaGuardia Place.

Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, established in 1925, instructs over 1,600 students majoring in music and performing arts programs. MPAP serves as NYU’s “school” of music and is a major research and practice center in music technology, music business, music composition, film scoring, songwriting, music performance practices, performing arts therapies, and the performing arts-in-education (music, dance, and drama). Prominent alumni include: jazz great Wayne Shorter, music theatre composer and songwriter Cy Coleman, lyricist Betty Comden, film composer Elmer Bernstein, Tony Award, Oscar and playwright and film writer John Patrick Shanley, and Ian Axel and Chad King of A Great Big World. Visit MPAP at steinhardt.nyu.edu/music.

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media, and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit steinhardt.nyu.edu.

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Sarah Binney
Sarah Binney
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