Drama Therapy Performance Depicts Intergenerational Experiences of HIV-Positive Adults, Nov. 29-Dec. 2
What is it like to live with HIV in 2018? This is the question being explored by Living With…, an original production presented by NYU Steinhardt’s drama therapy program depicting intergenerational experiences of individuals living with HIV, running Nov. 29 - Dec. 2.
Living With… was written in collaboration with four long term survivors of HIV and three newly diagnosed adults based on months of group therapy sessions. Collective themes that emerged throughout the therapeutic process—including the stigma of diagnosis, advancements in medical treatments, and generational experiences of the AIDS crisis—are represented through vignettes, monologues, and musical numbers.
The production includes four short plays by Joe Salvatore, clinical associate professor of educational theatre at NYU Steinhardt; music and lyrics by Brent Wakelin; and monologues created by members of the company.
The therapeutic benefits of this theatre-making and performance process are being examined by the NYU Theatre and Health Lab through a mixed-method research study, forming part of a larger inquiry into drama therapy’s impact on social, psychological, and public health outcomes. Participants complete a survey at the beginning and the end of the process to measure the impact of drama therapy on self-stigma, resilience, and their sense of community; they will also be interviewed about their experiences after the show closes.
Nick Brunner, clinical drama therapist and an alumnus of Steinhardt’s drama therapy program, is facilitating group therapy sessions and says the production is helping to fill a crucial gap that current support systems are lacking.
“HIV/AIDS is able to be treated much more easily now and is less of a visible illness than it used to be. This is a wonderful thing but it has meant that support systems are falling by the wayside. Our participants were hungry for a community where they could share their experiences of living with HIV without fear of being stigmatized or misunderstood.”
Brunner notes that intergenerational exchange has been an effective therapeutic tool. Recently diagnosed adults are gaining confidence and security with their HIV-positive status and longer term survivors—including public HIV/AIDS advocate Ed Barron and actor, model, and HIV/AIDS spokesperson Enrique Menendez—are sharing historical perspectives on the AIDS crisis and activist movements with younger group members.
The production employs symbolism to connect the experience of living with HIV to a wider audience, with one scene depicting the difficulty of strangers working together to complete a journey while the rules of their world are unclear; each step is precarious and potentially life-altering.
The final theatre piece includes outside actors and will continue to evolve throughout therapeutic rehearsals, ensuring participants’ voices are elevated and that theatrical representations are molded to reflect changing personal and collective goals.
Living With… is part of Drama Therapy’s As Performance series. Therapeutic theatre can be defined as the practice of drama and theatre with individuals and communities who want to use theatre-making and performance as a means of addressing psychological, physiological, and social concerns and to promote health and wellbeing. It is one approach used by drama therapists to support goals such as reminiscence, recovery, rehabilitation, and advocacy.
Living With… will be performed at the Black Box Theatre on Thursday, November 29 to Friday, November 30 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, December 1 to Sunday, December 2 at 3 p.m.
Black Box Theatre is located at 82 Washington Square East. 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.