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How Did We Get Here?: Using Verbatim Documentary Theatre to Make Sense of Our Contemporary Political Landscape

Photo of Joe Salvatore
UMass Theater alumnus Joe Salvatore '97G

In the January 2017, playwright and director Joe Salvatore '97G collaborated with economist Maria Guadalupe (INSEAD-France) to create Her Opponent, a re-staging of excerpts of the 2016 U. S. Presidential debates with gender-reversed casting. Following the success of that production and its subsequent Off Broadway run, Salvatore has created NYU-Steinhardt’s Verbatim Performance Lab to continue to produce live and mediated verbatim performances that challenge accepted political, cultural, and social understandings, while embracing the philosophy that social change emerges from dialogue, not monologue. Join Salvatore as he shares his experiences working on Her Opponent and recent Lab projects including The Lauer / Conway Flip and The Moore / Jones Challenge.


Joe Salvatore is a playwright and director and has been on the faculty of the Program in Educational Theatre at NYU since Fall 2002. He teaches courses in ethnodrama, ethnoacting, new play development, applied theatre, and dramatic literature, and serves as the director of Steinhardt's Verbatim Performance Lab. Joe's most recent work, in collaboration with Maria Guadalupe (INSEAD-France), is called Her Opponent, an ethnodramatic re-staging of excerpts of the 2016 presidential debates with gender-reversed casting. The Off Broadway production of the project was nominated for an Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best Unique Theatrical Experience and has been covered by the New York Times, the Guardian, Teen Vogue, The Hollywood Reporter, out.com, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, MSNBC, and ABC News, among others. Other plays and performance projects include Full City+ with Keith R. Huff, Jenny Macdonald's solo play ENTHRONED (Dublin's First Fortnight Festival, 2016 New York International Fringe Festival), ga(y)ze (with Troy Hourie and Caleb Teicher on 14th Street, NYC), Animating the James and Ann Whitall House at Red Bank Battlefield, Towards the Fear, Bromancing the OK (Part of Torrent Theatre's Mindflood, NYC), “Like” Like (part of Hall Pass in NYC and San Diego), Mother’s Milk (part of Play/Date at NYC’s Fat Baby), open heart (FringeNYC, 2010), and fag / hag (with Kate Nugent, FringeNYC, 2000). His play IIIreceived the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Play from FringeNYC (2008) and was subsequently published in Best American Short Plays 2008-2009 (Applause Books). His academic publications include the chapter "Ethnodrama / Ethnotheatre" in Handbook of Arts-Based Research, edited by Patricia Leavy (Guilford Press). While teaching at NYU, Joe has received the University's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award, NYU Steinhardt's Teaching Excellence Award, and the NYU LGBTQ Student Center's Dedication to Education Award. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and an alumnus of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.