A Typical Tuesday with Professor Joe Salvatore | NYU Steinhardt Professor Day-in-the-Life


(Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Joe: So, we’re gonna get a coffee at this place called “Oatmeals,” which I go to
everyday and uh, they were actually on that, uh, television show, “Shark Tank,” and won. (Upbeat Music playing ♫) Joe: One of the great things about working
in this neighborhood is that it’s so much history. I mean, within the last 100 years,
Emma Goldman spoke here. Uhh, the last presidential election, we we
we you know we talked about how Madonna performed in the fountain. You know, as someone who, who works in performance
and studies performance, umm, and makes performances, there’s always
performance going on in this park. Alright, so here we are. This is Pless Hall and uh, we’re gonna come
through Pless to get to my office. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Joe: Hey Rochelle! Good Morning. Rochelle: Good Morning! How are you? Joe: Good, How are you? Rochelle: Good, thank you. Good Morning. Joe: This is Rochelle. She’s mission control here in the
Educational Theatre office. Rochelle: Good morning. Good morning everybody. Joe: She keeps us all, uh, in line
and well, a well oiled machine. Basically, my class starts at 9:30. So, uhh, if I, if I get in this early, umm,
I try to do some prep. I feel like it’s really important that students
are doing assignments and projects that are actually connected to the real world in some
way, to to what their potential careers might be. And so, the students that I train in Educational
Theatre tend to wanna work in community environments, educational environments, professional artistic
environments. And all three of those areas require the ability
to write and articulate project ideas, either to a school administrator or to a theatre
producer or to someone that runs a community based organization. And so, I try to create projects that allow
students to exercise those skills. So, I’m trying to take that feedback that
I’m getting from real, real world environments and bring it into an academic environment
so that students are creating projects that they can use, you know, or potentially pitch
once they leave NYU. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Joe: And we’re now joined by Keith Huff, who’s Keith: Hello. Joe: adjunct instructor in
educational theatre. For this course, he leads the two recitation
sections that meet, uh, each week. So, I lecture twice a week and he leads the recitations. So this class that we’re going into, we’re
looking at theatre as an art form, hence the title, umm, and thinking about like how is theatre and performance different from other medium, you know,
like other mediums like film and television. And I also use kind of a broad definition
of theatre for this class, umm, which is any live event where A performs B for C, uhh, which kind of opens up all sorts of possibilities about what theatre actually is or can mean. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Joe: And the purpose of Greek theatre has
a, has a very strong connection to government and in this moment, to that notion of domination, okay. Teaching, teaching culture, alright. There are rituals, right? Uhh, other examples of rituals? So, the masks were constructed with megaphone
pieces built into the mask so that when you spoke through it, it amplified the voice. This is where the broadway musical
came from, alright, one place. You have to know the rules before you can break them. And so I create a lot of techniques, and strategies,
and approaches to things and I ask students to follow those while they’re in my class. But then at the end of the class, I ask them
to, you know, as soon as they’re out the door on the last day of class,
they should make it their own. They should do it the way that they want to
do it based on the, the structures and processes and techniques that I’ve introduced them
to through the, through the course. Alright so, we’re headed back to a meeting
that starts in 10 minutes. We’re gonna be talking about this research
project that we’re working, uhh, with Elisabeth King on that looks at, uhh,
how the work that we’re doing in the Verbatim Performance Lab might be affecting people’s understanding of their political beliefs. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Elisabeth: My name is Elisabeth King. I’m associate professor of International
Education and Politics. This is where people defend their dissertations. Students: In this room? Really? Joe: Yeah. So it’s good for you to
spend some time in here Elisabeth: Exactly. Amanda: Yea and get comfortable here. Joe: So, that, the exciting thing about that
project is that that project came out of a, out of a dinner actually that the deans hosted last year. Umm, they bring faculty from the different
departments in Steinhardt who they think might have similar interests and then we just basically
like share what we do and then like these cross pollinations happen. So, Elisabeth and I started talking and she
was like, “I’m really interested in, in, in what you’re doing in this lab and how
it might affect people’s perceptions.” And the grant involves the Verbatim Performance
Lab and looking at when an audience member looks at one of our videos or live performances,
in this case videos, what happens for them based on the idea that actors are performing
word for word and gesture for gesture, you know, generally like a highly recognizable
person but we do a flip of gender or race and ethnicity or age and what does that do
to an audience when they experience that? We are headed to a production meeting for
“The Kavanaugh Files,” which is happening as a part of Constitution Day here at NYU. And we’re joined now by Cassie Holzum. Cassie: Oh, Hi. Joe: Who is a recent, uhh, graduate of the
program in Educational Theatre here at Steinhardt. So in this meeting, uhh, this is gonna be
the first time that we’re meeting with the technicians who are gonna run the lights and
sound for the performance on Thursday night. Oh, see that passers by are waving. Everybody, everybody must think I’m like
important, which I’m not. So we’re, we’re going into the Kimmel Center, which
is the center for student life at NYU. So there are all sorts of offices and performance
spaces and practice rooms and, uhh, eating establishments in here. So, this is, this is where a lot of people hang out
and do work. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Technician: Hi! Joe: Here we are. We’ve arrived. The Kavanaugh Files is five separate moments
from those hearings, from the testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett
Kananaugh when he was, you know, being in the confirmation process for him to become a
Supreme Court Justice that we’re preparing for a live presentation here for Constitution
Day at NYU and actors have learned those moments verbatim but we, we manipulate the gender. So, a woman plays Brett Kavanaugh in part
of his opening statement. So, the Verbatim Performance Lab emerged from
a project that I did in late 2016, early 2017 called “Her Opponent,” which was a gender flipped
version of excerpts of the 2016 presidential debates. When that run ended, I realized that there
was something really powerful about this gender flipped verbatim performance that was helping
people to see something that they couldn’t see before. And so, the mission of the lab is that we
take interview based data from interviews that we conduct with people or from media
artifacts so like a debate clip or a television interview, and actors transcribe or we transcribe
those interviews or those media artifacts and then actors using the transcription and
the original audio recording or the audio and video recording learn the
gestures and words verbatim. All of this is an attempt to disrupt these
preconceived notions or biases that we have around political, social, and cultural narratives. We are in the middle of classes changing,
as you can see. So uhh, the beautiful stay,
day continues, right? (Clang) It’s amazing. Oh. Ooh. Yeah. You’re always taking your life into you’re
hands when you step into the street in New York City. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) When we did “Her Opponent,” the first, that
first project that, that sort of inspired the creation of the lab, uhh, when an audience
bought a ticket to the Off Broadway production, they were also buy, they were also committing
to participating in the discussion. And so, I facilitated almost all of those
discussions and umm, the idea of those discussions is to get people talking. I think that in person dialogue and kind of
really listening and looking at another person in the eye is an effective way of actually
coming to understanding, and not agreement. I don’t. I don’t think we have to agree but understanding
why people think what they think I think is really valuable. Just facilitating the 25-30 minute discussion,
kind of holding space with 50 to 100 people at a time, was emotionally challenging. You know, uhh, ’cause people were having
really significant realizations about what had happened in that election and talking
about it for the first time. So, how do I take care of myself with that? So, one way was to sort of exit and let the
audience clear after the discussion was done. I try to exercise on a regular basis. I try to have the actors who work in the lab,
uhh, we’re really careful about making sure people are taking care of themselves because
inhabiting someone else’s speech and gestural pattern, is really, can be really taxing. You know, and then I have a great family. You know, uhh, I get to spend time with my
partner, umm, I talk with my family who doesn’t live in the city, and then I get to work with
people like Laura and Keith and countless other students and alumni who are just really
committed to the work and then that inspires me, you know, to keep doing it. But it’s also nice to know that people care
about what I’m doing. So, Márion and I have been working together
for 13 years, I think 13 or 14 years. She designed the costumes for “Her Opponent”
and then she has designed all the lab projects. So, she’s the lab’s resident designer. The glasses that Stephanie had on in the picture,
were those hers? Márion: Yes. She took them.
I gave them to her to rehearse in. Joe: Great. And she’s Márion: And I think she took a wedding
band too. Joe: Ok, great. Márion: Cause I’m like, you
need to rehearse and be able to move. Joe: Totally. Márion: Get used to it. Did you like them? Joe: Yeah, they were great. Márion: Cause they were kinda nice and chunky,
it’s so funny they’re like… Joe: Well yeah because when I, cause’ I was like
“Wow, they’re really big.” And then I went and looked at a picture of
Blasey Ford and I’m like, “Oh, they were really big.” Márion: Yeah. There’s like, she’s hiding behind these
glasses. It’s amazing. Márion: That’s how we roll, in backpacks. Ok. Alright, I love you. Joe: Ah, love you too. Thank you so much. You met Laura earlier this morning in a meeting
that we had about a research project. She’s in a role as a teaching intern in
my Ethnoacting and Verbatim Performance class. Uhh, she took the class. Laura: Yep. Joe: And, then as a doctoral student, she
obviously has interest in teaching and lots of experience teaching. (String section practicing) Joe: Music practice rooms, we sometimes get
entertainment in here. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Student: I’m still worried about, like how
I should be presenting my voice in order to do my representation. Joe: Great. It might be interesting to think about this
in, in a hyphenated word, re-presentation. I don’t want you in any way to like do something
like this, you know, to do a female voice. Like my natural voice tends to be up here,
especially when I’m excited. And so, I might drop it down here to play
the person that I’m playing. Does that make sense? So, it’s it’s subtle, right? And it’s not a caricature. It’s you’re, you’re looking for differences
and then figuring out what the subtle, the subtle move towards that person is. The class right now is in the middle of interviewing
each other and they will play each other back next week. Umm, and part of that is so that they understand
what it’s like to be performed. So, I’ve had the experience five or six
times now of being interviewed and then played back and I learn all sorts of things that
are uncomfortable. Right, like I, I say “ok” a lot or that’s
where I figured out that I have like the slightest lisp at times depending on how I’m sort
of bringing my words together. And uhh, but then also, like, when someone
spends so much time learning two or three minutes of something that you said,
it’s like a huge gift. Like, that someone has paid that close attention. You know, like how often do we really sit
down and look at each other in the eye and listen to each other, right? And I, I tell my students when they do these
interviews with people as a part of the class that they’re doing something revolutionary
cause we don’t do this very often. (Upbeat Music Playing ♫) Pretty typical, uhh, for a Tuesday. Maybe a little busier than usual but,
you know, umm, thanks again and have a great rest of your evening. Bye! (Upbeat Music Playing ♫)

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