Tisch Drama Stage "Festival of Voices" Tackles Poverty and Housing Insecurity in NYC

Friday, Mar 24, 2023


Image from Yo Te Esperaba

This spring, Tisch Drama is proud to present its annual Festival of Voices, a series of productions and special events exploring timely social issues affecting New York City. The Department of Drama’s Associate Chair and Director of Applied Theatre, Mauricio Salgado will curate.

Presented each year as part of the TISCH DRAMA STAGE season, the festival serves to highlight a diverse range of potent and underrepresented voices, aesthetics, and points of view. Its core mission is to celebrate inclusion and belonging, and bring to light unique aesthetic, critical, and socio-political elements.

For the 2023 festival, former Drama Chair, Rubén Polendo invited professor Salgado to curate a festival that centered Socially Engaged Theatre–which often uses theatre and drama in non-traditional contexts to investigate various social topics ranging from poverty and homelessness to community and culture, and more. 

For Salgado, Polendo’s charge meant centering questions that artists have about how they can meaningfully engage these pressing social issues. 

“This year’s festival examines pressing social issues and efforts to address them, including housing insecurity, labor inequity, and the criminalization of immigrants,” said Salgado. “Its productions, readings, events, and more invite our community to learn from the work of the Poor People’s Campaign and New York City’s Civic Engagement Commission.”

This work is personal to Salgado–since 2014, he’s been using his craft to raise awareness of the latest iteration of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival

“Their analysis of the effects of poverty across sectors is robust and their demands for addressing it are expansive,” said Salgado. “So I invited different makers to consider how their socially engaged approaches to theatre making might interact with the Campaign’s platform.”

Additionally, Salgado collaborated with faculty and students across NYU and Tisch to organize the FOV FORWARD! series—“in order to prepare the Drama community for a fruitful dialogue about these issues and in the hopes of inspiring action,” he noted. The FOV: FOWARD! series began in October 2022 with its fourth and final event scheduled for April. 

This year’s Festival of Voices features five responses within the genre of Documentary Theatre. As Tisch Drama’s Professor Carol Martin explains in her article Bodies of Evidence published in The Drama Review, Documentary Theatre curates pieces of archival material like interviews, documents, recordings, and photographs to interrogate specific events, systems of beliefs, and political affiliations and make meaning of “the complex ways in which men and women think about the events that shape the landscapes of their lives.”

The Festival of Voices Program, 2023:

That’s Not Supposed to be Happening from NYU Steinhardt’s Verbatim Performance Lab (VPL) will be a performance and participatory experience that considers how participants might advocate, navigate, and propagate collective idea-sharing to address the amassing housing issues people face while living in New York City. Get more information

Playwright Kirya Traber and Movement Artist Alicia Morales will bring an installment of The Poverty Archive: Box 1, a devised work of joyful defiance, to the Festival of Voices. Through a collaborative process with an ensemble of generative performers, Traber and Morales work with historic archives of Greenwich Village to reclaim the record—highlighting the genius, culture-making, and beautiful experimentation of those categorized as poor. Get more information

Donkeysaddle Projects will work with Drama students in the next phase of developing a new piece called Yo Te Esperaba: A Crimmigration Story,  a collaborative, experiential theatrical resistance project in development, opening a window into Alejandra Pablos’ and her family’s experiences during her two+ years of ICE detention. This presentation will be the culmination of an intensive workshop and will include staged readings of scenes from the play, as well as work generated by the workshop participants. Get more information

The Arts and Culture Branch of New York State’s Poor People’s Campaign will present a workshop entitled Songs In the Key of Resistance based around a set of movement songs from the Poor People’s Campaign’s “Movement Songbook.” Participants will learn how songs inform and energize movement work, and how movement songs can support the building of effective organizing campaigns. Get more information

Lastly, Yazmany Arboleda will present a wrokshop entitled Meeting People Where They’re At: The Journey of the People’s Bus. In this workshop, Arboleda will present his work as the first People's Artist for New York City’s Civic Engagement Commission and his restorative approach to transforming a retired NYC Corrections vehicle into the People’s Bus. Get more information

The Festival of Voices runs April 20-30 in the Abe Burrows Theater, located at 721 Broadway. 


Image from Songs in the Key of Resistance from the NY State Poor People’s Campaign Art & Culture Committee

Image from Songs in the Key of Resistance from the NY State Poor People’s Campaign Art & Culture Committee