Alumni Spotlight: Saharra Dixon

Saharra Dixon

Saharra Dixon graduated with an MA in Educational Theatre in January 2020, specializing in applied theatre

Tell Us About Yourself

I am a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) and Community-engaged Theatre Artist. Primarily, I curate interactive and educational arts-based health and social justice interventions, workshops, and performances. I use theatre techniques like play, devising, scripting, improvisation, and Theatre of the Oppressed to achieve this. I believe the arts can be used as a powerful tool for behavioral and social change. I work to empower communities to engage in their own learning process. My expertise is in reproductive justice, maternal/child health, adolescent health, minority health, and sexual health. Originally from Atco, NJ, I began training as a performing artist at New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia, PA (under the direction of Walter Dallas and Patricia Scott-Hobbs), and continued working with many artists and teachers. I’ve worked with United Way, Planned Parenthood, NYU, University of Delaware, and several communities. I am currently a Sexual and Reproductive Health Educator. I received my MA in Educational Theatre from NYU, BS in Health Behavior Science from University of Delaware, and am a CHES® as recognized by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).

Can you recall a memorable in-class or general NYU experience that struck you as particularly meaningful?

I am very vocal about my participation in the Theatre and Health Lab’s As Performance Series. I discuss my experience almost every chance I get because it was so monumental for me in terms of my own healing and academic and professional development. Turbulence is an original play exploring the experiences of creative arts therapists and health education specialists who identify as Black and Brown People of Color (BPOC) that was staged at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City from April 11-14th, 2019. It was written by Daimaah Mubashir, director Britton Williams and members of the ensemble. This resulted in a participatory action research (PAR) process led by Dr. Nisha Sajnani and Britton Williams. This process allowed me to explore and observe the devising process and how transformative theatre can truly be. It also taught me how to take care of myself and others as a facilitator.

Another memorable moment was my Summer 2019 study abroad trip to Ireland with Professor Joe Salvatore. Aside from working directly with Ireland’s finest theatre practitioners, the experience helped me better articulate my artistry, learn from my peers, and explore different methods for my work. Phil Kingston’s (Abbey Theatre) Asking For It workshop, co-writing a script in four days, and site-specific work at Giant’s Causeway were meaningful to me.

What’s next for you?

I will continue advocating for theatre and public health. I’d eventually like to lead a program that explores similar themes, because arts-based inquiry is important. I’d also like to produce more work; I’m currently developing an immersive theatre in health education experience for young audiences. You can learn more about my work at TheDramaticHealthEducator.com. This degree can do so much for you. Take advantage of the opportunities, articulate, network, and believe in yourself!

Towards the Fear: The Creation of an Interview Theatre Piece

By Arielle Sosland

Towards the Fear, directed and created by Professor Joe Salvatore is an interview theatre piece that focuses on topics of bullying, social combat and aggression.

The company consists of eight actors/researchers, four Drama Therapy students and four Educational Theatre students.

The Cast in Rehearsal

The Cast in Rehearsal

As a student studying Educational Theatre, working with the Drama Therapy students has allowed me to consider theatre through a therapeutic lens. Although not trained in Drama Therapy practices, through working with these four actors/researchers, I am engaging in discussions on how this work may emotionally affect our audiences.

Before rehearsals began, we were required to complete the UCAIHS (University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects) Certification Exam that allows us to conduct research involving human subjects.  In our initial rehearsals, Joe trained us in the proper interview protocol and informed us of the six open-ended prompts and questions that we used with each of our interview participants.

As the interviews were happening outside of rehearsal, in rehearsal we were devising movement pieces based off of source material and conversations surrounding the topics of bullying, social combat, and aggression. We worked to create three movement pieces to be showcased at the beginning, middle and end of the performance and essentially break up the interviews. Our initial movement piece was created based on the research of Robert Faris and Diane Felmlee on Social Networks and Aggression at the Wheatley School.  Both of these sociologists make appearances in the interview sections as well.

Once we finished the interviews, each actor/researcher transcribed up to three of the most compelling 2-3 minute sections of each interview. We then took three or four rehearsals to assemble the script.  First, we narrowed our participants down to twenty “characters” for the performance, and then a second pass reduced that number to sixteen.  Then we grouped the interview sections into categories to determine which sections worked nicely with others.

Eventually, we had about 70 pages laid out on the floor of the Drama Therapy Room in the Pless Annex and with great excitement we were able to say, “we have our script!”

To be part of physically fitting the pieces of the script together allowed all the actors to feel a great sense of accomplishment when we were able to step back and look at the transcriptions laid out in order on the ground.

Through this project we hope to motivate audience members to reflect on their own experiences of bullying, social combat, and aggression, and act on ways to change these environments. Towards the Fear, the title of our production reminds audience members the challenge of changing aggressive environments and yet the adults we interviewed all stand as examples that we are able to persevere and to empower others. I look forward to seeing and hearing audience reactions about the piece and stirring up critical conversations about this important topic.

For the full research article by Faris and Felmlee is available at turner.com.

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Towards the Fear: An exploration of bullying, social combat, and aggression
Created and Directed by Joe Salvatore and members of the company
Program in Drama Therapy

LOCATION: Provincetown Playhouse
ADMISSION: $15 General, $5 Students & Seniors
For tickets, contact NYU Ticket Central
ONLINE: NYU Ticket Central
BY PHONE: 212 352 3101
IN PERSON: 566 LaGuardia Place
(at Washington Square South)

Thursday, April 10 at 8pm
Friday, April 11 at 8pm
Saturday, April 12 at 8pm
Sunday, April 13 at 3pm

Towards the Fear postcard

Interdisciplinary Territories: Applied Theatre and Drama Therapy

A workshop for all current students in Educational Theatre and Drama Therapy with Peter Friedrich, MFA- Scholar in Residence at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. This workshop focuses on a series of theatrical techniques — invented, borrowed or modified — that had the most success for Peter during 5 years of teaching and directing in an Islamic post-conflict society.

When: Friday, October 18, 2013 – 9am – 2pm

Where: Pless Annex Basement

82 Washington Square East

How: Space is limited. Please email Andrew Gaines to RSVP