Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 06:58 pm est

Theatre group offers therapy through performances

Posted on November 15, 2012 | by Jonathan Keshishoglou

A group of actors, dressed as an eclectic mix of characters, sit on a small stage. A soft bass line plays in the background. A man walks onto the stage and speaks to the group as if he were leading an acting class. The subject of the
class? Suicide.

With Drama Lab NYC, a New York-based theater group, NYU’s Drama Therapy department addresses issues related to suicide in a new way with their upcoming show, “The November Project: Suicide
as Performance.”

The show, directed by Cecilia Dintino, is composed mainly of improvised vignettes, most of which are set in an acting class where each performer takes on a different role and explores the themes and implications of suicide. The show, which opens Thursday night, will be performed twice. Because most material is improvised, neither show will be exactly the same.

Dintino is the founder of Drama Lab NYC, which hosts many dramatic performances to help people with anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and personality disorders. The cast of “Suicide as Performance” includes members of Drama Lab NYC and NYU students.

Dintino said she hopes to tackle issues of suicide through the play.

“Theater is an ancient way that man explored things that are hard to understand,”
she said.

For Kim DiMartino, “Suicide as Performance” cast member and Drama Lab NYC affiliate, the show provides an outlet for audience to talk about a subject that is often
considered taboo.

“People don’t speak about suicide, so we want to make it something people can talk about,” DiMartino said. “When people don’t have anyone to talk to, there’s no one who
[can prevent] it.”

In addition to opening up the subject of suicide to the audience, the show has also been therapeutic for the performers, who can express their thoughts through improvisation and other new and
unconventional techniques.

“It’s not scripted like a regular play,” said Lisa Gail Schwartz, a performer and second-year student in the Drama Therapy Program. “[The] improvised vignettes have evolved and woven into this production [in a way] that serves both us and
the audience.”

Along with the serious material about the subject matter, “Suicide as Performance” also features humor as a method of making the discussion of suicide more accessible. Pete Simms, a member of Drama Lab NYC, said the humor makes suicide easier to talk about in a world where it is not
discussed enough.

“If you sat and watched
purely facts, you’d walk out,” Simms said. “Most people can’t cope, and they don’t want to talk about it. You have to
have humor.”

“Suicide as Performance” will run on Thursday, Nov. 15 and Friday, Nov. 16 at the Provincetown

Playhouse, 133 MacDougal Street, at 8 p.m. Admission is free.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Nov. 15 print edition. Jonathan Keshishoglou is a contributing writer. Email him at features@nyunews.com.

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