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Bloomfield Playwright Puts On Show at Luna Stage

Nikkole Salter talks with the Bloomfield Patch about her upcoming play “Carnaval,” an explicit play about the consequences of sexual tourism.

Bloomfield playwright Nikkole Salter will have have her second play, “Carnaval,” produced at Luna Stage in West Orange beginning at the end of January. 

Salter is coming off her first critically acclaimed coauthored play, “In the Continuum,” which was written in 2005. The Off-Broadway production lasted about five months, and it was also produced overseas. 

Salter has also appeared in the feature film “Pride & Glory," and received various accolades and nominations.  

Her most recent written work, “Carnaval”, was selected to be a part of The New Black Fest 2011-2012 season. 

About the Play, “Carnaval”

A year ago in Brooklyn, two young men mourned the untimely loss of their best friend. In his honor they decided then and there that, despite their differences, no matter where life took them, they would take care of his younger brother and get together on the anniversary of his death to celebrate the life he should have had.

So, on a cold day in the winter of 1996, these three twenty-somethings board a plane for Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, for a taste of the good life: sun, fun and, of course, women paid to serve – What better way to pay homage to a fallen friend?

But what starts out as a joyride takes an unexpected turn and the three sex tourists find themselves in a situation that will change their friendships and their lives forever. 

Interview with Nikkole Salter

Your Patch editor recently spoke with Salter about her recent work and its upcoming production. The following responses are segments from the conversation. 

Patch: What is it like being a playwright today and trying to get your work produced on the stage? 

Salter: “In the Continuum” was my first splash, so it was near and dear for me. “Carnaval” is my first solo writing project, and I’m super excited. 

However, I had difficultly finding a theater to put on the play. Many theaters said, “No,” to this play when I shopped it because of the subject matter. 

“Carnaval” is not your typical Christmas show, it is a provocative piece of theater so I’m even more excited to see what happens as audiences check it out and what they have to say about the dynamic of sexual tourism.

Patch: This is the first time the play is being put on in front of an audience?

Salter: Yes.  

Patch: Why write a play with this backdrop of seediness and sexuality?

Salter: I believe in the power of storytelling to really evoke the evolution of our society and humanity at large; to bring a conscious awareness about the way in which we live and how we are directing ourselves. 

We can do that with storytelling because while the play may be fiction and have no consequence, at the same time it has a vicarious feeling of reality, because you are watching something that is live, and it has the power to inference the minds of the people watching, which will allow people to shift their behavior and provoke questions.

Patch: So what did you find out or discover in your research and while writing this play about sexual tourism?

Salter: Sex is a small part of why sexual tourism exists. I think what people are really going for is universal things which are manifesting themselves in that way, such as wanting to be seen, feel important and to dominate.

All of these things also seem to be Americanisms which we all want. I hope that point of universality makes people look at them differently and think about how we participate in them.

And in “Carnaval” I hope to uncover the impulses and feelings from the point of view of the john or the demand side. We always hear about the victim’s perspective, but rarely about the person exploiting the victim.

Patch: What kind of reaction are you looking to provoke from the audience?

Salter: I hope the play haunts them. I hope they talk about the issues of – what I call – being the “Man:” the idea that we are all striving at some level to be the Man. And particularly in this generation, we have been injected with the idea that this is the type of person we are supposed to be, and if we can’t have it here we are willing to exploit people elsewhere. 

Patch: How would you sum up your play in a sentence?

Salter: Three guys go to Brazil for a week of carnal pleasure and are faced with some fissures in their fantasies. 

The play will run from Jan. 31 through March 3. It will be shown on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. 

The official press opening will be on Feb. 8.

Tickets range from $25 to $35 and can be purchased in person, on the phone at (973) 395-5551, or online at www.lunastage.org.

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