Adam Stephens

The H.E.A.T. Collective was founded by Artistic Director Jessica Litwak to create, advocate and inspire artistic expression rooted in healing, education, activism, and theatre. We work to build collectives in every context: in our performances, workshops and community events. Engaging artists across the world, we aim for powerful bridge building art of courageous generosity. In this series, guest experts will write a piece representing each letter of H.E.A.T. - week one will be healing, week two is education, week three is activism, and the last week of the month is theatre. Together these pieces will highlight the work that is being done across all aspects of The H.E.A.T. Collective in the hopes that we can ignite dialogue, spark further exploration, and encourage more people to get involved.


I am a person of color. I am an artist. I am a drama therapist.  As I move through the world of the arts and various clinical practices, I bear witness to people of color being expected to perform and uphold myopic standards, stereotypes, appropriated by others. When a person of color steps outside this regulated box, or cage, conflict ensues and discomfort rises.  The conflict and discomfort are not only held by people of color, but also by our white counterparts. Many would rather avoid the topic of race to escape uncomfortable dialogues. Imagine living life in a cage and the moment you feel inspired to spread your wings and express yourself you’re met with hostility or indifference.

I have experienced times when freedom of expression is celebrated and encouraged for persons of color. It is in these spaces where growth and healing flourish…

A young woman enters a counseling office. She is annoyed and upset. She is greeted by two counselors, a black male and a white female.  The young woman shares that one of her peers is acting “light-skinned.” The female counselor begins to stop her exclaiming it is not appropriate to say light-skinned.  The male counselor asks the young woman to explain what she means by light-skinned. The young woman states that her friend is being selfish and entitled. Unconsciously, the young woman is reflecting on a historical racial archetype that draws on the theme of light-skinned black people thinking they are better than others due to the fairness of their skin.  Allowing the young woman to speak in her voice and perform authentically allowed her to articulate her issues and develop strategies to better navigate troubling situations. With acceptance and openness, the young woman was afforded the opportunity to perform in a way that felt right for her. This offered her a container for growth and for healing.

I have had the opportunity to work with Jessica Litwak and the H.E.A.T. Collective on a number projects.  Performing has given me the opportunity to use creativity as a means to foster illumination around topics otherwise untouched.  Through artfully fostering social change we create spaces to attend to the human condition. In these uncertain times, what could be more healing. 


Adam is a New York based drama therapist and theatre artist. He studied drama therapy at New York University. As a clinician, Adam has worked with urban youth through the ENACT Program and veterans at the VA Hospital in Connecticut. Currently, he works with specially abled students at the Cooke School & Institute as part of the counseling team.  He is the current NADTA Tri-state Chapter president hoping to foster collaboration and fellowship among local creative arts therapists. Adam received his undergraduate degree from Marymount Manhattan College in theatre direction and performance. He has worked in various roles developing social, political and therapeutic theatre in Manhattan. Through his work as artist and therapist, Adam hopes to allow spaces for people to engage in the difficult dialogues through witnessing and experiencing embodied art.