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.


For this blog I was asked to write about “Theater” based on the last letter of H.E.A.T. (namely T), and I decided to describe a process that seemed to resonate with themes explored by the organization.   

Several years ago, I began working on my first musical “All Dressed Up and Nowhere To Go” with the composer Jimmy Roberts, who composed “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” which ran Off-Broadway longer than any other musical besides “The Fantasticks.”  John Daggett, who is book-writer and writer of additional lyrics with lyricist Jimmy Roberts, is the one who had the idea to turn one of my plays into a musical.  I am a playwright and a librettist, but this has been my first experience working on a musical theater piece.  I am half of the book-writing team.  

A key discovery I have made during this process is that the whole team needs to consistently work together.  The three of us have discussed everything down to the use of one word over another.  This kind of artistic collaboration can serve as an example of how a group working together--listening, disagreeing, coming to decisions that ultimately work, understanding the need for change--can be greater than an individual.  It has taught me patience, reconfirmed the virtue of a sense of humor, as well as shown me the nurturing effects of sharing meals, conversation, and other people’s work, outside of our own.  The musical is a form that is extremely demanding as it needs to balance music, spoken word, singing, lyrics and instrumentation.  

The story is as follows:  Joan Wilkes, “Buffalo’s Favorite Diva,” is ready to sell The Big Dipper Inn, her magical but debt-ridden motel known for its singing hostess and rich family history.  Her son is all set to go to a pricey university, so she needs some serious cash.  An ambitious realtor is strong-arming Joan to close the deal with Highland Corp to guarantee her promotion to Senior VP.  

But outside, a raging blizzard has caused a van filled with Amish folks to collide with a charter bus carrying a group of cross-dressers.  The State Police bring the stranded passengers to the Dipper to wait out the storm, and Joan reluctantly takes them in.

We will be presenting an Equity musical reading on October 12th, at Pearl Studios, directed by Hannah Ryan, resident director of HAMILTON.  

PHOTO:  The three authors, with two of the performers, at a recording session. 

PHOTO:  The three authors, with two of the performers, at a recording session. 


Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright, whose more than twenty plays have been produced in the U.S. and around the world. Her play Luz premiered at La MaMa in New York City, where she is an Artist in Residence, and was then produced at Looking for Lilith in Louisville, Kentucky. Selma ‘65, her play about the civil rights movement and the KKK, is also a new La MaMa production. Catherine went on an overseas reading tour to Sudan and South Sudan organized by the University of Iowa's International Writing Program; and her play The Beauty Inside was produced in Northern Iraq, in the Kurdish language, by ArtRole. Filloux has been commissioned by the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera House) to write the libretto for a new opera, which will premiere in 2019. She is the librettist for The Floating Box (Music by Jason Kao Hwang), Where Elephants Weep (Music by Sophy Him) and New Arrivals (Music by John Glover). Filloux’s plays are published by Playscripts, Smith & Kraus, Vintage, DPS and Prentice Hall. Her anthologies include Silence of God and Other Plays, published by Seagull Books, and Dog and Wolf & Killing the Boss, NoPassport Press. Catherine received her M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Tisch at N.Y.U. and her French Baccalaureate in Philosophy with Honors in Toulon, France. Filloux is featured in the documentary film “Acting Together on the World Stage" co-created by Dr. Cynthia E. Cohen and filmmaker Allison Lund. She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders and has served as a speaker for playwriting and human rights organizations around the world.