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.
This month we brought in the new season with four new blogs to honor each of the four aspects of H.E.A.T. We certainly hope you have a chance to read this month’s offerings and leave comments for us.
I started us off in the H.ealing realm by talking about some of the work I have done with puppet building in various populations. I spoke about how this specific technique can be effective to inspire free expression, heal traumatic wounds, and create community.
The next week we looked at E.ducation through the eyes and voice of David Diamond. He outlined his love of teaching, stating: “The only reason I want to teach is to learn.” He expressed his profound love of teaching and described on of his most beloved ongoing projects: “For the past 20 of those years, I have been involved with an extraordinarily inspiring project - The La MaMa Umbria International Symposium for Directors. Inspiring for me, that is. It may also inspire the hundreds of artists who come each Summer to our little Italian paradise in the Umbrian hills…” David describes the beauty of the summer learning experience. He praises his mentor for giving him the opportunity to develop such a meaningful educational venue, and the confidence to keep it going for two decades. “If there was anyone who embodied the principle of Education for me, it was Ellen Stewart. She taught me many things. Her just do it philosophy was accompanied by a sense of possibility that was not limited by personal thinking or insecurities. It didn’t occur to her that something she wanted to do might not be possible.”
The following week Sue Hamilton spoke about A.ctivism by describing the inspiration, creation and development of Artists Rise Up Los Angeles. “On November 9, 2016, I got on the phone with Jessica Litwak. We had been friends and artistic collaborators since 2000, and found ourselves naturally and immediately reaching out to one another the day after the election. We didn’t spend much time talking about the election or its results, but rather, we went directly to WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? With Jessica in New York and I in Los Angeles, we devised a plan that involved bringing artists together in our respective cities, thereby inspiring a place that invited people to share their feelings while simultaneously asking for everyone to RISE UP and do what we do: create ART.” She went on to illustrate how the work of Artists RISE Up Los Angeles unfolded with a growing group of enthusiastic volunteers: “Artists on both coasts were asking, “What can I do?” “How can I help?”’ Sue demonstrates the thrilling community of artists that has sprung up in Los Angeles around ARULA and the call to RISE.
Katie Pearl finished off the month by telling readers about a marvelous project she has initiated called Milton “ a performance and community engagement experiment in five small towns named Milton around the country.” Her company PearlDamour launched the project “as a way to heal something for ourselves: our broken relationship to the country we lived in.” She talked about how she and her collaborators wanted “ go out into the U.S. and educate ourselves about who really lived there…” In the process of creating this work they asked themselves what it means to be an American today? “Our activist impulses led us to enter into communities as strangers, as artists, and simply pay attention, remain curious, stay present, and let a relationship (and ultimately a play) grow.” She discusses the healing, activism and education that occurred through this project and linked her experience to the four aspects of the H.E.A.T. collective: “… each brings something into being, generating the new realities we need to keep moving forward—as individuals, as communities, as a country. And by recognizing that each aspect is integral to the success of the others, and that theater is one of those integral aspects, I realize that I have been doing H.E.A.T. collective work for a long time without even realizing it. “
Each of September’s practitioners bring a unique view into focus of theatre as a vehicle for personal and social change. We look forward to your comments and to our next set of rich explorations in October.
Jessica Litwak is an Internationally recognized theatre educator, playwright, director, performer, puppet builder and drama therapist. She is the Artistic Director of The H.E.A.T. Collective and The New Generation Theatre Ensemble for Youth, and the founder of Artists Rise Up New York. Her plays include The Emma Goldman Trilogy, Wider Than The Sky, the FEAR Project, Secret Agents and My Heart is in the East. Her work is published by No Passport Press, Smith & Krause, Applause Books and The New York Times. Litwak is a core member of Theatre Without Borders, a PhD in Theatre For Social Change, and a Fulbright Scholar.