Jessica Litwak- Founder and Artistic Director of H.E.A.T

Jessica Litwak, PhD, is an award-winning playwright, and actor. She is a registered drama therapist and recognized leader in the field of socially engaged theatre. She is an innovative educator, director, and puppet builder and a graduate of RADA, NYU, Columbia University and Antioch University with a BFA in acting, an MFA in playwriting and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change. 

Her collection of plays Wider Than the Sky and Other Plays and The Emma Goldman Trilogy: Love Anarchy and Other Affairs, The Snake and The Falcon, Nobody Is Sleeping, are published by No Passport Press and Indie Theatre Now. Her other works are published by TCG, Applause Books, Smith and Krause, and The New York Times. Her play Reincarnation is included in the collection Scenes and Monologues of the Spiritual Experience. 

Plays include: Dream Acts, A Pirate’s Lullaby, (Rattlestick Theater and at The Goodman Theatre), The Promised Land, Secret Agents and Victory Dance (The Renberg Theatre, Lops Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, and The DR2), Terrible Virtue, (The Lark and The Culture Project), her play Wider Than The Sky (The Lark, UCONN, Boston Museum of Science, Epic Theatre and Theatre Varia in Brussels) Her play I Won’t Be Afraid is part of the After Orlando collection and her play Terrible Virtue is part of the Reproductive Freedom Anthology. My Heart is in the East was produced by La Mama ETC in New York and in Europe. 

As an actress Litwak has performed on stages across the U.S., and in Europe. Most recently in the Iranian paly White Rabbit Red Rabbit and in The Spoken and The Unspoken and as the title role in all three plays of The Emma Goldman Day Happening. 

She wrote and directed The Fear Project funded by the U.S. State Department with the Archa Theatre in the Czech Republic as well as at the Sabhagar Theatre Festival in Kolkata, India. She wrote and directed The Moons Of Jupiter at Naropa University in Colorado. She wrote and directed What Would You Name Her? At the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow. She has directed each of her plays for youth: GRIM, Postcards from Canterbury, The Great Journey Home, Verona High, and War: An American Dream, in New York and Massachusetts. Her company the H.E.A.T. Collective www.theheatcollective.org produces workshops, events, and productions that bring together the practices of Healing, Education, and Activism through Theatre. She has taught and directed her original work extensively in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, India, and throughout Central, Eastern, and Western Europe. She is a frequent workshop leader at The Freedom Theatre in Occupied Palestine. 

Litwak is a trained practitioner of Playback, Psychodrama, and Theatre of the Oppressed. As the Founder and Artistic Director of The New Generation Theatre Ensemble www.ngte.org she built training and performance opportunities for youth. She also is the Founder and Artistic Director of Artists Rise Up, New York http://www.aruny.org, which has produced activist theatre events since the 2016 election on subjects as diverse as Climate Change, Immigration Rights, and Women’s Rights. ARUNY productions merge performance, audience engagement, community discussion and specific social actions. 

Upcoming publications include: The H.E.A.T Book, two collections of ensemble plays: one for colleges and one for high schools, a collection of Short Plays and a collection of monologues, two new articles, one for TCG and one in Universidad Pedagogíca Nacional’s magazine Pensamiento, Palabra y Obra, an article on The FEAR project for The Drama Therapy Review and a curated series about International Artist’s Rights commissioned by HowlRound. 

Litwak has taught theatre (Playwriting, Voice, and Applied Theatre) at San Francisco State University, the Theatre Academy at Los Angeles City College, Stella Adler Academy, Marymount Manhattan College, Columbia, NYU, Lesley University, Whitman College, Hollins University, Naropa University as well as Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and Jadvipur University in India. She has taught theatre at the International Director’s Symposium at La Mama Umbria and has performed, taught and conducted seminars for The Global Mobility Symposium, The World Economic Forum, Performing the World, The International Leadership Association, Arts Connect International and is a frequent contributor to The North American Drama Therapy Association Conference. She teaches at Empire State College, The Yip Harburg Foundation. She conducts ongoing theatre and drama therapy workshops at Greenhope, a facility for formerly incarcerated women. 

She is a convener of the Theatre and Resistance Symposium for Theatre Without Borders Arts at The Martin Segal Center at CUNY and the Arts and Peace Commission for The International Peace and Research Association. She was an arts curator for The Rhodes campaign for European City of Culture. She is a core member and on the steering committee of Theatre Without Borders. She is a Fulbright Scholar. And she is the founder and artistic director of Artists Rise Up, New York (www.aruny.org) and The New Generation Theatre Ensemble.

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Roberto Gutiérrez Varea - Advisory Board Member

Roberto Gutiérrez Varea’s research and creative work focuses on the intersection of performance and peacebuilding in social conflict and state violence contexts. His stage work includes directing and founding community-based performance projects such as Soapstone Theater a company made up of male ex-offenders and women survivors of violent crime, and El Teatro Jornalero! a company of Latin American immigrant workers. He is a regular contributor to journals, and co-editor and co-author of the two-volume anthology "Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict.” Varea is a member of the performance collective Secos & Mojados, and founding faculty of the Department of Performing Arts, and the Performing Arts and Social Justice and Critical Diversity Studies Majors at the University of San Francisco (California). He is affiliated with Galeria de la Raza, Golden Thread Productions, and the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (all in San Francisco) and Theater Without Borders (US).

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David J. Diamond - Advisory Board Member

David J. Diamond is an artist, career coach for theatre artists, community activist and teacher. Current projects include coordinating the La MaMa International Symposium for Directors, Playwright Retreat, Residencies and Master Acting Workshops in Spoleto, Italy each summer. He serves on the Steering Committee of Theatre Without Borders and co-produced the 2010 Conference: Acting Together on the World Stage: Theatre and Peacebuilding in Conflict Zones. He serves the Advisory Boards of DNAWorks and H.E.A.T. Collective. He regularly presents workshops on Arts and Peacebuilding with Jessica Litwak in the US and abroad.

He trains with Theatre of the Oppressed NYC. He has worked with the U.S. Army as a mentor director on Army bases; served as adjudicator for the Army’s One-Act Play Competition and was a delegate to the International Theatre Institute Congress in Madrid.  

Through his company, Career Coaching for Artists, David presents workshops for professionals and students, including Directing Your Theatre Career at Yale School of Drama, Brown, DePaul, National Theatre Institute, Columbia (where he is an Adjunct Professor) among others. He co-teaches a course in World Theatre at Sarah Lawrence College. He is an Adjunct Professor at Pace University. Former Executive Director of Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, he has an M.A. from NYU in Performance Studies and B.A. from University of Illinois. www.davidjdiamond.com


Sidd Joag - Advisory Board Member

Sidd Joag is a visual artist, community organizer and ethnographer and currently serves and Program Director for freeDimensional, an international support network for artists, culture workers and communicators facing persecution as a result of their work. Sidd comes from backgrounds in the visual arts and social sciences, having spent several years prior to joining fD, working with community arts projects in New York, India, China and co-founding an artist residency/exchange program in Southwestern China, focused on ethnic minority cultural preservation in the China-Burma borderlands. Sidd has an MSc in Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science with concentrations in Crime, Control and Globalisation, Cultural Theory and New Media and a B.A. in Sociology from New York University. His paintings, installations and experimental films have been seen in the United States, Canada, India, the Philippines, China and Northern Ireland. He is a co-founder of Zero Capital Arts, which supports socially and politically engaged creative projects and exhibitions.

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Ben Rivers - Advisory Board Member

Ben Rivers was born in the UK and raised in Australia. He specializes in the use of applied theatre for community mobilization, cultural activism and collective trauma response.  Ben has taught and practiced in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and North America.  He is a founding member of The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus initiative (Jenin, Occupied Palestine) and a Co-founder of the Arab School of Playback Theatre (Beirut, Lebanon).  He has also initiated several Psychodrama training programs in the Middle East.  Ben holds a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, USA.  He is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of New England, Australia.  Several professional journals have published Ben’s articles.  Ben is a member of the North American Drama Therapy Association.  He is a Registered Drama Therapist, an Accredited Playback Theatre Trainer and an Accredited Trainer and Practitioner in the Therapeutic Spiral Model. 


Catherine Filloux - Advisory Board Member

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. http://www.catherinefilloux.com


Clara Solly-Slade - Resident Artist

Clara Solly-Slade graduated from the acting stream of The Adelaide College of the Arts in 2013. In 2016 she undertook the Acting Shakespeare course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London, and was able to complete this training with financial support from both the Ian Potter Foundation and The Helpmann Academy. In 2017 Clara participated with Lamama Experimental Theatre Company at their International Directors Symposium in Italy. Clara was recently awarded the Helpmann Academy’s Neil Curnow Award to fund a working trip in the USA in 2018, where she will intern with LaMama as well as The H.E.A.T Collective and Working Classroom. This trip to the USA will be building upon the work Clara is doing with The H.E.A.T Collective remotely from Australia where she will work under Jessica to learn many of the key principles of H.E.A.T. 

Clara works regularly as a puppeteer in hospitals and schools with the children's cancer charity Camp Quality as well regularly working as a drama teacher with young people for several different youth theatres including ACT NOW theatre for social change and Australian Theatre for Young People. Clara also works as an actor across stage and screen.


Brooke Shilling - Producing Associate, Resident Artist

Brooke Shilling is a born and raised New Yorker with a passion for devising socially relevant pieces of theatre and for using theatre as a vehicle for change. She is a graduate of Ithaca College with a BFA in Acting. She has worked with groups including One Year Lease Theatre Company, Civic Ensemble, The Martin E. Segal Center, A Laboratory for Actor Training, The Joust Theatre Company and more. She also began to develop her solo show Ladies of the Land with the Drama League's Fourth Friday Art+Party Residency. She is humbled to be a part of the H.E.A.T. Collective community.


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Rebecca-Anne Whittaker - Producing Associate, Resident Artist

Rebecca-Anne Whittaker recently received her B.A. in Drama from Vassar College. In 2016 she undertook the Midsummer in Oxford course at the British American Drama Academy. As a recipient of the Miranda Family Fund, Rebecca-Anne studied at the O’Neill’s National Theater Institute in 2017. She is an actor and writer who hopes to use her voice to ignite change.