Bios

“What I experienced in Dzieci, will live with me forever.”
Jordon Flato – Dzieci Alumni 2004 -2008

Matt Mitler was initially trained in Humanistic and Existential Psychology, and Group Process before discovering the healing potential of theatre. He has had the good fortune to study with such masters as Jerzy Grotowski and Eugenio Barba in theatre; Carl Rogers and R. D. Laing in psychotherapy; and Jean Huston, Elizabeth Cogburn, and Michel de Salzmann in more esoteric disciplines. Integrating these pursuits has been a lifelong process.

Matt has led workshops in a variety of settings including Hutchings Psychiatric Center (NY); The Association for Humanistic Psychology; The National Theatre School of Sweden; New Brunswick and Union Theological Seminaries; The Institute for Clergy Excellence; The Heart of the Healer Foundation; The Parliament for the World’s Religions; and the graduate school of The University of Psychology of Warsaw, where his essay, “Art and Therapy” was published in the anthology, New Directions in Psychotherapy in 1979.

In Europe from 1977 to 1981, he performed, directed, taught, and formed the international theatre collective, “The Tribe”, which presented interactive works at a variety of therapeutic institutions and was featured at Le Festival Mondial du Theatre in Nancy, France. Other festivals, which presented Mr. Mitler’s work, include: The Koln Festival, Vienna Festwochen, The International Festival of Fools, The Gaukler Festival of Mime, The International Festival of Mimes and Pantomimes (Poland), and The Theatre of Nations.

Matt appeared on numerous television programs and starred in over a dozen independent motion pictures in the 80′s before creating his own film projects. His feature film, Cracking Up, garnered a number of awards; including “Best Film” in The Venice International Film Festival Critic’s Week and the “People’s Choice Award” in The New York Underground Film Festival. Participating in the festival circuit brought Matt back to Europe for the first time in fifteen years, where he was sponsored by The Children’s Cancer Fund of Sweden to train an ensemble of actors in clowning and therapeutic technique and lead seminars in creativity and healing at the Umea School of Medicine.

To date, Matt has designed and directed more than 80 theatrical productions; among them: his own adaptation of Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonely Hearts for the 29th Street Repertory Theatre; the critically acclaimed musical Sofrito, featuring The Latin Legends All Stars, for the New Victory Theater; and the apocalyptic epic Dirty Money (also co-author) for Teatr Am Turm in Frankfurt, Germany. He has also staged the works of dozens of solo artists and ensembles at a variety of NYC venues including The Samuel Beckett Theatre, LaMama ETC, and The Joseph Papp Public Theatre.

Mr. Mitler‘s primary focus is on Theatre Group Dzieci, which he founded in 1997. He and Dzieci are profiled in Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors by Retta Blaney, and included in the  The Encyclopedia of Religion under Performance Theatre.

Megan Bones, a former Minnesotan, is proud to call New York City home. After graduating from Saint Olaf College with a BA in Theatre and Political Science, she and fellow graduates began The Gremlin Theatre Company in Minneapolis, a group dedicated to creating new works of theatre. She also taught dance and performed professionally in the percussive dance/theatre company The Flying Foot Forum. She left the Mini-Apple for the Big-Apple and was cast in many shows including the first national tour of The Music Man (Ethel) and the national tour of Crazy For You. Being a part of Dzieci has been a life changing experience for her. Striving towards personal transformation through theatre and works of service has helped fill a space left empty from experiences in professional theatre. She is grateful to be a part of this amazingly diverse, talented and dedicated group

Yvonne Brecht, the driving force behind the initial creation of Dzieci, was born and raised in Basel, Switzerland. She worked as a kindergarten teacher before moving to New York in 1994 to pursue a career in theatre. She has been a member of The Irondale Theater Ensemble whose work includes safe sex education and group-building skills based on improvisational theatre for high-risk teenagers in high schools and prisons. Yvonne is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner and runs a Music Together program for children. She has been blessed with two beautiful dzieci of her own, Yona and Ora.

Ryan Castalia, a native of the Sonoran Desert, studied drama at UCLA, by the sea, focusing on poor theatre and mildly anarchic behavior. During this time he began experimenting with Shakespeare and ritualism, and co-founded the group The Free Theatre with several close companions. Following a seizure of post-collegiate wanderlust, which included a stay in Poland and a feverish performance tour of the American wilderness, Ryan came to the wintry avenues of New York City. A need for space and compassionate connection, (in addition to a rigorous artistic practice), led him to Dzieci. Here he has touched on new shades of work, qualities of gentle light, sharpened sight, and expansive effort, and has begun applying shape to a chaotic lifestyle. In Dzieci, he has found himself vigorously challenged, deeply grateful, and still endlessly curious.

Jesse Hathaway was born and reared in the fertile concrete valleys of Los Angeles. He left California for the confines of New York City to attend the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU, where he discovered Grotowski, clowning, physical theatre, the Roy Hart vocal technique, and graduated with a BFA in Theatre. Jesse is Project Manager for Special Programs at Manhattan New Music Project, an Arts Non-Profit, and is a storyteller at a day camp during the summer. He is a member of the Rune Gild, a Freemason, and an initiated priest of the orisha Obatala in the Afro-Cuban Lukumi religion. Currently, Jesse is pursuing a PhD in Cultural Anthropology focusing in Anthropology of Religion, drawing upon a deep need to integrate the spiritual with the practical.

Golan graduated from Queens College with an interdisciplinary degree in Liberal Arts in 1997.  Since then, he has successfully computerized his family’s small business, which he continues to run to this day. Golan came to Dzieci by way of clown school, and attributes his affinity for the work of Dzieci to his ongoing pursuit of understanding the human condition through clown. He believes that clown is a state of being, a vibration of the soul that we all share as humans, and struggles to find this on a daily basis. He continues the pursuit of these principles through his work in Dzieci and in Jef Johnson’s Clown Lab in New York City, both perpetual works in progress.

John Norman began as an ensemble member with Dzieci in 2000, and since 2006, serves as the company’s Vocal Director. He holds a BA in performing arts from Oakland University and has taught voice and acting for well over a decade. Dzieci offers him a unique opportunity to explore rituals connected with his Native American ancestry (Eastern Band Cherokee blood on both sides of his family), as well as develop his own vocal music techniques, in line with the group’s “work on the Self”. John is also a singer/songwriter with 2 EPs out on an independent label.

Isis Phoenix is an internationally recognized Shamanic teacher and performance artist.  Originally from Oklahoma, her degrees and background are in Classical Theatre, Women’s Studies, Sexuality and Shamanism.  She left a successful professional performance career to pursue her passion of teaching sacred sexuality.  In 2007, she began a Naked Yoga movement and clothing optional church service and is currently working on the book, Asana Exposed. Isis and her work have been featured on MSNBC, BBC, Fox News, NY Post, Tantra Café, NY Spirit, Elle Magazine, Marie Claire, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. She seeks the connection to the sacred in all areas of life and found working with Dzieci to be full manifestation of her vision of what’s possible when a collective of artists seek the sacred through theatre.

Karen Hatt (costumer) is a craft and food stylist by profession, but much happier designing and building costumes. She has created all of the costumes for Dzieci since the company’s inception in 1997, producing 17th century clerical wear for The Devils of Loudun; 15th century idiot wear (a la Breughel) for the company’s annual Christmas offering, Fools Mass; calico and patchwork outfits, inspired by clothes of 19th century slaves and their dolls, for the group’s work with children; and the delirious Cirkus Luna! ensembles for the Dzieci’s inept acrobatic show. She continues to finesse Gypsy wear for the company’s ever-evolving Makbet, and will soon be designing the look for Ragnarok. She and her husband, company director Matt Mitler, are the masterminds behind the famous Garfield Place annual black-light puppet show in Park Slope, Brooklyn every Halloween.