Bios

The years in this group have profoundly influenced my life and development.
It was through you I came to know the bridge between art and spiritual growth.
Dzieci taught me the beauty and necessity of service, of community, of searching,
of the spiritual within theater, within everything.

Lea Simone Bognar – Dzieci Alumni 1997 – 2003

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

SONY DSCMatt 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 Houston, Elizabeth Cogburn, and Ram Dass 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 independent feature film, Cracking Up (producer, director, writer, actor), 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 featured in Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors by Retta Blaney, and profiled in the  The Encyclopedia of Religion under Performance Theatre.

Megan Bones graduated from Saint Olaf College with a BA in Theatre and Political Science. She formed The Gremlin Theatre Company, in Minneapolis and performed professionally in The Flying Foot Forum. She left the Mini-Apple for the Big-Apple and was cast the first national tour of The Music Man (Ethel) and the national tour of Crazy For You, as well as Voice Theatre’s  Blithe Spirit (Elvira), The Skin of Our Teeth (Sabina), Two Gentleman of Verona (Julia), Birds on a Wire (Louise Cobb), and Our Country’s Good (Liz Morden). She recenly won Best Supporting Actress at the KGFC Film Festival for her role of The Queen in Rooster and the Queen.  Being a core member of Dzieci has been a life changing experience for Megan. Striving towards personal transformation through theatre and works of service has helped fill a space that is often left empty by mainstream theatre and film, and she is grateful to be a part of this amazingly diverse, talented and dedicated group.

12088432_904353259633147_1953917218414854812_nYvonne Brechbuhler(Founding Member 1997), was born and raised in Basel, Switzerland, where she worked as a kindergarten teacher before moving to New York in 1994 to pursue a career in theatre. She was a member of The Irondale Theater Ensemble, utilizing improvisational theatre and group-building skills to work with high-risk teenagers in schools and prisons and has been in charge of the afterschool program at a Waldorf preschool. Along with Matt Mitler, Yvonne created and co- taught a series of theater classes for girls 7-12 called BEING!, utilizing text from Shakespeare, and is currently teaching music classes at a Montessori preschool. Yvonne is dreaming of a theatrical program that will bring Dzieci’s basic wisdom into children’s lives. Yvonne is also a certified Feldenkrais practitioner and the proud mother of two beautiful girls, Yona and Ora.

Ryan Castalia (Ensemble 2013), was born in Tucson, Arizona. He studied theater at UCLA and in Los Angles co-founded the performance group, Free Theater. In 2011, his interest in Polish theatrical traditions beckoned him to Europe, where he found training residencies with Teatr ZAR and Studium Teatralne. In 2012, repatriation led to a nationwide DIY tour of America with Free Theatre. Ryan finally settled in New York City, and found Dzieci, which answered his search for theater creation rooted in a deeper inner and outer practice, and where he is now a core member and assistant director. In New York he has found a broad array of work, directing and performing with Brooklyn-based Stairwell Theater, as well as serving as Programs Director for the redemption center, community group, and Dzieci venue, Sure We Can, where he pursues a mission of service. Through all this, Dzieci has become the thread which binds Ryan’s work, a unique group and practice, using art as a lens through which to explore profound efforts which reveal hidden movements and fragile truths.

FelicityFelicity Doyle (Ensemble 2014), an L.A. transplant, grew up playing classical flute. She studied Physical Acting at Boston University, receiving a B.F.A. in Theatre Arts, with a minor in French. In Los Angeles, she was a founding member of Cowboys and Indians Theatre, performing “Wolf Girls” at the inaugural Hollywood Fringe Festival, as well as filming sketch comedy with SMBC Theater, and recording an EP with her band Hôtel. Felicity first heard of Dzieci through her mother, who performed mime with Mr. Mitler in the mid 1970’s. For this former Angeleno, New York is as much a process as a destination. Working with Dzieci allows for a deep grounding amidst all the chaos, and provides tools for questioning both her creative and personal interactions in life.

Golan (Ensemble 2007) graduated from Queens College in 1997, with an interdisciplinary degree in Liberal Arts. 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 studies with The NY Goofs and Jef Johnson, and attributes his affinity for this work to an ongoing pursuit of understanding the human condition through clown. Now, after 10 years with Dzieci, Golan continues to find support exploring this theme in his ongoing work with the company, while ironically also pursuing his CPA accounting degree. Golan feels blessed by this opportunity, which always touches a deeper chord and stirs his soul, and very grateful for it.

Jesse Hathaway (Ensemble 2006) 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. He is an initiated priest of the orisha Obatala in the Afro-Cuban Lukumi religion and a Tatá in the the Afro-Brazilian tradition of Quimbanda, and works as an artist, storyteller, herbalist and diviner. Drawn to ritual studies and inspired by structures and methodology from both ancient and extant traditions, he has worked with Dzieci for the past decade, drawing upon a deep need to integrate the spiritual with the practical.

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.

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; the delirious Cirkus Luna! ensembles for the Dzieci’s antic East Molvanian spectacle, and also finessed the 1940’s Gypsy wear for the company’s ever-evolving Makbet. 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.