“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 (Ensemble 2007) graduated from Saint Olaf College with a BA in Theatre and Political Science. She formed The Gremlin Theatre Company, in Minneapolis, dedicated to creating new works of theatre, and also taught dance and performed professionally in The Flying Foot Forum. She left the Mini-Apple for the Big-Apple and was cast in a variety of shows including the first national tour of The Music Man (Ethel) and the national tour of Crazy For You, as well as Voice Theatre’s Two Gentleman of Verona (Julia), Birds on a Wire (Louise Cobb), and Our Country’s Good (Liz Morden/William Faddy). Megan’s been a core member of Dzieci for the past ten years, and it 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 her days in mainstream theatre. She is grateful to be a part of this amazingly diverse, talented and dedicated group.
Yvonne Brechbuhler, the driving force behind the initial creation of Dzieci, 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, she 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), 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. An evolving 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.
Felicity 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 2007) 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.
Chris Krivanek (Ensemble 2016) spent most of his life in Ohio before moving out to the Hudson Valley in 2013 to grow vegetables. While there, an incessant interest in meditation, psychology, biology, and spiritual philosophy left him with a desire to move past personal energetic impediments and towards a more vital state of being. Paratheatrical ritual seemed to offer a chance to fulfill this wish, and in 2015, after witnessing Dzieci’s Fools Mass in Kingston, he immersed himself in the company’s practice at their annual Marathon workshop that winter. He has stuck around ever since. Chris has chosen to return to farming after giving city life a shot, but will still be able to work with this amazing group of people with the added benefit of treating them to fresh produce and enticing herbal concoctions.
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; 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.