While working as a Direct Care Counselor for teenagers with schizophrenia and autism, David Bartlett took an acting class to relieve stress and realized theater was a great outlet for discovering his own inner world. This led him directly to New York City, where he graduated from the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater in 2001. For the next six years he pursued an acting career, (travelling to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with two award-winning shows, Clockwork Orange and Fahrenheit 451), and worked a variety of odd jobs including: bike messenger, dog walker, construction worker, and teacher for adults with cerebral palsy. Inspired by the trust created participating in various ensemble theater groups, but feeling the acting industry to be destructive to his values, David chose to return to school to refresh his perspective on life. At the same time, he discovered Dzieci, which has rooted his belief that theater can be a tool for individual and communal therapy as well as a practice for spiritual transformation. It has given him strength to commit to his own spiritual practice, the Three Jewels of the Dharmic Path. David is currently pursuing a degree in Biology.
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 since played many roles such as Nina in The Seagull, Mrs. Popov in The Bear, and Electra in Clytemnestra. She has also 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 currently runs a Music Together program for children, and has recently been blessed with a beautiful dzieko of her own.
Andrew Eldredge came to Dzieci by way of physical theater, meditation, and angst. He was introduced to the first two (the angst being a national tradition) at Naropa University. In his life's practice, Dzieci finds a place near the center of his shrine as he seeks to combine the "helping" professions with his desire to enrich and enlighten retreat work with performance.
Jordon Flato is a native of Northern California, where he grew up dwarfed by the shadow of the redwood forests. He entered into the world of theatre at an early age, appearing in two to three producitons a year from ages 11 to 26. He eventually discovered what he was truly seeking in this work, having encountered Peter Brook, Jerzy Grotowski, and a more abiding respect for real philosophy, and soon quit the theatre all together in despair of ever finding a company with an eye to the 'vertical'. Shortly after almost receiving his B.A. in Theatre Arts from San Fransico State University, Jordon moved with his wife, Lisa, also an actress, to New York, and spent his creative energies on visual art with an eye toward the sacred. It has come as a great shock, and a greater delight to have discovered Dzieci, as it turns out to have been what he had been longing for all along. Most recently, Jordon became the father of his own dzieko, Parker, and is finding fatherhood to be the most rewarding work of all.
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.
Jesse Hathaway, a product of Catholic education and good parental supervision, was born and reared in the fertile concrete valleys of Los Angeles. He left California for the confines of New York City to attend school at NYU. There, at the Experimental Theatre Wing, he discovered Grotowski, clowning, and physical theatre, and began to realize the potential all encompassing incorporation and inherent sacredness in the Work. After several (mis)adventures in Spain and Canada, he graduated with a BFA in Theatre. By day, Jesse is a mild mannered Art Teacher at a special education facility in New Jersey and a storyteller at a day camp during the summer. He spends a lot of time talking to the plants in his garden, studying medieval philosophy and various forms of divination, learning obscure languages, and listening to music. Jesse is a devotee of the orisha Obatala in the Lukumi religion, drawing upon a deep need to integrate the spiritual with the practical, and is grateful to be in the company of such exemplary people as Dzieci.
Karen Hatt (Costumer) is a craft and food stylist by profession although she'd rather be designing and building costumes. For DZIECI she has produced 17th century clerical wear for Devils, 15th century idiot wear (a la Breughel) for the company's annual Christmas offering of Fool's Mass, and mismatching calico and patchwork costumes inspired by clothes of 19th century slaves and their dolls, for the group's work with children, and the delirious "Cirkus Luna!" outfits for the group's inept acrobatic show. She has already begun construction on Gypsy wear that Dzieci will use in hospitals and for their future adaptation of Ragnarök: The Fall of the Gods.
Elsa Lam was born in Ottawa, Ontario and trained as an architect in Canada. Her involvement with Dzieci emerges from a lifelong exploration of the roles of craft, collaboration, and intention in the creative process. As a freelance journalist, Elsa's writings on design and architecture have been published nationally and internationally in periodicals including: Azure, Archis, Alternatives Journal, and Canadian Architect. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Architectural History and Theory at Columbia University.
John Norman (Vocal Coach) is a native of Detroit, where he earned his BA in Performing Arts from Oakland University. He has taught vocal technique and acting to all ages and levels, and has played lead roles in several critically acclaimed regional productions such as The Rocky Horror Show, Othello, and Angels in America. A performer since age three, John has also recorded five albums with four different ensembles, the latest being his folk-rock outfit, "Norman", which can be seen at clubs all over the city. As a descendant of the Eastern Cherokee Tribe, Johns focus on ritual and spirituality is deeply related to this important part of his heritage. He and his wife Rebecca are raising a little dzieko of their own.
Rebecca Sokoll (Assistant Director), a native of the Detroit area, began studying dance when she was three years old. She continued to hone her performance skills at several professional theatres in the area, appearing in such critically acclaimed productions as Meadow Brook Theatre's The Merry Wives of Windsor ("Best Play", Detroit Free Press), and the performance-art masterpiece, The Moon Wolf, at Ann Arbor's Performance Network. Recent New York credits include Chronicles of Hell, produced by the award winning Theatre Et Al organization for the NYC Fringe Festival. Rebecca is currently working to complete her B.A. in Psychology at Hunter College. She and her husband, Dzieci chorusmaster John Norman, are the proud and adoring parents of Jack, who made his debut in Fool's Mass 2005 at Saint John's, age 11 days.
Bob Strock (Music Director) was born and raised amid the corn and soybean fields of Pontiac, Illinois, and has a BA in Sociology from the University of Chicago, where he directed productions of Six Characters in Search of an Author and Twelfth Night. His previous acting credits include Edmund in King Lear, Pseudolus in Forum, and Jack Boyle in Juno & the Paycock. He has also performed in a number of vocal and early music ensembles. He is currently in the process of developing the scenarios and music for Ragnarök, Dzieci's upcoming adaptation of the Nordic Myths, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at The New School.
Matt Mitler (Company Director) was initially trained in Humanistic and Existential Psychology, before discovering the healing potential of theatre. He considers his therapeutic study with such masters as R.D. Laing and Carl Rogers to be equal to his theatrical study with Jerzy Grotowski and Eugenio Barba. Combining these two pursuits, he began to lead workshops in a variety of settings including Hutchings Psychiatric Center (NY); The National Theatre School of Sweden; and the graduate school of The University of Psychology of Warsaw, where, in 1980, his essay, "Art and Therapy" was published in the anthology, New Directions in Psychotherapy.
To date, Matt has designed and directed over 70 theatrical productions, appeared on numerous television programs, and starred in over a dozen independent feature films. Though continuing to act, teach, and direct, Mr. Mitlers primary focus is on Theatre Group Dzieci, which he founded, here in New York City, in 1997. He and Dzieci are featured in the book, Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors by Retta Blaney, and profiled in the current edition of The Encyclopedia of Religion.