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  • Supplemental 1 Author Introduction
  • Supplemental 4: Puppet Building

*All five supplemental video files are available for download at the bottom of this page.


Jessica Litwak, Ph.D. is a 2015 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

L-R : Dr. Carolyn Kenny, Dissertation Chair, Dr. Jessica Litwak at her Dissertation Defense, May 2015

Dissertation Committee

  • Carolyn Kenny, Ph.D. - Dissertation Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D. - Committee Member
  • D. Soyini Madison, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Dara Culhane, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston, Ph.D. - External Reader


This dissertation is accompanied by five MP4 video Supplemental Files.


    theater; theatre; drama therapy; applied theater; history;Middle East; Muslims; Jews; poetry; social change; arts; performance ethnography; autoethnography; performative writing; arts-based research; playwriting; HEAT Collective;

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    This study addresses the research question “How Do I Inspire Personal and Social Change Through My Theater Practice?” I implement the theory and practice of H.E.A.T., a fusion theater system, combining use of theater arts as healing practice, educational asset, activist tool, and an art form.I research different ways that theater can affect change, focusing specifically on the use of history in performance.I dramatically interpret a period of history where performance and poetry contributed to change.I utilize qualitative methods including performance ethnography, auto ethnography, arts-based research, and historical research.I describe the fieldwork in conflict zones in the Middle East, which led to the scripting of a full-length play, and the presentation of the play, which included discussion groups and audience participation through post-show events.The dissertation is a bricolage, combining scholarly chapters, performative writing, and scripted theater.The work explores ways of employing theater as a change agent by using history as an inspiration.In the city of Cordoba, Spain, in the 10th and 11th century Muslims and Jews lived in a state of relative peace.Looking at medieval Cordoba I explore the Judeo-Arabic poetry of the time, asking:Can what happened in Cordoba be a model for performance and peacebuilding?Based on historical research, the Judeo-Arabic poetry of ancient Al-Andalusia, and the theory of performative peacebuilding, the dramatically scripted section of the dissertation will take place in two realms:Present-day conflict zones in the Middle East; and medieval Cordoba where two ancient characters convey a story of coexistence through poetic expression.In three decades of working as a theater artist, I have come to believe that my work must be dedicated to facilitating change.The sacred and ancient art of theater needs to be meaningful to 21st-century life so that we can use it to awaken, heal, educate and repair the world.This dissertation is accompanied by five supplemental MP4 video files.This Dissertation is available in open access at AURA:Antioch University Repository and Archive and Ohiolink ETD Center


    Jessica Litwak, is a playwright, educator, actor, puppet builder, a Registered Drama Therapist, and a trained practitioner of Playback, Psychodrama, and Theatre of the Oppressed.She is the Artistic Director of The H.E.A.T. Collective ( and The New Generation Theatre Ensemble ( Her collection of plays, Wider Than the Sky and Other Plays was published by No Passport Press. Other work has been published by TCG, Applause Books, Smith and Krause, and The New York Times. Plays include: Dream Acts, The Emma Goldman Trilogy: Love Anarchy and Other Affairs, The Snake and The Falcon, and Nobody Is Sleeping, A Pirate’s Lullaby, (Rattlestick Theater and at The Goodman Theatre). The Promised Land, produced in Budapest and New York. Secret Agents and Victory Dance (The Renberg Theatre, and DR2 ). Terrible Virtue, (The Lark and The Culture Project), Wider Than The Sky (The Lark, UCONN, Boston Museum of Science, Epic Theatre). Her plays for youth: GRIM, Postcards from Canterbury, The Great Journey Home, Verona High, and War: An American Dream, written and directed by Litwak, have been produced in New York and Massachusetts. Her play The Moons Of Jupiter was produced in Massachusetts and Colorado. Her new play My Heart is in the East will be performed at La Mama in New York this spring. Litwak has performed on stages across the U.S., and in Europe. She received her BFA in acting from ETW at NYU and her MFA in playwriting from Columbia, and she is currently completing her PhD at Anitoch University in Theatre for Social Change. Litwak has taught 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, and Naropa University. She conducts workshops around the world in Peacebuilding and Performance. She has taught theatre in Iraq, Lebanon, India, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and at La Mama Umbria. She has performed and conducted seminars for The Global Mobility Symposium, The World Economic Forum, Performing The World, the North American Drama Therapy Association Conference, and The International Peace and Reach Association Conference. Litwak is a core member of Theatre Without Borders, and is a co-founder of Artist Safety Net. She is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar.

    Jessica Litwak, Ph.D., ORCID ID # 0000-0002-6187-9683

    Supplement_1_Author_Introduction_Litwak_Dissertation Video.mp4 (14146 kB)
    Supplement 1: Author Introduction Litwak Dissertation Video

    Supplement_2_Field_Work_Video.mp4 (15031 kB)
    Supplement 2: Field Work Video

    Supplement_3_Puppets_Video.mp4 (4541 kB)
    Supplement 3: Puppets Video

    Supplement_4_Puppet_Building_Video.mp4 (7402 kB)
    Supplement 4: Puppet Building Video

    Supplement_5_Performance_Event_Video.mp4 (3769 kB)
    Supplement 5: Performance Event