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Meet the Shantigar Team

Jean-Claude van Itallie

Shantigar’s founder,
Jean-Claude van Itallie

(May 25, 1936 – September 9, 2021), wrote over thirty plays. An early LaMama playwright, his off-Broadway hit, America Hurrah, was hailed as the watershed political play of the 60s. As playwright for the Open Theater, he wrote The Serpent.  His widely produced translations of Chekhov (Chekhov, the Major Plays) are considered by many theater folk as the most “actable.” He taught theater at Yale, Princeton, Harvard (his alma mater), NYU, Amherst, University of Colorado, Middlebury, Columbia, and other schools.


Didi Goldenhar
Co-Director &
Board of Directors

Didi Goldenhar is a writer whose articles on social justice themes and changemakers have been featured in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, National Public Radio, and the Open Society Foundation, among others. Her book, Leveling the Playing Field (with Shifra Bronznick and Marty Linsky) is a feminist guide to leadership. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals. Most recently, Didi wrote and co-directed Return to Calais, an award-winning documentary which links her mother’s WW2 experience with the current refugee crisis. The film toured festivals in the US and abroad, most recently in 2022 at the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris. Didi met Jean-Claude in 1980 and became his assistant on his Tibetan Book of the Dead and his luminous versions of Chekhov’s plays. She is a Board Member of Shantigar and currently serves, with Deb Katz and Rosemary Quinn, as Co-Director.

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Deb Katz
Co-Director &
Board of Directors

Deborah Katz, CSW is executive director of Citizens Awareness Network, a non-profit grassroots New England organization fighting for clean air, democracy, and environmental justice. CAN was instrumental in the closure of reactors in MA, VT and CT. Deb designed the community health study with the MA Department of Health, organized local community participation, and secured pro bono support from Harvard School of Public Health, USGS, Clark University, and John Snow Institute to investigate the epidemic of disease in her community brought on by long-term exposure to radioactive releases from a nuclear power reactor. She has coordinated environmental justice tours to Utah, Nevada, Washington DC, and South Carolina, three Action Camps, and a national People's Summit on Nuclear Waste. Deb won a Giraffe Award for sticking her neck out to protect New England reactor communities. The House of Representative from the Commonwealth of MA cited her for outstanding leadership and service in the public health field. She published The Valley of the Shadow, a picture book on the grief process for the left behind with a foreword by Jean-Claude van Itallie.


Rosemary Quinn
Co-Director &
Board of Directors

Rosemary Quinn is Director of NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing at Tisch School of the Arts where she teaches Acting, Improvisation, and Storytelling. She works as an actor, director, teacher, producer, and community arts activist. Her career in the theater has spanned decades working with artists including Sam Shepard, Susan Sontag, Joe Chaikin, Robert Ashley, Richard Armstrong, The Other Theater, Mabou Mines, The Talking Band, Three-Legged Dog’s Dyke Division, and continues with many of today’s cutting-edge theater makers. Rosemary is a member of the National Alliance of Acting Teachers. She teaches voice work at The Roy Hart Theatre of France and has guest-taught at Hampshire College, Williams College, and Princeton University. Rosemary worked with Jean-Claude van Itallie for over forty years and performed in several of his plays, including Sunset Freeway, which was written for her. They taught together at Naropa and often at Shantigar. In 2019, Rosemary produced Jean-Claude’s final play, The Fat Lady Sings, at LaMama ETC. Rosemary currently serves on Shantigar’s Board of Directors.

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Josh Adler
Teacher & Advisory Board

Josh Adler is an American artist, filmmaker, and conservationist now based in the Laurentians of Quebec. Whether it’s wolves in war zones or veterans healed by psychedelics, he strives to tell stories that create common ground while exploring compelling questions in science, health, and social justice. His producing credits include the landmark Dirty Money (Netflix), Explorer (Nat Geo), Murder on Madison (HBO), and most recently, The Quest for Sleep, narrated by Octavia Butler.  He has written feature stories for National Geographic, Vice, reality Sandwich, and Prime Mind and presented at SAND and the Science of Consciousness Conferences. Over the last decade, he's created paintings inspired by the Buddhist name, Exertion Gold Sun, he was given in 2010. During that time, he has been a visual artist in residence for the Santa Fe Art Institute, Chashama, the Shantigar Foundation, and Les Atelier in Baie-St-Paul.


Veronique Bryant

A vivacious member of Shantigar, Veronique Bryant provides pivotal social media & design services to keep our community connected. She enjoys working with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and is a mosaic and watercolor artist. Her passions are traveling and languages.

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Connie Childs
Board of Directors

Connie Childs was introduced to Jean-Claude in 2010 by her dear childhood friend, Mimi Savage (now Dr. Savage, Drama Therapist) with whom she shares a passion for theatre, dance, and expressive arts therapies. His workshop at LaMama ETC largely focused on Emilie Conrad's Continuum work, was transformative, affirming her intuition about the wisdom of the body and reconnecting to her past involvement with dance and gymnastics. By the end of that workshop, she and Jean-Claude felt like old friends. She was moved by Jean-Claude's gift of making people feel deeply seen. Shortly after, she started coming up to Shantigar.

Connie has been a certified personal trainer at the 92nd Street Y and is a practitioner of Qi Gong, which weaves physical movement and meditation. She has delved into the power of sand tray/play, a form of art therapy that helps people express their stories through symbols. She also has explored shamanism as a pathway to healing and soul retrieval. Connie believes that art can save the world which is why she loves Shantigar, a place where people can be supported by the peace and space of nature and to encounter meditation, healing, play, discovery, artistic intent, and meaningful connection to self and the world.

Peter Columbus

Devoted Zen practitioner, and resident Alan Watts expert, Dr. Peter Columbus has deftly managed day-to-day operations at Shantigar for the past decade. He also lectures at nearby colleges and universities, while maintaining a regular academic writing practice.

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Rand Engel
Board of Directors

Rand Engel directed Balkan Sunflowers (BSF), humanitarian program in Kosovo 1999-2015. He is particularly proud that people who were children in BSF programs, or young volunteers from around the world, are now leading other rights and local and international humanitarian programs, making films, teaching, getting the first college degrees in their families. Rand has been Director of the Insight Meditation Society, Vice President of Wisdom Publications, founder in 1977 of an energy conservation company and run garment buying offices in Malaysia and Sri Lanka. He has been published in the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, New York Times (International Herald Tribune),, as well as in Kosovo publications Koha Ditore and Balkan Insight. He holds the rank of Sandan in Aikido.

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Michael Schreiber
Teacher &
Advisory Board

Michael Schreiber is a teaching artist who brings theatre techniques, meditative practices, and business acumen to a wide range of clients, including artists, entrepreneurs, and women in technology seeking career advancement. Trained as an actor and director, Michael leads Home Theatre, an online Shantigar workshop which started as a collaboration with Jean-Claude van Itallie in 2020. During his Shantigar residencies, he produced videos of Jean-Claude demonstrating “games of transformation” from his book Tea With Demons and directed comedic videos on serious topics for Citizens Awareness Network, a grassroots environmental organization. Michael has served as Shantigar Program Director, co-leads its Meditation Challenges, and created the Young Artist Residency Program with students from LaGuardia Community College in NYC. He currently serves on Shantigar’s Advisory Board.

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Marisa Viola
Teacher &
Advisory Board

Marisa Viola has been meditating and studying Buddhism since 2008. She took Refuge and Boddhisattva vows in the Tibetan Buddhist Gelugpa tradition with Venerable Robina Courtin and has had the good fortune to study with Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn and many great teachers of various lineages. She began teaching in 2013 after completing the Interdependence Project's Immersion and Teacher Training Program with Ethan Nichtern. Marisa brings extensive experience to her practice, having taught meditation in monasteries, universities, corporations, prisons, and hospitals. As a faculty member of MNDFL in New York City, she taught thousands of classes and special events; she also taught and served as a mentor in the teacher training program. Marisa offers online meditation sessions and teachings through MNDFL, the Open Heart Project, Shantideva Center, and the Shantigar Foundation, as well as one-on-one.

Board of  Directors: Connie Childs, Rand Engel, Edith Goldenhar, Deb Katz, Rosemary Quinn 

Board of Advisors: Josh Adler, Michael Schreiber, Marisa Viola

We’d be pleased to meet you on your next visit to Shantigar. If there’s anything we can do for you, please give us a call.

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