The Facilitators

Stephen Cole was the first facilitator. A retired theatre professor from Cornell who worked with many Hollywood actors and taught at the IM School of Healing Arts, began working with PPTG in October of 2009.  Cole’s emphasis was on transformative characterology as an experienced act.  At the request of the men of PPTG, this work focused on the healing process of transformative experience…  Read the full facilitator history

Current Facilitators


Bruce Levitt

Bruce Levitt is a Professor in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. ...

He served as Chair of the Department of Theater, Film & Dance from l986 to l995 during which time he oversaw the final phases of construction of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Dr. Levitt is a former chair of the New York State Council on the Arts Theatre Panel. He was elected to membership in The National Theatre Conference in 2009. He has directed over 100 university and professional productions. For six years he served as Producing Artistic Director of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, a free outdoor event that also provided educational programs to children throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. At Cornell Levitt has collaborated in community-based projects with the Lehman Alternative Community School, the Ithaca City School District, John O’Neal, Roadside Theatre, Urban Bush Women, Michael Keck, and members of the American Festival coalition. He co-teaches a course in community engagement with Scott Peters, Co-Director of Imagining America and Cornell faculty member in Development Sociology, Shorna Allred, faculty member in Natural Resources, and Richard Kiely, Director of Cornell’s Center for Engaged Learning and Research.


Judy Levitt

Judy Levitt joined the PPTG family as a facilitator in the fall of 2011 and is extremely grateful to have been welcomed into this group ...

explorers of the human spirit. She has been teaching Acting at Ithaca College since 1988 and holds an M.A. in Theatre from the University of Kansas Theatre. Subsequent actor training was with Michael Howard of the Michael Howard Studios in New York City. Judy was a founding member of the Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble (C.I.T.E.), which performs for a number of different organizations, including academic institutions, corporations, service and government agencies — exploring issues of diversity in the work place. Under the auspices of C.I.T.E. she has also worked extensively with the Child Protective Services Training Institute, both as an actor and as a director — training social workers to go into the field and investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect. She counts among her most rewarding acting experiences performing alongside the men of PPTG in “Maximum Will” and “An Indeterminate Life”. Judy is honored beyond measure to be in the presence weekly of these courageous men who have dedicated themselves to creating something positive in an overwhelmingly negative environment.


Norm Johnson

Norm Johnson, Jr. is in his 25th year teaching movement and scene study at Ithaca College. ...

Originally from Rhode Island, he has taught in Oregon at Portland State University and worked with Imago, the Theatre Mask Ensemble. He has an eclectic theatre background having performed medieval mummers plays on a folded stage pulled by a team of oxen. He has worked as a puppeteer and puppet-maker, mask-maker and performer, as an animal wrangler for the PBS production of the Scarlet Letter. He has directed full-length dramas with the entire population of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, founded both the Great Interplanetary Soapbox Revival and the Pan-Twilight circus. He served as the Artistic Director of Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre Company. He is currently the President of the board of directors for the Civic Ensemble.


Nick Fesette

Nick Fesette worked with PPTG for five years while earning his Ph.D. in Theatre at Cornell. ...

He has co-written several articles with Bruce Levitt exploring how the group uses performance to engage trauma. He is currently an assistant professor of theatre at Oxford College of Emory University, where he continues his research, teaching, and theatre making. His book project, Cagecraft: Theatre and Performance in Carceral America, examines the prison system as a performing structure that continually re-stages race and class oppression.


Jayme Kilburn

Jayme Kilburn is the Founding Artistic Director of the Strand Theater Company in Baltimore City. ...

She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in Dramatic Art and Psychology. In 2014, Jayme completed an interdisciplinary master's degree in Humanities and Social Thought at NYU and is currently working towards her Ph.D. in Theatre Arts at Cornell University. Jayme has directed over thirty plays including Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Real Women Have Curves by Josefina Lopez, In The Blood by Suzan Lori-Parks, The Glory of Living by Rebecca Gilman, One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace, Anna Bella Eema by Lisa D'Amour, and That Pretty Pretty; or, the Rape Play by Sheila Callaghan. Jayme's full-length plays Ding! Or Bye Bye Dad and Garbage Kids received their world premiere productions at Venus Theatre in 2014 and 2016. Jayme has won three first-year writing seminar awards for her work as an instructor at Cornell University and was part of Cornell's NextGen Professors inaugural cohort. Jayme received a grant from Engaged Cornell and the Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts to establish her Women's Performance Workshop as a permanent program in Baltimore. Jayme's research focuses on feminist performance and is writing her dissertation on women stage directors.


Danielle Newmark

Danielle is so excited to join the Phoenix Players Theatre Group family...

after years of hearing about it from professor Norm Johnson. Danielle is a recent graduate of Ithaca College with a BFA in Musical Theatre, having spent her senior year as Norm’s TA in his sophomore course: Movement for the Stage.  Since arriving in Ithaca, Danielle has followed her inspiration to working at theaters upstate, currently at The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse on their Youth Theatre Tour. Nothing has been more special than combining her love for theatre, teaching, and community building with the incredible members of PPTG. She is so grateful to this family for effortlessly including her, and thankful for Bruce, Judy, Jayme, and Norm for welcoming her with open arms. She is so inspired by the work of this group and hopes to pursue it beyond the walls of the Auburn facility. 

Past Facilitators


Alison Van Dyke | 1928 - 2018

Alison Van Dyke taught acting, speech and dialects at Cornell University in the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance...

for 37 years before her retirement in 2014. She was also the Director of Undergraduate Studies in that department for many years. She was a facilitator with PPTG since 2011 and served on the board of the Cornell Prison Education Program. Her retirement plans included joining PPTG at Auburn every Friday night. With her grace, intelligence, humor and compassion Alison worked with four generations of PPTG members, assisting them on their journeys of self-discovery and transformation. Her generosity of spirit and her humanity were great gifts to all who knew her.


Mary Rolland has had a life-long commitment to her spiritual journey. She has lived in Zen Buddhist monasteries where she was a postulant nun. ...

She attended the IM School of Healing arts, where she was one of Steven Cole’s teachers. Mary helped guide PPTG on its journey of inner healing work from 2014 to 2018. She continues to be a supportive friend, helper, and benevolent presence for PPTG members.


Christopher Seeds

Chris Seeds is a criminal justice scholar, lawyer, composer, and theater enthusiast. He worked with PPTG from 2013 to 2018. He is currently Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine.


Mariana Amorim

Mariana Amorim is a researcher at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell University. ...

She has a master’s degree in public policy with focus on criminal justice from Oregon State University. She has worked with district attorney offices, non-profits that assist crime victims, and re-entry programs. She worked as a Theatre of the Oppressed instructor in Brazil, with the non-profit theatre group Pressão do Juízo, partner of the Theatre of the Oppressed Center, which was founded by Augusto Boal. Mariana joined PPTG on October, 2014.


Paula Murray-Cole

Paula Murray-Cole is an associate professor of acting in the Department of Theatre Arts. ...

Her professional work is centered on the development of rasaboxes, a suite of exercises devised by Richard Schechner. She is the director of rasaboxes training for East Coast Artists and She has taught performance workshops at New York University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Central Washington University, The Dell’ Arte International School of Physical Theatre, Brown University, The Actor’s Movement Studio and The Hangar Theatre Lab Company. She has taught acting, coached and/or directed productions at Hofstra University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Interlochen National Arts Camp, and the Governor’s Magnet School for the Arts of Norfolk, Virginia. She has acted at The Alley Theatre, The Houston and Dallas Shakespeare Festivals, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Karin Coonrod’s Arden Party in NYC, in Schechner’s productions of Three Sisters and Hamlet with East Coast Artists. She holds her MFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University and her BFA in Drama from Ithaca College. She is a member of Actors Equity Association, The International Society of Researchers on Emotion, the Association of Theatre Movement Educators and is a Licensed Massage Therapist in New York State.


Stephen Cole

For nearly 40 years as a professor in Cornell’s Department of Theater, Film, and Dance, Stephen Cole trained scores of fledgling young actors. ...

Cole was a pioneer in the field and a dedicated teacher, committed to his students’ personal growth as much as their technical training. Educated at the University of Iowa and Indiana University, Cole taught or performed at places such as the University of Nebraska and Ohio State University before coming to Cornell in 1968, where he became the director of one the nation’s first acting MFA programs. In addition to co-founding the Ithaca Repertory Theater (now the Hangar Theater), Cole trained well-known actors such as Christopher Reeve, Catherine Hicks, and Jimmy Smits. His approach to teaching is holistic, incorporating psychology as well as characterology and biomechanics. His unique approach to teaching was in part informed by his graduate study as well as his personal spiritual life. After a heart transplant in 1995, Cole became involved in the IM School of Healing Arts, a spiritual and healing learning center with campuses in Ithaca and New York City. He drew a parallel between his work as a teacher at the IM School and his career as an acting teacher.