Samara Gaev, Founder & Artistic Director of Truthworker Theatre Company, is a New York based activist, educator, theatre director, & performer. Her work has taken her to Zimbabwe, Senegal, Hawaii, Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Scotland, & throughout the United States. Gaev has 16 years experience using performance as a tool for cross-cultural healing & social change, including initiating theatre & writing intensives for formerly incarcerated, gang affiliated, & pregnant & parenting youth, as well as facilitating healing circles for women & survivors.
Her work examines & challenges constructions of race, class, the Prison Industrial Complex, hetero-normative codes, & systems of oppression that not only excuse, but enable cycles of violence. Under her direction, Truthworker Theatre Company has written, devised, & self-produced three original hip-hop theatre productions through the lens of a dozen youth directly impacted by mass incarceration: BAR CODE: A Performative Analysis of the School to Prison Pipeline & IN|PRISM: Boxed In & Blacked Out in America, & RE:VISION | A State of Emergence. This provocative three-part body of work moves from the school-to-prison pipeline & youth criminalization, through the impacts & practices of solitary confinement, & into re-entry upon release.
Samara is honored to have served as Artist/Scholar in Residence at Columbia University’s Teachers College: Graduate School of Education, & to be lead teaching artist at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, directing their Arts & Justice theater program. She is also the National Education Coordinator for Question Bridge: Black Males, a board member of Project Rhythm, & Curriculum Writer for Hurricane Season: The Hidden Messages in Water. Gaev consults as an anti-oppression trainer with community organizations & institutions nationally, such as Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Beautiful Trouble, The Nature Conservancy, & Good Shepherd Services. Her work as a performer, educator, & lecturer has afforded her opportunities to present at colleges, universities, & conferences including The United Nations, New York University, The Findhorn Foundation’s New Story Summit, Marion Institute’s Connecting for Change Conference, Yale University, Vassar, & Oberlin College.
Samara has had the opportunity to train with such choreographers as Bill T. Jones, Garth Fagan, & Urban Bush Women, & is a company member of Organic Magnetics, under the direction of Maija Garcia—Creative Director & Associate Choreographer of FELA!. Samara has also performed extensively with Universal Arts Co. in Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, co-directed by Obbie & Bessie award winner Robbie McCauley, & The Beat, which brought her to Zimbabwe’s Harare International Festival for the Arts as a performer & teacher.
Gaev graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She completed advanced training in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed from the Paul A. Kaplan Center for Educational Drama & received her Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, with a thesis that explored trauma, advocacy, & witnessing. Samara is a recipient of the 2009 Next Generation of Leadership Fellowship through the Center for Whole Communities, where she is now faculty. Her active involvement in progressive social change has taken her beyond the classroom & the stage, & towards actualizing the change she wishes to see.