Eloquent...seamlessly flowing...beautifully executed...joyful...  San Francisco Chronicle

...powerful, poetic, multimedia spectacle... Theatre Bay Area

…antidote to the waves of hysteria battering the media over the issue of immigration…It’s a story everyone will love, children to grandparents and all in between.  San Francisco Theater Blog

Watch a 5 minute excerpt.  To see the full performance click HERE.

HEART OF AMERICA is an original performance work that brings to life 35 immigrant stories—from Yemen to Guatemala and from Vietnam to East Texas—through music, dance, aerial arts, puppetry, and video effects.  Drawn from over 400 oral history interviews, they are verbatim accounts of ordinary people overcoming extraordinary challenges of war, poverty and prejudice in their quest for a better life for themselves and their families.  The stories are sometimes harrowing, sometimes sublime, always compelling.  They are, in a real sense, America’s new Ellis Island stories.

In a time of rampant xenophobia and thinly veiled racism, HEART celebrates the ability of the human spirit to take flight and is a visceral reminder that we have all come to America as travelers from some other place and time. 

We created HEART because we fell in love with these children and their stories, and we want audiences to do the same.  In this darkest of times we need to open a crack in the easy cynicism and division that infects every part of our society today—including the arts. 

Helen Stoltzfus and Albert Greenberg




Heart of America cast and director are professional artists and experienced educators. They are available to teach master classes in storytelling, circus arts, dance, playwriting, ensemble acting, as well as in creating community-based theatre as part of a residency at your arts center, university, or organization. Classes can be tailored from beginning to advanced, and from children to adults. Here is a partial list:

Performance, Playwriting, and Community Collaboration Workshops

We Are All Immigrants: In this workshop we explore and share personal family stories and reflect on how family stories strengthen our understanding of our multicultural society, the immigrant experience, and American history. Led by Helen Stoltzfus, director and co-creator of Heart of America. Appropriate for elementary, high school, or college level classes in Multicultural Studies, Heritage, Immigration, American History, or related subjects.

Creating Your Own Heart of America: A workshop for community members and artists who want to bring the stories of their own community to the stage. A how-to workshop on collecting oral histories, discovering the art forms unique to your community, and working collaboratively to create an original performance work. Led by Helen Stoltzfus, director and creator of Heart of America. 

Latin Dance, Jazz Dance, Hip-Hop, Modern: Master class with dancers.  Students are introduced to the cultural framework, musical dynamics, rhythms, and footwork of these dance forms – alone or in combination.

Circus Arts (With aerial performance): Introduction to basic circus skills, from acrobatics to aerial arts (including silks and static trapeze). Strict safety standards enforced.

Black Swan Arts & Media can tailor a workshop specifically for your community. Contact us!


NOTE:  Heart of America is a dance work that can be performed with the

following options:   

·      With or without aerial arts

·      With or without rear projections


(With or without aerial arts and rear projections)

Stage Electrics trim: 22’-24’ (can be modified)

Minimum lighting grid height:  25 feet

Stage Dimensions (all can be modified):

  • Playing width: 42’ (plus masked offstage wings left and right)
  • Playing depth: 40’ (from DS playing line to Rear Projection Screen)
  • US RP depth: 10’-15’ US of Rear Projection screen


  • Marley covered dance floor: Black.
  • Sprung dance floor (preferred, but not required).
  • Riser: 16’w x 6’-8’d x 2’h, masked black. One step unit (no rail).
  • Various tables and stools for offstage props/costumes.
  • Upstage cross-over (preferred, not required)
  • Stage Electrics trim: 22’-24’ (can be modified)


  • Intelligibility of spoken text and good coverage of the seating area are significant requirements for this production. There is much recorded voice-over material and a recorded music score throughout. The only live sound requirement is a pre-show announce mic on stage.
  • Ideal speaker configuration includes: center cluster for spoken word, stereo system for music, and delay speakers as required for venue. However, a well-calibrated stereo (L+R) system is quite sufficient.
  • Playback will be from Company computer via Q-Lab into house system.
  • 4 monitor speakers in wings for performers (controlled from FOH position). No monitor position required.


  • Light board with capability to read memory card and record cues
  • Light board with capability to read memory card and record cues
  • The lighting design is a modified dance plot (4 side boom washes per side, color washes, back/high side lighting, cyc lighting, specials, etc.) + several “ down-pools”.   If the venue can present professional dance performances, it will be easy to accommodate our lighting design.
  • Ideally, hang positions to allow steep lighting angles over DS playing area.
  • Presenter to pre-hang and circuit provided plot, as possible.
  • Plot, hook-up and schedule available (to be modified to fit specific venue).


  • Heart of America can be performed without rear projections.  An evenly lighted cyclorama can substitute (3-4 color washes).




RIGGING: Production w/ aerial features aerial performers using four Hanging Silks.

  • Aerial Silk pick-up points: 25’ above stage floor (can be modified slightly)
  • 2 extra lighting booms as offstage tie-off points for silk (no load)
  • Experienced local Rigger to assist touring Company Rigger. 




  • Playing depth: 40’ (from DS playing line to Rear Projection Screen)
  • US RP depth: 10’-15’ US of Rear Projection screen
  • Minimum stage depth (apron to back wall): 55 feet
  •  Wings on both SL and SR
  • Four 20-foot booms with bases
  • Two 6-foot booms with bases 
  • Two arms with two cheesebourough


  • Heart of America includes wonderful video projections. Company provides main projectors controlled by Company computer at FOH.
  • 3 projectors with VGA cables to connect to laptop computers
  • Additional projectors (up to 5 total) will be used if available
  • Projection screen or scrim no closer than 20 feet from apron edge and no farther than 15 feet from rear wall.
  • Presenter to provide Rear Projection Screen: 24’ wide (or larger) with ability to mask sides, top and bottom
  • Projection Depth: 10’-15 required US of RP screen
  • If possible, Presenter to provide 2 video projectors, 2-3K lumens each.
  • If possible, Presenter to provide, test and pre-rig video cable.

For further information, contact Helen at Black Swan Arts & Media in Oakland, California: 510.501.7766 9-5 (PST) info@blackswanarts.org