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Toya A. Lillard MA ’98


Gallatin is synonymous with . . .
Trailblazers! Mostly because you are given the freedom to pursue your academic passions across disciplines, but you have to be focused enough to literally “blaze your own trail” to an MA.

What do you wish people knew about Gallatin?
That there are truly some of the most talented, interdisciplinary, brilliant minds within the School, and within the larger community. Many of the folks who were in my program have gone on to do great things!

What was your favorite course at Gallatin?
Of course Judith Sloan’s course “Oral History, Cultural Identity, and the Arts.” That course changed my life, because it gave me the tools and techniques that I use today to devise theater. Judith was, and is, a very generous educator, so I was able to meet people through her class that helped to inform and shape my focus on theater for social change/transformation. In addition, Judith continues to be a great friend and mentor.

If you were to design your own Gallatin course, what would it be?
“Devised Theater with Young Women of Color: Speaking Truth to Power through Truthful, Collaborative Theater.” The course would focus on best practices for collaborative work with young women of color, and a pedagogical approach for helping them to navigate their challenges through devising theater. The course would culminate with an internship at a cultural organization that focuses their work on that demographic.

What do you wish we knew about you?
My Gallatin degree enabled me to pursue my dream of creating theater with under-represented youth in NYC! I made connections at Gallatin, and at NYU, that have served me well. Moreover, Gallatin provided the resources and the platform for me to develop a pedagogical approach for my work, and to seek out like-minded organizations/individuals with whom I have partnered and from whom I have learned so much!

Toya A. Lillard is Executive Director of viBe Theater Experience, an arts organization dedicated to amplifying the voices of under-served teen girls through the performing arts. Toya joined viBe as its Executive Director in January 2012, bringing more than 15 years of experience in arts education. She has directed plays, developed curricula, led advocacy efforts and implemented innovative teaching artist training programs both in and out of our city’s schools. As a theater teaching artist, Toya has worked extensively and passionately with teenage girls in New York City. Toya is a native Houstonian from an artistic family who grew up with both theater and music. After graduating from Houston’s prestigious High School for Performing and Visual Arts, Toya attended Vassar College and further developed her interest in arts education, particularly in the use of theatre to help youth address issues relevant to their personal and civic development. Prior to joining viBe, Toya served as Director of School Programs for The New York Philharmonic's Education Department, where she helped to develop its nationally recognized School Partnership Program. In addition to leading viBe, Toya is also an adjunct professor at CUNY CityTech, where she teaches Black Theater. Toya holds a BA from Vassar College and an MA from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.