Originally from Washington, DC, and now based in Brooklyn, NY, Ethan Heard directs plays, musicals, and opera, ranging from new work to Shakespeare, Sondheim to Monteverdi. He is Founding Co-Artistic Director of Heartbeat Opera, "a categorically imaginative company, which has made its name with vital reshapings of repertory operas" (The New Yorker). He also teaches acting and directing at Yale School of Drama, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts. 

With Heartbeat Opera, Ethan has directed La Susanna (a co-production with Opera Lafayette at the Kennedy Center and BAM), FidelioButterfly, Dido & Aeneas, Kafka-FragmentsThe Seven Deadly Sins, and the drag extravaganzas Hot Mama: Singing Gays Saving Gaia, Dragus Maximus: a homersexual opera odyssey, All the World's a Drag! Shakespeare in love...with opera, Queens of the Night: Mozart in Space, Miss Handel, and The Fairy Queen. These productions have been called "urgent and powerful" (The New York Times), "relevant and heartbreaking" (The New Yorker), "high brow and brilliant" (New York Magazine), and "incisive and inspired" (Opera News). Other opera productions include the world premieres of Rene Orth and Mark Campbell’s Empty the House (Curtis Institute of Music) and Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel and Matthew Welch’s Sisyphus (Experiments in Opera), Erismena and L’Orfeo (Yale Baroque Opera Project), L’incoronazione di Poppea (Princeton University), and Pierrot Lunaire (Yale Cabaret).


Recent musical theater includes: Mel Marvin and Jonathan Levi’s Truth & Reconciliation (in development), Marisa Michelson's Desire|Divinity Project (in development), Little Shop of Horrors (nominated for five Berkshire Theatre Awards including Outstanding Direction), Bells Are Ringing starring Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat, A Little Night Music starring Kate Baldwin, Gregg Edelman, and Phillipa Soo (Berkshire Theatre Group), the world premiere of Mark Campbell and Marisa Michelson’s The Other Room starring Phoebe Strole (Inner Voices), Sunday in the Park with George (Yale School of Drama), Merrily We Roll Along (Yale Dramat), Next to Normal, Into the Woods, The Producers, and The Luckiest Girl (Princeton). Ethan remounted The Secret, Jay Chou's jukebox musical, for John Rando and Broadway Asia in Shanghai.

Plays include: Will Eno's Middletown (The New School), Megan Loughran and Alex Trow's F Theory (NJ Rep), Dorothy Fortenberry's Partners (American Academy of Dramatic Arts), Amelia Roper’s Lottie in the Late Afternoon, MJ Kaufman’s Eligible Receivers, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (YSD), John Willard's The Cat and the Canary (BTG), The Gay Ivy (Dixon Place), Ellen McLaughlin's Iphigenia and Other Daughters and Proof (Santa Fe Theater Festival), Young Jean Lee's Pullman WA, and Lauren Yee’s in a word (Williamstown Workshop).


While earning his MFA at Yale School of Drama, Ethan served as Artistic Director of Yale Cabaret, where he co-created Basement Hades (with original music by Daniel Schlosberg) and Trannequin! (a musical about a transgender mannequin); he also launched the tradition of Yale School of Drag, which continues today. He received his BA in Theater Studies from Yale College and won the Sledge Prize for Performing Arts. He toured the world with the Yale Whiffenpoofs, singing more than 200 concerts in 25 countries. He has assisted Thomas Kail, Nicholas Martin,  John Guare, Steve Cosson, Mark Brokaw, Gilbert Blin, and Annette Jolles at Williamstown, The Public, Boston Early Music Festival, Avery Fisher Hall, Yale Institute of Musical Theater, and NYMF. He was a director in Oskar Eustis and Suzan-Lori Parks’ Collaboration Reloaded at NYU. He has also taught at The O'Neill Theater Center and The New School. 

Ethan is Chinese-American, proficient in Mandarin, and a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Artist Statement

I believe great theater nourishes our souls. When we come together to make and experience stories/music/beauty, we foster empathy. Empathy creates the possibility for a healthier, happier world. 

I believe that having the opportunity to make art is a privilege, so I have a responsibility to make work that matters. I have a responsibility to answer the questions: why here and why now?

I create interdisciplinary work — performances that joyfully mix text, music, movement, and media. My first love was performing musical theater, and now I direct opera, plays, and musicals. I look forward to exploring television and film soon…

I am more than just a director. I am an artistic director, actor, singer, dancer, writer, designer, drag queen, producer, and teacher. I strive everyday to be a better artist.

I believe all of us are singers; all of us are dancers; some of us are just quitters. When we allow ourselves to sing, to dance, to imagine, we are children again.

I want to do more than direct good productions; I want to help improve the systems that support theater artists and their work.

I know that technological connectivity does not necessarily create meaningful human connection. On the contrary, we live in an age where tweets and status updates are replacing face-to-face exchange between people. I believe live theater has the power to build community.  

Theater should spark celebration, reflection, dancing, and debate. Theater should change the air and penetrate the soul.

I see too many shows that I forget within 24 hours. I want to make theater that is impossible to ignore and necessary to grapple with. I go to the theater to experience something unforgettable, to be rocked, shaken, inspired, frightened, and uplifted.

I believe that theaters are sacred spaces. They have magic. Theater is my church, a spiritual home where I go to ask big questions, learn life lessons, see the truth, experience beauty, and feel less alone.

I believe a lot of theater today is wasteful, and we need to find ways to make more with less.

I think it’s important to make every member of the production feel like they’re a part of the company.  I like to gather people in circles and have them hold hands.