Two women embrace during a performance
"If you are really serious about changing lives through the arts, the Life Stories Institute is the choice you must and should make."
Life Stories Institute participant

The Life Stories® Institute

Online Course: The Life Stories Online Course is an on-demand training consisting of 2.5 hours of on-demand video, 12 articles, 8 downloadable resources, and more, culminating in a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more about the online course.

Students who complete the Online Course also receive a discount on the annual Life Stories Institute.

Life Stories Institute: The Life Stories Institute is an annual, multi-day intensive learning experience for anyone interested in harnessing the power of the dramatic arts to encourage wellness, inspire empathy, and drive positive self-expression in their community and/or workplace. The training takes place in Washington, DC.

The Life Stories Institute trains participants in The Theatre Lab’s award-winning Life Stories methodology. The training enables participants to help others create original films or plays using their life experiences as inspiration.

The Life Stories Program has a profound impact on participants of all ages, backgrounds and skill sets. Individuals build their self-esteem, strengthen communication and collaboration skills, stretch their creativity, and gain many other benefits and skills.


About The Life Stories Institute

The Life Stories Institute gives you access to The Theatre Lab’s founding directors and renowned faculty in a one-on-one setting. Attendees will develop a fully customized program that meets their needs and interests and those of their communities.

Attendees will also gain access to workshops and breakout sessions that focus on the teaching process, improvisation, rehearsal, and live and film performance techniques. Please contact Deb Gottesman at or (202) 824-0449 for more details.

EXAMPLE SCHEDULE, for illustrative purposes and subject to change:

Friday: Opening. Students will learn about Life Stories models and describe how they hope to apply these skills to their own work.
Saturday: Keynote address. Students will particiapte in hands-on exercises and hear from a variety of Life Stories practitioners. Using this knowledge, students will prepare for model teaching.
Sunday: Students will continue to be joined by guests, will present their model teaching, and then receive feedback. Closing.

  • You’ll receive a digital copy of the Life Stories Toolkit
  • Visits with past Life Stories program participants
  • Professional networking
  • Ongoing support and mentoring following the Life Stories Institute

Who should attend?

The Life Stories Institute is for people of all ages, background, and skill sets. Acting or teaching experience is not required. There are countless ways that the Life Stories Institute training can positively impact your life and the lives of those around you. Past participants have been graduate students, grandparents, volunteers, business owners, members of the clergy, actors, teachers, counselors, life coaches, artists, and more. The Life Stories Institute may be a good fit for you want to:
  • Inspire positive professional breakthroughs in your employees.

  • Make a difference using the arts.

  • Apply the work to guidance counseling.

  • You work with individuals from typically marginalized groups.

  • You’re a life coach or mental health counselor.
Incorporate the arts into your lesson plans.

  • Expand your repertoire beyond just acting.

  • Connect with others creating meaningful work.

  • Cultivate growth among your colleagues.
  • Share your passion with others.

  • Gain the skills to lead a program.

Some of the creative forces that have presented at the Life Stories Institute:

  • Deb Gottesman, co-founder and co-executive director of The Theatre Lab
  • Buzz Mauro, co-founder and co-executive director of The Theatre Lab
  • Quique Aviles, professional poet and performer and Life Stories Instructor
  • Nia Graham, professional actor and Life Stories Instructor
  • Ryan Heathcock, founder of Once Upon a Time International – videography
  • Ava Knox, Deputy Supervising Director of Grant Writing, Elevate
  • Ann McCreedy, Director of Programs, N Street Village
  • Jennifer Nelson, professional theatre director
  • Elizabeth Pringle, playwright and teaching artist
  • Amal Saade, arts educator and Life Stories Instructor
  • Terah Herman-Saldaña, teaching artist and Life Stories Instructor
Frequently Asked Questions

Will there be lunch breaks during the LSI? Yes, there will be daily lunch and stretch breaks to ensure student comfort.

Is this for kids? My middle school student loves to help people. The Life Stories Institute is a robust three-day training intended for adults. The Online Course may be taken by any individual, regardless of age, that wants to learn about this program and methodology.

Where can I learn more? The Life Stories program has been nationally recognized and is the subject of two award-winning documentary films, How I Got Overa full-length feature by director Nicole Boxer, and The Life Stories Project, a short film by Michael O. Snyder.

The Life Stories program was also the subject of Theatre Lab Director Deb Gottesman's TEDxCharlottesville talk.