The Life Stories Institute Poster
"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

Life Stories Institute

A four-day intensive learning experience providing educators, social service providers, coaches, theatre artists, and others the tools they need to share the transformative power of the dramatic arts with their communities.

The 2017 Life Stories Institute is October 6 - 9. Stay tuned for application information and deadlines.   

Life Stories Institute attendees will: 

  • Learn to help people create original plays or films using their life experiences as inspiration
  • Learn how to use the dramatic arts to benefit individuals in often marginalized populations

The Life Stories program is a proven curricular model that teaches people from typically marginalized populations - including incarcerated youth, seniors in assisted living facilities, and homeless women in substance recovery - how to create original dramatic works for the stage and screen using their real-life experiences as inspiration.

To ensure individual attention, attendance is limited. Attendees may also be eligible for continuing education credits. Application requirements include a work resume, a theatrical/arts resume (if you have one), statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and a $20 application fee (waived through the end of the early admission period - July 15). 

Learn more about the Life Stories Institute.

See what previous Institute students had to say about their experience.

Application and admission dates and tuition rates are:

Early Admission Period (through July 1, 2016):

  • Applicants notified of their admission status: By July 15, 2016
  • Application fee: waived
  • Tuition: $1,250 (a $75 savings)
  • Deposit: A non-refundable 50% deposit of $625 is due by August 1, 2016
  • Tuition must be paid in full by: September 19, 2016

After July 1, 2016:

  • Application fee: $20 submitted with application
  • Tuition: $1,325
  • Tuition must be paid in full by: September 19, 2016

Please contact Deb Gottesman at or (202) 824-0449 for more details. Limited, need-based financial aid may be available.

The Life Stories program has been nationally recognized and is the subject of two award-winning documentary films, How I Got Over, a full-length feature by director Nicole Boxer [now on Netflix], 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 November 2013 talk at TEDxCharlottesville.

The Life Stories Institute is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by a gift made in the memory of Deborah Karen Willkens Pierce.