Life Stories Program

The Theatre Lab's Life Stories® program teaches people from vulnerable populations to create original dramatic works using their own life experiences.

Life Stories is a pioneering, tuition-free outreach program that provides life-changing opportunities for dramatic self-expression to hundreds of youth and adults each year. The program teaches young people and adults to create original dramatic works using their own life experiences, empowering individuals to think creatively, communicate effectively, and envision new futures. This process has been proven to increase self-esteem, reduce feelings of isolation, and improve communication and critical-thinking skills.

The Theatre Lab’s Life Stories program is fully funded and offered free to schools and social service partners.
Our instructors typically go to schools and community partners once a week for 8-10 weeks to teach a theatre workshop. The program culminates in a performance or professional edited video featuring works devised and performed by the students themselves. We work with as few as 8 students or as many as 28 depending on the class structure.

The Theatre Lab’s Life Stories program is the recipient of the Mayor’s Arts Award for Innovation in the Arts. Since 2000, The Theatre Lab has provided Life Stories programs to more than 4,000 individuals, including: DCPS public and charter school students, Latinx teens, incarcerated and at-risk youth, returning veterans, and families impacted by homelessness, among others.

Check out the Life Stories documentary – How I Got Over – by Academy Award-nominated director and producer, Nicole Boxer.

The Life Stories program was also the subject of Theatre Lab Director Deb Gottesman’s 2013 TEDxCharlottesville talk:

Deb Gottesman at TEDxCharlottesville

The benefits of this process are often life-changing: increased self-esteem and awareness of creative potential, reduced sense of isolation as a result of being part of an artistic ensemble, improved verbal communication skills, and the emotional satisfaction gained from sorting through past experiences.

“Life Stories requires students to think critically and creatively about their personal experiences, promoting new and improved communication skills. The Life Stories process helped students build collaborative skills and an increased sense of community at school.”

Maria Fernanda Garcia, Language Arts Teacher, MacFarland Middle School, DC
 

The 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 2021 training takes place entirely online from October 14-17, 2021.

Learn More & Apply to the Life Stories Institute

Recent Life Stories Partnerships

  • Armed Services Arts Partnership 
  • Banneker High School
  • Bard High School Early College
  • Bright Beginnings
  • Children’s Inn at NIH
  • Columbia Heights Education Campus
  • Community Bridges
  • Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop
  • Friendship Collegiate Academy
  • Life Pieces to Masterpieces
  • Macfarland Middle School
  • McKinley Tech High School
  • New Beginnings Youth Development Center
  • N Street Village
  • Paso Nuevo at GALA Hispanic Theatre
  • Sasha Bruce YouthWorks
  • Stoddard Baptist Global Care
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
  • Wounded Warriors Project