My Experience at The Life Stories Institute
DateJanuary 28, 2022
Editor’s Note: Bryce Sulecki is The Theatre Lab’s Program Administrator and Life Stories Coordinator. In his role as Life Stories Coordinator, he handles scheduling, administration, and communication needs for all Life Stories programs. Life Stories partners with organizations and schools serving vulnerable communities to teach hundreds of individuals each year to create and perform original dramatic works based on their lived experience.
Several times each year, The Theatre Lab offers The Life Stories Institute–a train-the-trainer program for educators, social service providers, artists and others who want to incorporate the methodologies of Life Stories into their own communities.
I knew how Life Stories worked organizationally, but wanted to learn more about teaching the programs, so I trained at the Life Stories Institute in January 2022.
In the past, the four-day Institute was held in-person at The Theatre Lab, but this year ten of us met virtually on Zoom for two hours on Thursday and Friday evenings, and then four-hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday.
I was curious how intensive the training would be virtually since I knew Life Stories required plenty of participation and connection when held in-person. Before starting the first day of the Institute, Buzz and Deb (Theatre Lab’s Executive Directors and Life Stories Institute facilitators) gave us access to the Life Stories e-learning platform, which includes video explanations of the concepts and exercises as well as a PDF of the Life Stories Toolkit. Reading and watching the information only took about two to three hours.
Looking back, I was shocked at how much material we grasped in those four days.
Since we already had foundational knowledge via the e-learning platform, Buzz and Deb hit the ground running – teaching in depth on the primary principles and concepts that make up the Life Stories program. In addition, we had multiple opportunities to lead and participate in many of the exercises described in the Toolkit. Being able to go back at the end of the day and watch the videos on the e-platform was a great added benefit. It helped me review some of the information I wanted to reference in our model teaching exercise at the end of the Institute.
We also heard from a variety of guests who either participated, taught, or partnered with The Theatre Lab on previous Life Stories programs. Hearing from people like April Harris, Life Stories Participant and faculty member, and Ann McCreedy, former Program Director at N Street Village and CEO of DiversAbility, was invaluable and helped provide context on the impact and best practices of these programs.
In just four days, I gained a deeper understanding of the power in helping others turn their personal experiences into something creative and meaningful. As participants in the Institute, we got to encounter that firsthand.
Buzz and Deb do an amazing job leading, teaching, and supporting the group. I would tell anyone who was even thinking about taking the Life Stories Institute to do it.
Learn more about Life Stories training.
Here’s what other 2022 Life Stories Institute participants had to say about the training:
“The Institute was incredible. I say I’m so tired of online learning, but my time with Life Stories flew by. I was disappointed when it was over.”
“I would like to say how amazed I was by the sense of esprit de corps experienced online. Early on, Deb made a comment that although the virtual format imposed upon Theatre Lab due to COVID seemed less desirable than in-person instruction, in the end, she discovered it was still possible to experience a level of intimacy between participants, even in a virtual format. When I heard Deb say that I went ‘hmmm, I don’t know.’ But was I ever surprised, actually blown away, that by the end of our time together, in those four days of sharing online, the sense of communal intimacy Deb referred to was not only real; it was undeniable. It really happened! Who would have believed that three years ago? I’m so grateful COVID didn’t win in the end, and we all got to see that even in these crazy times, the work can still move forward.”
“Beyond what I could have hoped for. I was nervous/apprehensive about going into it. However, such an encouraging environment had already been created, that I was willing to dive in. It gave me more courage to proceed with this work. Also, by taking others’ sample classes, I really felt like I’d been in a Life Stories program myself, and even did so as if I was a part of each vulnerable community. Doing so gave me even more desire to carry forward.”