True Story Theater has offered Active Bystander training workshops since 2007. We working with civic organizations, places of worship, human rights commissions, business associations, activist groups, and universities. See our events calendar for upcoming public events.
About our workshops
Our Active Bystander workshops are generally 2.5 to 3 hours long for 25-75 participants. They are tailored to your specific group and offer an enlivening introduction to taking constructive action in any or all of the three categories we cover:
- EVERYDAY BIGOTRY: when someone you know personally (e.g., a co-worker, family member, neighbor) says or does something bigoted, whether intentionally or unintentionally
- PUBLIC HARASSMENT: when you witness someone you do not know being the target of verbal abuse or prejudice (e.g., on the subway)
- OBLIVIOUSNESS: when your own ignorance may cause unintentional harm to others (e.g., “micro-aggressions” and hidden bias) + tips on being a good ally
Our workshops include Playback Theatre, a form of improvised story-telling theater used around the world to build trust and connection among people across differences. Playback creates a safe container for participants to express strong feelings, and brings the issues alive as the actors dramatize different scenarios and invite those from the audience who wish to try out different possible interventions.
Participants also practice new skills in dyads or small groups.
Participants take away a 16-page packet of tips and resources. Ongoing practice is highly encouraged, whether through your own organization or peers, or via follow-up workshop(s) with True Story or other trainers on this website.
A sample of groups we’ve served:
Belmont Against Racism, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Massachusetts Area Planning Council, the Arlington Human Rights Commission, Arlington UU First Parish, Rochester Institute of Technology, Tufts University, the Newton Human Rights Commission, Jewish Voice for Peace, Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the Boston Workmen’s Circle, the Brookline Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations, Brookline’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, The Dana Hall School, Public Libraries of Brookline, the Racial and Immigration Justice Teams of UUAC in Sherborn, Courageous Conversations on Race coalition in Milton, the Sharon Pluralism Network, the Multi-cultural Ministries Committee at First Church Unitarian in Littleton, and a state-wide group of human resource professionals.
“I feel both empowered and equipped to confidently use my voice as an ally. I’m ready to do this work in a way I wasn’t before.” -S. Kiser, Dana Hall School
I learned how to support the target in public, and how to name the harm doer’s emotions and try to shift their response in a nondisciplinary, useful way. –Sherborn UU Racial Immigration Team participant
True Story Theater also offers performances on social justice themes, often with constituencies whose voices have not been sufficiently heard. We have worked with homeless veterans, survivors of domestic violence, cancer survivors, men who were formerly incarcerated, and many others.
Please contact Christopher[at]TrueStoryTheater.org to explore a possible workshop (or performance) for your group.
- Bystander intervention trainings around the country
- A list of all Boston area bystander trainings
- Rona Fischman’s blog and workshops.
- Southern Poverty Law Center website. Speak Up! Handbook. (47 pages, online)
- Charlotte 21-day Equity Challenge: Links to films, books, podcasts, and 21 steps.
- Banaji, M.R. and Greenwald, A.G.. (2016). Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people,
- Goodman, Diane J. (2011). Promoting diversity and social justice: educating people from privileged groups.