Responses from actors

"I am convinced that the best learning environments engage every fiber of our beings. In ITT’s realistic scenes and interactive roles, we explore possibilities, make decisions, and experience the consequences of actions, which teaches me much more than simply learning rules or principles divorced from a dynamic social context. It is terrifying to not know what’s next. Improvisation teaches me to lean into the terror to find some common ground, exciting new ground, and occasional danger zones. It keeps me humble, makes me smarter, and offers rehearsal for everyday life.” - Sally Seagull Foster, ITT performer 2005-7, and 2009-present, ITT director 2010-2011"

"For the past two years in ITT I have been constantly questioned, praised, and sometimes hated, and it's been wonderful. I've been presented with the opportunity not to only to challenge others, but to be constantly challenged myself. I have to make sure that each character I portray is realistic, driven, and interesting within the context of an ever-changing cast and audience. Whether viewers are sympathetic, frustrated, or just want to know more, a reaction means that people are thinking, which is what I think ITT is all about.  Every performance is dynamic, spontaneous, and often surprising, and I would be disappointed with anything less.” - Kelsey Kennedy, ITT Performer 2010-present"

Responses from an Education class after viewing “Parts of Speech,” a Difficult Dialogues script

  • I think that the skit they performed was an eye opener for me.I didn't realize how difficult everyday things could affect a classroom so much and how I need to think about how I might handle different situations that might come along.I loved class today, learned a lot from it.
  • I loved today’s activity!I think it was a great example or way to show us as students how to facilitate on the spot incidents that will arise in our classrooms!It dealt a lot w/ diversity & tolerance & I think those are 2 very important things to teach in the classroom.
  • It is enlightening to see situations which we might face before we see it in real life.I will take some of the methods used by other people for weapons in my own arsenal.
  • I thought this was an awesome class, very effective & the actors were very good.
  • I thought this was very effective in portraying everyone’s feelings about religion.I thought all the ways to deal with this situation altered my ideas on how I would deal with a situation of this matter.I liked this class a lot; it kept me very interested.
  • I thought this was very helpful to see students acting out what happened andmay happen in our classroom.I really liked seeing different viewpoints on how to handle heated discussions and culture in class.It made class very interesting and I really felt like I learned something today that will be very beneficial in my classroom.

Responses from a Journalism class after viewing “Parts of Speech,” a Difficult Dialogues script

  • It was a helpful exercise having to do with getting us to think outside of our comfort zone. The topic was especially sensitive which made it easy to want to interact.
  • Honestly, this was one of the most interesting/entertaining classes that I've ever had.The ability to participate is incredibly easy and doesn't pressure those students hesitant to contribute immediately.But looking at the larger picture, the most useful part of the class was the chance to question the actors.This allows everyone to hear and ask questions that can contribute to finding a true story.The fact that this class was out of the ordinary and still effective is what makes it desirable for a repeat session in the future.
  • I think the ITT presentation was effective because it represented so many different viewpoints on issues that are prevalent in most students' lives. Each of the actors worked hard to make their case so that the viewer might end up identifying with more than one character's viewpoints. Also, while there were a few "radical" viewpoints, some characters expressed more moderate opinions that were easy to identify with.
  • I loved how they staged what could be a very real conversation amongst classmates. It felt very real. Although I knew they were acting, and that they may or may not hold every opinion they portrayed, it felt very real for me and it forced me to approach it very seriously.
  • The ITT presentation was interesting because it allowed us to see an issue like religious tolerance discussed in an environment that all of us, students, can relate with, the classroom. The presentation really allowed me, personally, to understand the perspective of each person involved in the discussion.
  • The performance made me aware that while everyone may have different beliefs, one can not be proved correct. I have always assumed that my own religion was right and other people were wrong, but seeing each side defended showed me that everyone is entitled to his or her own beliefs and they should all be respected.
  • It made me realize that all people have some sort of initial bias towards racial and religious groups. I know that after 9/11 i looked at muslims a little bit differently but I do not anymore. The performance goes to show that we must do more than just look at the surface to find out something about a person.
  • I thought it was interesting how the group presented different arguments around the mosque controversy in New York City. I have read many articles surrounding this debate, but seeing actors communicate these arguments in real life made the controversy resonate much more.
  • I found the point where students could take part in the story very effective. I have seen ITT performances before but never that part. I learned the most from my other classmates trying to change the story.
  • The performance really made me take a look at every little assumption I make whether it's based on race, religion, or customs. Even sometimes people's behavior like the various people who speak at speakers circle. Most times I just think they are crazy and have nothing to do with their time but they may actually have a really purpose that I have never considered and I wouldn't know unless I took the initiative to talk to them personally.
  • I thought the presentation made me realize that no matter how open minded we feel that we are, we all have some bias and we just need to accept that we all have different perspectives of the same things and we all feel different ways and that's just the way it is.Also, I feel I realized that you only get half of a story by looking at someone, which means there's a whole other half to learn about and share.
  • I thought the most interesting thing about the presentation was the fact that, even though the class was full of journalists, who are told to try not to show their own biases in the story, it was clear, based on their questions, that most of the class was having an emotional reaction to the skit, and having a hard time controlling their emotions.It was eye-opening as far as how self-aware you must be as a journalist.
  • The presentation made me think about my own personal beliefs and how I judge other people. The past two days, I find myself looking at people and asking, "What is their story?" I try to create a story knowing I am making an assumption but as a way to try to understand different lifestyles and even appearances. I take in account it may not be the right answer and am fully aware of my assumptions but it has made me more acceptable of what others belief. I watch myself more carefully and how people interact in society. I have become more open to understanding people's beliefs.
  • I thought the presentation evoked discussion among the class, which is a major goal in institutions of education. It was useful to use an issue that students not only knew about, but could relate to as well. The interactive sit was effective because it brought some of the discussions students have had concerning the issue to a setting where intellectual discourse could occur.
  • I loved how it was not just another lecture class.When something is different you truly pay attention to the information presented. Having the classroom interact also is very effective in keeping the class engaged. The real world practice that the presentation gave the class I do feel is an invaluable tool.
  • I think it was an effective way to understand the complexity of cultural issues. Many of the characters had come from different backgrounds, thus giving their perspectives on race and culture. It was much easier to see the complicated issues.
  • I really enjoyed how the whole presentation made me really think and second guess my own preconceived notions about the people around me.It was useful because unlike a lot of people in the class I considered what would be an ethical way of asking one of the actors a question.
  • I thought that the Interactive Theatre Presentations was very interesting and an eye-opener. I enjoyed hearing other students' questions during the end of the class. It was a helpful and productive way to get us thinking more openly about diversity and how to go about interviewing different people who have very diverse opinions.
  • It made me want to learn more about Islam and religions I don't have much understanding of so that conversations about heated issues can be backed up with facts and logic.
  • The best thing about the presentation was that it was really engaging. Even if you were too shy to actually get up and participate, it was really hard to tear your eyes away from the situation which made for fun and engaging class time.
  • They stayed true to their roles until the very end. Each one did a great job representing a specific stereotype/viewpoint which we encounter in real life. It spiced up the class and forced people to pay attention. I loved that the teacher told everyone to put their laptops away. It made us all focus on what you had to teach us. The theater group commanded attention in a big classroom. Well done!

Responses from attendees at Wakonse Teaching Camp, after viewing “Parts of Speech” and “Heterosexism”

  • “This was phenomenal.I greatly appreciate especially hearing the ‘student’ reactions to the interventions.I always turn my class to issues on students’ minds, and now I feel that they also want me to do this . . . I am going to run our diversity workshop this year using a sketch-based or ‘scenarios’ technique like yours.Thank you! . . .wanted to add more about the value of the interventions portion of the program.The ability to replay particular moments over and over while attempting multiple solutions was just so awesome/wonderful/profound/affecting/scholarly/emotional/bloody great.This is one of the most valuable Wakonse workshops I have ever attended in 4 years of coming here.Thank you all so much!”(TA, Notre Dame)
  • “I gained insight regarding the students’ feelings and intentions behind their character statements.I realized that it is worth the time-loss in class to address the moods in the room. . . .Higher learning is more than book/courseroom instruction.”(Professor, MU)
  • “This was magnificent, for starters.The actors were dead on, and the contextualization of this difficult dialogue was very familiar.I especially appreciated the reactions from the student actors whose voice struck me as accurate and insightful.The exercise itself could be very useful in faculty workshops, teaching talks, etc.”(Professor, Notre Dame
  • “Would love to recreate this scenario, making it mandatory for faculty, staff, & students.”(Assoc. Prof, Iowa State)

Qualitative Report from NSF Advance ITT


A number of themes, often overlapping, emerged from the comments.  Some of the respondents commented on themes in general; others talked about their personal experiences and/or practical suggestions for ways to deal with problems:

Power and Leadership--Responses in this category ranged from the recognition that the university is a political environment, to observations about the influence of social networking including the “Old boys’ network,” to concerns about the misuse of power by senior faculty and department chairs.

     “It was a ‘morality play’ regarding failure of leadership.”

     “Power of a bully with a closed mind”

     “Intertwined politics and bigotry in academe”

     “How much institutions shape us, our opinions.”

Bias—Most comments in this category dealt with gender bias and the acknowledgement that it is still operating as an obstacle to female advancement at MU.  A number of comments discussed the subtlety of the expression of bias.

      “Made me think of my own experiences in a new light, and now I can see that discrimination, stereotypes/etc. are prevelant even in my own department, and are very obviously destructive.”

     “The subtlety of some of the problems that can exist in the workplace.”

      “Hmm, it seems as though it is still true that we need to fit the male model of confident/leadership.”

      “Women in this situation don’t know where to go to get help.  We need to have outreach.  Get us the Provost or Chancellor’s Office.”

      “As a University culture, we need to be more aware of gender issues and truly work to overtly address them.

Process—Respondents noted learning about processes that were depicted in the scene:  hiring, tenure, mentoring.

      “That vagueness and miscommunication/lack of honest communication in the P&T process are poisonous.”

      “To find a mentor you can trust to ask questions/advice.”

      “How important transparency in promotion processes can be.”

      “The scary idea that just because I’m a woman I could not have a fair chance at a job that I’m equally qualified for.”

      “To ask my mentor for a more complete and good reference essay.”

      “Need to be watchful and supportive of person going up for tenure, both men and women but focus on women.”

      “People need mentoring on how to be mentored.”

Communication--Respondents discussed communication problems, such as the importance of listening.

      “Difference in how men/women communicate”

      “Listen carefully in all situations.”

Motivation—Respondents recognized new insights into people’s motivation.  Particularly in response to the “time in/time out” technique for conversing with characters, some respondents commented on the discrepancy between what people say and what they actually do.

      “The message from ‘on high’ reigns supreme.  Chair is crucial but bound by the ‘message’ in this case.”

      “What I should have recognized already—the ‘time in’ ‘time out’ difference.

      “That people’s motives are not always clear in each search committee meeting.”

      “People have hidden agendas for their actions.”

Realism/accuracy--while one respondent questioned the accuracy of the sketch’s depiction of the problems, other respondents affirmed that the problems depicted in the sketch are real.

      “exaggeration of roles, sketches, realism”

      “My wife is an assistant professor.  So, I’m familiar with most of the issues.”

      “The ‘bad old days’ haven’t ended.”

Personal discovery--

      “I learned that this kind of discrimination can happen in my future or current research environment, and I should be prepared not to be a victim.”

      “I can demand guidelines.  I should demand clear guidelines.”

      “There are issues I need to address.”

      “That interactive theatre can be a great teaching device.”

Breast Cancer Project Feedback

  • “I found it really useful that you have the sessions at the end of the scene for questions of the actors in character.”
  • “This is nothing like I have ever seen before, what a great performance. I am looking forward to seeing more of your performances in the future.”
  • Very interesting J a great new way to learn and much more intriguing/ engaging than just a lecture!”
  • “Very good! Puts things into perspective for us.”
  • “Wonderful community involvement. The discussion following the performance was illuminating and full of creative ideas about how medicine could be much more effective, and patients much more involved.”
  • “Provocative, very different approach, excellent actors and timely.”
  • “Useful for community as well as students and professionals skilled guidance of the entire process/ performance was key – good work!!”
  • “Excellent – very necessary to continue and to provide this opportunity for a broader audience.”
  • “Excellent – really felt involved with the material and the actions.”
  • “Continue to perform for the medical and nursing students together.”
  • “Being that I dealt with inconsiderate doctors when given bad news, this hits close to home.”
  • “I really liked being able to be a part of this”
  • “I really enjoyed how you brought up tough issues that face us as healthcare workers.”
  • “Gave me something to think about and what not to do! Was much better seeing it in person than reading it in a book! I enjoyed wakening it! Thank you!”
  • “This was a very useful performance that I’m glad the University is encouraging into our education”
  • “I like how they put situations in perspective in which would seem totally wrong for us future nurses but made us realize it does happen. We need to realize the perspectives of acting and looking outside of “What we have to do” and actually care for the patients situation”
  • “Actors did a fantastic job I liked the process of performance and questions to the characters. The intervention was a great way to get audience involvement as was the entire performance. Very engaging”

Quotes from Nutrition 101 Survey

What issues raised by the play is most significant to you personally?

  • The issue of women changing their bodies to be like imaginary photoshopped models is most significant to me personally.
  • I think the fact that not just appearance, but the way you speak and hold yourself are what people notice, too.
  • Girls changing how they look just to please guys, and going with the social 'norm,' making girls basically hurt themselves for the wrong reasons.

With which character did you identify the most?  Why?

  • I think every point Nicole makes is true.Not that I think that's okay.It's just how society works.
  • I related to Mike and the pressures athletes face with weight because I am a swimmer and am always in a swimsuit.
  • [I most identified with] Mike.I feel an obligation/duty to stay/look healthy, but I don't know who the obligation is to.
  • I think Stephanie.I hoped she was strong enough to withstand all the negative info & feelings towards her about how she looks.

Did you learn anything from the performance and discussion?  If so, what?

  • I didn't learn on specific thing, but the different characters brought light to the many different perspectives on weight that I hadn't considered, including financial issues and pressures of being in a relationship with someone overweight.
  • I learned that sometimes there are other, deep-rooted experiences people have which cause them to act a certain way.
  • [I learned that] the media's ideal of beauty is not always accurate.We base beauty on "Western's Ideal of Beauty."What about other countries and societies?There are African cultures that prefer heavier women.
  • I learned that eating healthy can be affected by income and privilege.
  • I never really thought about guys caring that much about body image and comparing themselves to male models.
  • I learned that many magazine covers are photoshopped.The video clip [of the model being made-up, photographed, and then photo-shopped for an advertisement] was very eye-opening.
  • Advertisements determine the way we think even if we aren't aware of it.When they played the advertisements throughout the play, you started to see the effects of those advertisement in the characters' viewpoints.
  • I learned some of the physical and verbal cues to look out for so I can recognize people who have problems with body image.
  • Avoid judging.I think it's almost second nature.You never know what someone is going through.
  • Media puts out an image that people strive for, but it's ultimately individual responsibility to find where you want to be in your looks and demeanor.
  • I learned that media has a bigger impact than we realize concerning body image.Also the idea that appearance, unfortunately, has a large impact on how we are perceived, even if we don't think it should.
  • This could be a very powerful teaching tool.
  • Great method!People were squirming & shifting in their seats.
  • Loved it and generated some great discussion!