RIT Diversity Theater is a university wide program that advances diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for faculty, staff, students, and community partners using theater-based methods. Professional facilitators and performance artists engage participants in meaningful experiences within the context of diversity and inclusion education. Live theatre, forum theatre, reader’s theatre, film and other forms of visual and performance arts are used.
Written, directed and produced by the Diversity Theater Director, original content is created and implemented offering:
Theatrical sketches and plays
Playback Theatre workshops
Mission, Goals and Benefits
Diversity Theater at RIT strives to present the complexities and insights into the nature of diversity within a global context to the RIT community.
Expose the RIT community to discerning diversity issues regarding changing populations in the RIT community, their respective careers and the world.
Present theater-based methods (theatre, film, and performing arts) as a vehicle to educate, motivate, and address sociological, psychological, and cultural diversity issues that can enhance the community’s capacity to recognize the most basic and common elements of humanity that bind us together.
Elevate participant knowledge regarding the complexities of diversity issues, social justice, equity, and community standards.
Develop high quality original content that fosters community building.
Impacts campus climate and intergroup relations.
Acknowledges and celebrates diversity and employs inclusive practices throughout its daily operations.
Engages participants in multisensory storytelling experienced in an online space or in-person.
Utilizes professional facilitator-actors with experience in theatre, film, music, and diversity education.
Presents proven theater-based methods used in businesses and institutions for culture change, organizational development, team building, community engagement, and diversity education.
Enables small group discussions for community building and dialogue.
Who can join?
Everyone is welcome! We are open to all RIT faculty, staff, students, and community members who are willing to help, create, develop, and promote Diversity Theater workshops.
Diversity Theater welcomes a variety of skills and members: actors, writers, designers, filmmakers, musicians, marketing, communications, stage managers, assistant directors, and supporters.
Theatrical Sketches and Plays
Plays and short sketches that showcase academic and organizational development issues between faculty, staff, and student groups. Presentations include published plays and customized scripts written by the Director of Diversity Theater and performed by Diversity Theater facilitator-actors.
Photograph 51: A reading of Anna Zeigler’s pivotal play about Rosalind Franklin’s discovery of DNA in the 1950’s.
One Class, Many Stories: The sharing of student diversity stories from the incoming freshman class followed by small group discussions.
Unconscious Bias Play: Playback Theatre presentation and small group discussions of unconscious bias awareness for the College of Science new student orientation.
“The program helped me to understand the adversities faced by women, especially POC, in male-dominated fields such as STEM. Each actor performed exceptionally.” - Workshop participant
“As an ethnically diverse female in STEM and interested in theatre, I was excited to see this performance. I really appreciated a generally unbiased telling of the story of Rosalind Franklin, which is often overlooked for a more revisionist take. What really impressed me was the way casual workplace prejudices were handled and it opened up new dialogs between my friends in how we as female scientists deal with it as well as how our male friends can learn from their inadvertent hurtful actions. I’m really glad this kind of performance was available for me to see.” - Workshop participant
Community and team building workshops using the Playback Theatre model, a form of improvisational theater where participants share personal stories around a common theme that are enacted on the spot by Playback actors and musicians. Playback Theatre workshops offer a dynamic multisensory storytelling experience using music, theatre, and movement. Participants get to know each other better and develop inclusive practices.
“Building Community with Playback Theatre”- Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in STEM
“What’s Your Science Story: A Playback Theatre Experience” - 2022 The Access Assembly Conference, Rochester, NY
“Playback Theatre for Community Building During Physical Distancing and Demonstrations,” 2021 Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Massachusetts Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Winter Meeting
“Building an Inclusive STEM Community through Playback Theatre,” 2020 Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) STEM Conference
“Community Building: Stories of Discrimination and Healing using Playback Theatre,” online RIT community workshop to support community building, health and wellness, and retention
“Stories can be more impactful than statistics. As scientists, faculty in our College are used to evaluating data, but understanding the numbers isn’t enough. Building a more inclusive community requires an exchange of diverse experiences and engagement in difficult conversations.” – Jen Connelly, Senior Lecturer, School of Physics and Astronomy, RIT College of Science
“I am thankful to have taken part in the Playback Theatre workshop sessions. I was alongside such amazing people. We, as a group were willing to share, engage in dialog, support each other, and look deeply within at how difficult experiences strengthen us and provide opportunities to grow. What a great component of the Community Strand of the 5-year Inclusive Excellence initiative.” - Deb Jacobson, Marketing Specialist, Center for Advancing STEM Teaching, Learning & Evaluation (CASTLE), RIT College of Science
Workshops that explore diversity and inclusion themes presented through films and interactive facilitated discussions. The workshops use commercially available films and those produced by Diversity Theater.
Brick by Brick
Brick by Brick, is a 16-minute award winning narrative film produced by Diversity Theater in partnership with the School of Film and Animation. Winner Best Short at the San Diego Black Film Festival 2020, it’s the story of Buddy, a 19-year old brick mason who attempts to rebuild his relationship with the father he thought he knew. The film takes you, the viewer, back to 1941 Cleveland, Ohio experiencing an after-hours smoky abode, jazz music of the time, and significant conversation with a cameo appearance by jazz pianist Johnny O’Neal, who resurrects his role as Art Tatum from the film Ray.
Part of a feature length script, Brick by Brick was written/directed by Tina Chapman DaCosta, about her father, Elza “Buddy” Cannaday, becoming the first licensed and bonded African American contractor in Cleveland, OH, circa 1954. This 16-minute film is experienced in the workshop “Brick by Brick Community Building Workshop: Building Bridges of Understanding, One Brick at a Time.” Through a snapshot view, participants experience a day in Buddy’s life as he faces challenges to achieving personal goals. A post facilitated discussion engages participants to reflect upon “snapshots” of their lives and specific workshop themes. Participants will:
Analyze the realities and the implications of the social justice issues to modern times and current classroom, community, or work place practices.
Gain awareness of personal assumptions, interpretations, and biases as they relate to Buddy’s story.
Reflect upon personal action, inaction, and knowledge with respect to community building.
Increase awareness of others interpretations or experiences that may be different from their own.
Identify inclusive practices for community building.
Gain an appreciation for community building through storytelling and films.
Winner: Best Short, San Diego Black Film Festival 2020
Nominated: Best Diaspora Short, Africa Movie Academy Awards 2020
Semi-finalist: April/May Best Short, Dumbo Film Festival 2020
Artist Award and Juror’s Choice Award, Women of African Diaspora Film Festival 2020
Denton Black Film Festival 2021
North Carolina Black Film Festival 2021
Gary International Black Film Festival 2021
Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) 2020
San Diego Black Film Festival 2020
Pan African Film Festival 2020
National Black Film Festival 2020
Dumbo Film Festival 2020
JOCUNDA Music and Film Festival 2020
Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival 2020
Chautauqua Film Festival 2020
Montreal Black Film Festival 2020
Women of African Diaspora Film Festival 2020
“I know a lot of excruciatingly hard work went into accomplishing its polished look, but it was worth every minute. I felt really sorry when it ended, wanting to see the rest of the story. And I loved the exercises afterwards to get the members of the audience talking. It really illustrated how if done through Diversity Theatre could engage people in discussion.” - Tina Lent, Professor, Director Museum Studies, RIT College of Liberal Arts
“I hope that if this is just a sliver of the story that one day you might have the opportunity to produce the whole thing. These stories have great power to make us reflect on the past and consider the present. Anyway, congratulations on a new achievement.” - Mike Johansson Senior Lecturer, School of Communications, RIT College of Liberal Arts
“I really enjoyed your film, “BRICK BY BRICK.” The film touched me and brought tears to my eyes. You are a Magnolia Tree in the spring time and your petals do touch the grass all around you. Everyone, especially everyone at RIT should see your film.” - Cedric L. Bowen Jr., Parking Services Officer
“I valued your movie SO much. Besides it being entertaining, interesting, funny, and amazingly well done, it provided a forum to TALK ABOUT RACE. The issues that the characters faced in the movie are relevant today—which is sad—but, it allowed us to look at things in a very different light. Talking about race is not easy for so many people. Putting things in the context of this movie allowed us to talk about uncomfortable topics in a less-serious way... It allows It allows us to talk about heavy/deep topics, but in a lighter manner. The more we talk about things, the better. Cheers to you for creating a really fun, entertaining way for us to open up conversations about important issues!” - Lea Vacca Michel, Associate Professor, School of Chemistry and Materials Science, RIT College of Science
Being in love has been described as time standing still. But can time truly stand still when a marginalized person peruses a love interest? Can they transcend the violence, discrimination, and tragedies of the outside world when matters of the heart take over? Buddy, Eleanor, and Toni, three people trying to take a chance on love in 1941 Cleveland, Ohio in the face of WWII and racial and transgender discriminations, are trying to find out. Dear Eleanor, A Love Story, is the latest film by Tina Chapman DaCosta, Director of Diversity Theater at RIT. Dear Eleanor is part of the Brick by Brick film and workshop series that advances diversity, equity, and inclusion through impactful storytelling. Based on true events and the life of Tina's parents, Dear Eleanor is a celebration of love, Black love, Queer love, All love in the face of adversity. After the experience participants will leave with:
Greater understanding of the lives, resiliency, and courage of Black Americans in the 1940's
Awareness of the challenges and contributions of the WWII Tuskegee Airmen
Experience empowering and harrowing stories of love in the face of racial and gender discriminations
Celebration of love and its power to transcend obstacles
Awareness of biases towards normative gender, racial, and sexual constructs and narratives
Workshops customized to address specific objectives or audiences. Scripts are written by the Diversity Theater Director and presented with content experts and professional facilitators and actors.
Active Bystander Training
Hands on training workshop for faculty and staff to foster a deeper understanding of what it means to be an active bystander. Participants engage in role-play to practice bystander techniques. Presented with ADVANCE RIT. Provides a safe place for skill building and practice.
“I just wanted to say thank you for the bystander workshop yesterday. I have to admit that I was skeptical before it happened (not because we don’t need it, we do; but partly from being immersed in how psychology research has looked at bystanding, and partly from the unfamiliarity of the acting/improvisational approach) - but I was completely and pleasantly disabused of my prejudices by the event… Thank you!” – Kirsten Condry, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, RIT College of Liberal Arts
Stereotype Threat Workshop
Designed with the Multicultural Center for Academic Success, a two-hour workshop that showcased the effects of stereotype threat in the classroom through short vignettes. Increases awareness of stereotype threat and its impact upon student learning.
Train the Trainer
Training in the use of theater-based methods for facilitators, group leaders, and Diversity and Inclusion practitioners. A variety of theater-based facilitation methods are presented, such as hot-seating, improvisation, vignettes, film, music and movement. Participants receive hands-on training of the methods.