Diversity Theater

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. Live theatre, playback theatre, film and other forms of visual and performance arts are developed as design tools for creating impactful and interactive workshops and classroom experiences.

Diversity Theater has developed award winning and nationally and internationally recognized films and workshops within the context of diversity and inclusion education and community building.

Written, directed and produced by the Diversity Theater Director, original content is created and implemented offering:

  • Theatrical sketches and plays
  • Playback Theatre workshops
  • Film productions
  • Community-building discussions
  • Customized training

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

Actors on stage

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.

Past Performances

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

Playback Theatre

Community and team building workshops using the Playback Theatre model, an international form of improvisational theater where participants share personal stories around a common theme that are enacted on the spot by Playback actors and musicians, https://playbacktheatrenetwork.org.

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. Diversity Theater holds PBT rehearsals and information sessions on campus throughout the academic year. Contact Director Tina Chapman DaCosta for more information.

Past Performances

Diversity Theater - Playback Theatre Workshops from Tina DaCosta on Vimeo.

College of Science Inclusive Excellence Community Building Workshops – a series of Playback Theatre workshops that focus on diversity and inclusion topics in a cohort learning format.

“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


“Diversity Theater Plays a Key Role in RIT HHMI Inclusive Excellence Grant Initiative”

“Playback Theatre Experiences Expand with RIT Inclusive Excellence Cohort Members”

Diversity Films & Community Discussions

Workshops that explore diversity and inclusion themes presented through films and interactive facilitated discussions. Diversity Theater produces original films with RIT students, alumni, and other film professionals globally. The films are used in Diversity Theater’s “Community Building Workshops” for students, faculty, and staff, such as the RIT 365 first year freshmen experience.

Brick by Brick

Scene from film

Rebuilding trust is hard work.

Brick by Brick, is a 16-minute award winning narrative film produced by Diversity Theater in partnership with Tina Chapman DaCosta and the School of Film and Animation. Winner Best Short at the San Diego Black Film Festival 2020, and nominated for Best USA Diaspora Short by the Africa Movie Academy Awards 2020, Brick by Brick is 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 and 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 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.

image of field with white text     Watch trailer here

Film Awards



  • 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

Official Selections:

  • 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


“RIT Diversity Theater Produces Short Film with Impact”

“RIT to Premiere Short Film Aimed at Promoting Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion”

We Are Moving Stories, PAN African Film Festival 2020, Brick by Brick

Brick by Brick wins Best Short Film, San Diego Black Film Festival 2020

Brick by Brick nominated for Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA) 2020 for Best Diaspora Short


Dear Eleanor

three people sitting on the bench in front of a sunset

Love takes courage.

Set in 1941, Buddy, an airplane mechanic from Ohio enrolls to serve his country as a Tuskegee Airman during World War II, but his beloved Eleanor must overcome her fears of racial violence in the South to join him and take a chance on love. Eleanor's transgender cousin Toni, a true romantic who defies identity discrimination, tries to show her how. Shot on location at the National War Plane Museum in Geneseo, NY, Dear Eleanor is based on the lives of director Tina Chapman DaCosta’s parents.

Buddy must master the art of letter writing to communicate with Eleanor, a beautiful sophisticated woman he meets while visiting Cleveland. Can Buddy overcome his brash writing style and the long distance that may increase if Buddy is called to join the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII? Will Eleanor take a chance on love with a small town boy with big ideas? Dear Eleanor reminds us that love takes courage.

Dear Eleanor is the second short film in the Brick By Brick film series written, directed, and produced by Tina Chapman DaCosta in partnership with RIT Diversity Theater and the latest film included in the “Brick by Brick Community Building Film and Workshop.” The workshop is designed to help participants achieve:

  • Greater understanding of the barriers to effective interpersonal communication in the context of cultural differences
  • 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
  • Awareness of biases towards normative gender, racial, and sexual constructs and narratives past and present
  • Experience with community building practices through story sharing

photo of people on bench in field with white text overlay     Watch trailer here

Film Awards



  • Winner: Best Score by Max Di Carlo, Diversity in Cannes Film Showcase, Cannes Film Festival 2023
  • Winner: Voted Best of the Fest, Rochester International Film Festival 2023
  • Nominated: Best Editing by Fraaz Khan, Diversity in Cannes Film Showcase, Cannes Film Festival 2023
  • Nominated: Best Short, Charlotte Black Film Festival 2023

Official Selections:

  • Diversity in Cannes Film Showcase, Cannes Film Festival 2023
  • Rochester International Film Festival 2023
  • Charlotte Black Film Festival 2023

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Alumna uses film to teach diversity, RIT News November 2022

DEAR ELEANOR is Diversity Theater’s Newest Short Film. RIT Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter, April 2022

Customized Training

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.