GeNarrations

Organization Associated with Program
Goodman Theatre
170 N. Dearborn
Chicago, Illinois 60601

GeNarrations, now in its sixth season, is a personal narrative story performance workshop hosted at Goodman and in senior centers around Chicago, Il. Run three times a year, each six-week session is linked thematically to a play on Goodman's stages. Sessions culminate in two performances. One is held at the writers’ home center. Those writers then select three representative storytellers for a citywide performance held at Goodman. All writers’ stories are published in GeNarrations, a story journal.

An average of 10 seniors participates at each of the eight centers that participate in the program, with many older adults returning for multiple sessions. Sessions are led by Goodman teaching artists who are professional writers and storytellers. Participants also attend an interactive performance workshop each session that helps them physicalize their stories. They also attend the play that is linked to the session theme. Participants who are interested in intergenerational work are partnered with youth from the General Theatre Studies (GTS) summer program to devise a long-form spoken word piece that introduces the culminating GTS performance.

Program History

GeNarrations began as a one-time community engagement workshop around Goodman's 2009 production of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, starring Brain Dennehy. Every year on his birthday, self-absorbed Krapp records the important—and the banal moments of the last year. As he prepares to record a new tape on his 69th birthday, he begins to listen to his archives and stumbles upon a tender memory that he recorded half a lifetime ago. This immersion in his own history leads Krapp to question with growing regret whether his present lives up to his past. Using Krapp’s as a model, we worked with one senior center to record stories of “My Biggest Regret.” The workshop, which only lasted three weeks, was so successful, Goodman offered the workshop again around High Holidays, a coming-of-age story set in Chicago suburbs, and focused on “Stories My Mother Told.” After each session session more and more senior centers wanted to host the program. The three week sessions were not enough time to get writers to a polished final performance, so it was increased to six. GeNarrations is one of Goodman’s primary education and engagement programs, and is reflective of the theater’s commitment to diversity and community.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Goodman conducts multiple evaluations ongoing throughout the program through interviews, individual assessments, attendance numbers, and written surveys. The primary considerations in planning are from the storytellers, and logistical planning are evaluated at the end of a six-week session, then again at the end of a season. 

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

The biggest lesson learned was to expand the sessions from three weeks to six. This allows participants to become comfortable enough to share their stories. 

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble
Arts Discipline: Theater
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization, Community Center, Library, House of Worship / Religious Center
Program Service Area: Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice