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'Stories are Powerful.' A Conversation with a Breaking Ice Performer


In March, an award-winning theater program will make its way to Cook Children’s Medical Center - Fort Worth for a series of unmissable performances. 

Some Cook Children’s leadership saw the program in 2023. Here’s what some of them had to say about the experience: 

““I wasn’t expecting to come into our leadership training that morning and be so thoroughly moved,” said Vida Amin, M.D., Medical Advisor, Neighborhood Clinics & Population Health. “The performance was pure genius…the authenticity through which it was delivered, its relevance to our setting, and the connections it fostered were more than I could have ever anticipated.” 

“At some point it felt like an out of body experience as I was watching things that I have experienced in my day-to-day work life but was unable to explain. Highly recommend it.” said Anthony Anani, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Cook Children's Medical Center - Prosper. 

“Watching the Pillsbury Theater Group’s performance was so unique – I felt like as an audience, we shared moments of incredible humor, curiosity, and compassion through very courageous and creative story telling about everyday life,” said Dr. Anu Partap, Director of Physician Health Equity. 

By Kaley Johnson

NoelThe Breaking Ice performance explores systemic inequities, implicit bias and common misperceptions in the workplace. The program is part of the Pillsbury House, a nonprofit community center based in Minneapolis; read more about its history here. The group will perform six live shows in the Hochberger Auditorium in Fort Worth on March 6, 7, and 8. The shows will also be live streamed to ensure accessibility for a wider audience.

We sat down with Noël Raymond, who has been performing with Pillsbury House for 29 years, to discuss what makes the program unique.

Q: How would you describe Breaking Ice? 

A: The Breaking Ice program helps people talk about differences and how to activate and take personal accountability for making DEI a practice and not just a training or idea. And how each person can individually leverage the influence and assets they have to create more inclusion and equity for everyone.

Q: In the performance, a small group of people act out possible scenarios in the workplace where people’s backgrounds and personal perspectives might lead to us misunderstanding one another. What is the goal of showing these situations?

A: Our goal is really to show so many things that everyone can see themselves somewhere, and everyone can see something unfamiliar to them somewhere. We can hit on many aspects of diversity and intersectionality. We try to really ride that line of doing a little bit of disruption without shaming and blaming. The goal is really to help people hook into that we’re all part of this DEI work.  

Q: There’s a discussion portion of the program. Why is this part important? 

A:  It’s really hard to talk about these things in the work environment. We provide an opportunity and a context or structure so that people can actually practice having conversations about things that are important but tough to talk about. We pretend we leave our feelings at home when we go to work, but we don’t. Breaking Ice provides a way to understand where (our feelings) come up and to think about environments that support everyone in feeling good.  

breaking ice handout 1Q: Why is it important to talk about our differences and backgrounds at work? Why is this important for Cook Children’s? 

A: You have relationships in the workplace no matter what. You are providing care for people at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. You can’t help but invest in those moments and that care. The boundaries of life and work are blurring. That’s just what’s happening. And understanding who we all are as people allows us to better show up and support each other, which makes the work easier, deeper and more effective.  

Q: What is your hope for what people take away from the program? 

A: We hope we provide a catalyst and some fuel for the DEI work you’re already doing. We want to be the spark that lights the match. We want to give some ‘umph’ and some support to the effort around creating a culture of belonging so everyone at Cook Children’s can do their best work.

Q: This is such a unique forum to talk about diversity, inclusion and equity. What does this performance offer that “traditional” DEI training doesn't? 

A: It creates a unique way of presenting a huge number of things that happen and create an emotional experience; and then having the conversation about those things without some of the defensiveness that might happen if you just ask about unconscious bias or macroaggression. Stories are powerful, that’s how we transmit history and culture and all kinds of learning. It’s not a PowerPoint where we’re feeding you information and asking you to absorb lots of new terms, it's about bringing yourself to the conversation in order to create the kind of work environment you want to inhabit.  

Q: If someone isn’t sure if this program sounds like something they’re comfortable with, what would you tell them?

A:  I would ask them, Do you want the people you work with to feel supported? Do you want your patients to feel seen, be honored for who they are?’ Some of this is about systemic inequities and thinking about how those things affect your work. But on a human-to-human level, it's about how you see each other and honor each other for who you are.

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