What is it? A story circle is a technique in which a small group of people gather to share their personal narratives. An experienced, or skilled, facilitator can help create a safe space, structured process, and guided discussion that keeps the focus on stories about shared experiences or values. Often, each person in the group has an opportunity to share a story about the community and what it means to them. As the group becomes more comfortable, the stories often deepen, and the shared experiences can give rise to discussion about group values, public issues, or desired community changes. By hosting a one-time or ongoing story circle session, communities also build trust and improve relationships across different segments of the population.
How has it been used? The group Roadside Theater, a part of Appalshop, uses story circles throughout its process. This ensemble has created original plays based in the oral tradition of the communities with which it partners. After the performances, theatre leaders engage the audience in story circles. The process encourages audience members to discuss the themes of the play, particularly how these themes relate to the experiences and issues in their own towns. Through this method, community members and the ensemble cast deepen understanding of the issues presented. Additionally, Roadside Theatre also works with communities to design place-specific processes, using community-based theatre, that help uncover and present the stories and culture of a neighborhood or town. The work of Roadside Theatre, and other community-based theatre efforts, is based on the idea that the learning that comes from stories can be a vital foundation for community change. (Source: Roadside Theater)