Breaking Ice

Pillsbury House Theatre’s Breaking Ice company teams up with the YWCA of Minneapolis for a special performance exploring the many ways racism and humor run hand-in-hand throughout the media and our culture.

Breaking Ice has created a show informed by the conversations surrounding the proposed Seward Friendship Co-op, specifically food access and jobs. Join us for a powerful, dramatic, and entertaining performance, followed by a short, facilitated discussion designed to foster better understanding and communication.

Last Monday night I rode my bike to El Collegio Charter School.

It was time to show the world a little bit of Breaking Ice’s show about… what exactly? Gentrification? Changing neighborhoods? Revitalization? Development? Words get tricky in this context, so I leave you to choose your own.

The night was a beautiful one, warm and clear in late September and perhaps as a result our crowd was a light one. There were some friends and colleagues and some faces that were unfamiliar to me. There were men and women and children of various racial backgrounds watching the show this fine night.

As with just about any Breaking Ice performance, there was a structure in place that left room for mistakes to happen and discoveries to be made. An actor drops a line and another picks it up. The energy lags in one place then surges forward a moment later, riding the wave of a collective impulse to reach our audience, to connect with and communicate with them. We performed montages of misunderstanding, movement based sections about the challenge of the new in your neighborhood, and short scenes where family members disagree about how to be and move forward in this world. We end with a song, and then, thank you very much, we’re done.

But not really.

The best part of any Breaking Ice show is what comes after the show, or at least what the audience thinks is the show. After the semi-scripted portion of the event comes the talking. On Monday, Heidi Batz Rogers led our small band in a discussion about what they just saw, and this conversation was no different than most. Slow, halting at first and then the audience finds the topics that light their collective fire and they’re off to the races.

This group said things like, “I recognize everyone in this show,” and, ”Just when I thought I knew someone, they did something that surprised me,” and, ”That was just like my bus stop.” Did I mention we do a scene at a bus stop?

We strive with every show we do to hold a mirror up to the group we’re performing for so they can talk about what they see. That’s how Heidi always begins the talks: What did you see? It’s not always easy to see yourself, or the people you work with or live with or love dearly, onstage. Because we show people at their wisest, most generous, most thoughtless, most selfish, most human. Embracing the fullness of that humanity can be really challenging. Talking about the parts of yourself you don’t admire requires a special kind of bravery, and doing it with strangers means believing that people will listen to you and hear you and not write you off.

It ain’t easy.

Still, we all share. We all laugh at ourselves and we allow others to laugh with us. I hope you’ll join us if you can. We’ll be at Bancroft Elementary (1315 E. 38th St, Minneapolis) on October 7 at 7:00 pm, and Bethel Lutheran Church (4120 17th Ave S, Minneapolis) on October 14 at 7:00 pm. We’ll be there no matter the weather.

It’s a special room to be in. With you in it, things get just that much better.

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Breaking Ice is a customized professional theatre experience created for organizations and businesses that need help with difficult issues both interpersonal and institutional.

Because every organization wrestles with communication – often based on misunderstanding or cultural differences. But you don't have to let those differences block your organization's ability to move forward and succeed.


Through research and training, our professional staff develop a customized, highly specific performance that incorporates the issues that confront your organization.

Imagine what happens when the same discussions and dialogues you hear whispered at your workplace are illuminated on stage in a safe theater setting? It's a powerful, dramatic, and entertaining way to step back and get a fresh perspective while gaining a more intimate understanding of how individuals relate to each other.

Following the performance, Breaking Ice facilitators lead participants in discussions designed to foster better understanding and communication, exploring the tough stuff together. More than 200 organizations have since Breaking Ice began in 1996.


We welcome the chance to meet with you and discuss how we can develop a program for your organization. Call us at 612-825-0459.


“The honesty and dynamics of the presentation made people confront things they would rather not see, but also inspired them to be part of the solution. People are still talking about the experience a year later. The program is powerful and motivating. A great teaching tool that is a rare find.”
Jim Langemo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Best Buy

“Breaking Ice does a tremendous job of providing people with the opportunity to discuss their cultural misunderstanding and discover potential solutions.”
Carmén Baker, Carlson Companies

“Breaking Ice as a training vehicle is one of the best mediums I’ve experienced… a safe way to learn and grow outside your comfort zone.”
Phillip Miner, Minnesota’s Private Colleges

“The performance will exceed all of your expectations… The most amazing part of the whole presentation was the research that was put into the project and the use of that research in tailoring the presentation to our group. As good as the performance was, it was totally enhanced by the facilitated discussion after the presentation. I was impressed with Breaking Ice at every step in the process and would recommend them to any group.”
Juan Martinez, Minnesota Family Support and Recovery Council

What is Breaking Ice? from Pillsbury House Theatre on Vimeo.

Pillsbury House Theatre is proud to partner with What Really Works.

Breaking Ice wins Nonprofit Mission Award for Anti-Racism Initiative from MCN and MAP from Pillsbury House Theatre on Vimeo.

Pillsbury House Theatre's Breaking Ice program won the 2008 Nonprofit Mission Award for Anti-Racism Initiative from the MN Council of Nonprofits and MAP for Nonprofits. This video was made to highlight and honor the work of Breaking Ice.

Winner of the 2008 Nonprofit Mission Award for Anti-Racism Initiative