Breaking Ice



Breaking Ice is the award-winning program of Pillsbury House Theatre that for over 20 years has been “breaking the ice” for courageous and productive dialogue around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. A diverse company of professional actors portrays real-life situations that are customized to meet the goals, needs and culture of each unique organization we serve.

Breaking Ice performances blend drama, music, poetry, movement and humor in a series of dynamic scenes to explore how systemic inequities, implicit bias and common misperceptions show up in relationships, creating uncomfortable interactions that inhibit innovation, motivation and productivity in the workplace.

Following the performance, trained Breaking Ice facilitators lead the group in a reflective discussion to deepen awareness and practice exploring the tough stuff together.

Please see SAMPLE OF SCENARIOS for examples of what kind of scenes might be included in a customized performance.


Breaking Ice creates a safe environment for coworkers to share a unique, highly energized experience that encourages empathy, openness and vulnerability that allows us to see ourselves and others in new ways. Performances illuminate commonplace, unintentional language and behaviors that may be misunderstood or hurtful to colleagues. It opens the door for important dialogue around cultural differences and systemic inequities in a powerful and entertaining way.


Content for the customized, highly specific performances are researched and developed to ensure that the issues that confront your organization are incorporated into the show. The trained ensemble of actors spends rehearsals deepening their understanding of your specific workplace, industry and issues so that the characters and situations they portray are recognizable and believable. Imagine what happens when the same discussions and dialogues that are whispered at your workplace are revealed on stage in a safe theater setting. The result is a performance that will deeply resonate with your coworkers.


Outcomes of a Breaking Ice performance include:

  • Change how we show up at work
  • Change how we engage with each other
  • Foster a greater awareness of ourselves and others
  • Become more aware of our implicit biases
  • View EDI as an ongoing practice
  • Experience vulnerable, courageous conversation
  • Practice generating concrete, practical actions to advance EDI


For more information, please call Noel Raymond at 612-787-3620 or email her at

Sample Scenarios


Breaking Ice performances are customized to meet the goals and objectives of individual Sponsors. However, each performance is organized around theatre structures that are used to illustrate familiar situations in the workplace.

PLEASE NOTE that not all of these scenarios are in every performance, nor are all of the scenarios that might be in a performance represented here. This is a sampling to reflect the dynamic, high-energy tenor of a Breaking Ice performance.

A Day in the Life JamQuick-paced, short rhythmic phrases with movement to introduce a range of characters from different walks of life moving from their homes to their workplace. Awareness of the kinds of things individuals bring with them into their workday.

Highlights the impact of different interactions people may encounter at home or in public situations.
HeadlinesCurrent headlines and statistics are pulled from various media sources, spoken in rapid succession.Highlights issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the public sphere and the socio-political influences that affect everyday experiences and perceptions of self and others.• A Harvard study observed significantly greater callbacks for white applicants over Black and Latinx applicants with identical resumes
• Millennials will comprise 50% of the global workforce by 2020
• #MeToo Movement empowers women to fight sexual harassment
• Businesses that regularly hire people with disabilities see increased retention and innovation
Ouch TagsShort two person interactions that demonstrate how unconscious/ implicit bias shows up in interpersonal relationships in the workplace, and how these lead to micro-aggressions that have a direct impact on daily communications and productivity.Explores what unconscious/implicit biases look like, and the impact they have in human interactions and behavior.

Inspires self-reflection and curiosity about possible alternative responses and behaviors that would allow people to move through discomfort and interact productively.
• Several consecutive examples of eliminating potential candidates based on soft perception of “not the right fit,” “not the right time,” etc.
• A woman moves her purse to her other shoulder when a black man gets in the elevator next to her
• An older adult employee bemoans his millennial supervisor’s new ideas, “been there done that”
• After a man comes out at work, a co-worker washing his hands next to him in the bathroom jumps back when the gay man reaches over to grab a hand towel
Inside / OutsideDepiction of a conversation between a white supervisor and her supervisee of color. Two actors portray the external dialogue and behavior while two other actors reveal the characters’ internal thoughts and reactions. When the external conversation gets stuck because the characters have misread each other, the internal voices take over to have the real, difficult conversation that actually moves the relationship forward.Demonstrates how our assumptions and perceptions shape behavior and impede genuine communication, while providing an example of an authentic, but difficult, conversation that acknowledges these perceptions and moves through the discomfort to productive interaction. EXTERIOR

“I wanted to hear your perspective.”

“About?” (Crosses both arms)


“Whoa, there it is, he’s getting defensive already. Alright Denise, just say it, just say what this is about.”

“What is she saying? I never understand what she’s talking about."


"About your attitude."

"My attitude?"


“Arrggh this is so miserable, every time I try to talk about these things I feel like he thinks I’m a racist.”

“Attitude? That’s code for I am uncomfortable talking to People of Color.”
I Didn't Mean Anything by it (Snid Bits)Movement with short offensive phrases that have become embedded in our daily language – usually followed by the caveat, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”Builds awareness of how phrases that are common in everyday language can be hurtful or offensive to people.

Helps to recognize these offensive phrases so that individuals can make conscious choices about using them.
• "It’s like the blind leading the blind"
• "Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?"
• "He’s the low man on the totem pole"
• "That’s so gay"
• "He doesn’t have a Chinaman’s chance"
Break Room (Shared Space)This sequence shows groups of people interacting in an unmitigated space where their conversations and actions spill over and affect one another even though they are not intending to interact directly. Demonstrates how words and behaviors have ancillary impact on people who are not being directly addressed but are in proximity.

Opens awareness and consideration for co-workers who may see or overhear conversations in shared spaces.
• "Smells like someone’s food is going south of the border. Pheww!"
• "Politics! Anyone mind if we change the channel? How about sports? That should be easy…"
• "Trust me, not everyone is exactly on board with my new position, because I guess apparently I’m just some Affirmative Action hire."
LabelingMovement and phrases that highlights how people categorize and label each other based on physical appearance.Demonstrates how unconscious/implicit biases cause us to categorize other people based on very little actual information.

Creates awareness about the labeling we all do, in order to bring it to consciousness so that we can make intentional choices rather than being led by frames and lenses we didn’t even know we had.
• Entitled Millennial
• Isis Recruit
• Lesbo
• Sexual Harasser
• Angry Black Woman
Committee MeetingA debriefing around a recent event which this time included Diversity and Inclusion. There has been feedback from employees who wanted the event to address some of the larger issues that stem from the current political climate and how they affect their daily lives.Examines group dynamics, status and hierarchy that eventually reveal how privilege can keep us from seeing the impact of current policies on co-workers’ daily lives.

Demonstrates how to recognize and admit our own privilege, showing how it opens up the potential for authentic and courageous conversations.
“…anything can happen, it seems like, and if my wife goes back to Somalia to see her father who’s just had a stroke, who knows if she’ll be able to return to the US. So she is stuck in a position of possibly never seeing her father again, or not seeing us.”

“That’s terrible. That’s a really tricky situation.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that. And I guess I have to apologize because I have not had to connect the dots and think about these issues – there’s just so much and it’s all so overwhelming that I have to shut it off when I come to work.”

“Well – that’s a privilege. You may be just realizing that these things are overwhelming but his been my life.”
Home SceneAn inter-racial couple gets into an escalating argument that disrupts their plans for the evening.Explores the impact on personal relationships of pent up stress from work environments where people do not feel valued or comfortable speaking up.“I said she’s sleeping. Don’t wake her up. Everybody doesn’t work around your schedule. You can’t just show up when you want.”

“You are being really snarky right now. If you have something to say you need to communicate.”

“I need to communicate? You walk in the door two hours late, we don’t know where you are, what you’re doing, but I need to communicate. Right.”

“I told you I was at work. Something came up and I needed to process it with the team before the next shift. You know I can’t have my phone when I’m at work.”


“You know what? I don’t need to come home to this. That’s why I have to call my mom because you don’t support me. You have no idea what I’m dealing with at work! I feel terrible every day.”
I am fromPoems written by each of the performers about their individual identities that demonstrate the layers of complexity that make up each of us as well as the frames and lenses we all that shape our perceptions.Reveals both the layers of diversity that we all bring into every situation and the lenses through which we perceive others and the world around us.

Generates discussion about vulnerability, which allows connections to deepen, and learning/change to take place.



How much does a Breaking Ice Performance Cost?

The first performance, including research and content development, costs $9,000. Each additional performance of the same show scheduled with the first performance, and occurring within one month of the first performance is $5,000. For additional performances that happen more than one month from the first performance, the cost is $9,000.

Please note that Sponsors are responsible for the purchase of all travel and single-occupancy accommodations for the six (6) Breaking Ice performers when travel is required. A per diem of $55 per day per performer is also required.

What is the ideal audience size for a Breaking Ice performance?

Breaking Ice is usually performed for audiences of 100-200, but we have had wonderful results with groups as small as 12, and as large as 1,500.

How are Breaking Ice performances created for our unique organization, to open up dialogue around our particular issues and culture?

Breaking Ice performances begin with a Content Meeting 4-6 weeks prior to the performance with members of your team to discuss the goals and objectives of the performance, and for the Breaking Ice team to gain an understanding of current issues in your workplace and industry. After an intense period of research and rehearsal, there is a Preview rehearsal for the Sponsor’s team, to gather feedback for final tweaking of the material before it’s presented to its intended audience. Comments and suggestions from this preview are incorporated into the performance(s). A facilitated dialogue immediately follows each performance.

Are the performers diverse?

Yes. The five or six actors represent multiple dimensions of diversity. This is extremely important to us!

How long is a performance?

Although each performance is tailored to the needs of your company, shows are typically 45-60 minutes in length, followed by a facilitated dialogue of 30-45 minutes. A total time of 90-minutes is ideal, a 45-minute performance followed by a 45-minute dialogue.

What are the space and technical needs for a Breaking Ice performance?

The minimum requirements for a show are:

  • 20’x20’ performance area
  • Six folding or portable chairs without arms
  • A secure green room with at least 10’x10’area of open space
  • Amplification is recommended for audiences larger than 50 unless the performance is in a dedicated performance space.

Our company is very large and spread out through the country. Are there ways that every employee can experience Breaking Ice?

Yes. The most effective way is to present live performances throughout the company, but there are other options in addition to live performances that can be explored, such as live streaming. However, the facilitated dialogue that follows each live performance is the safe place where coworkers begin their own process of “breaking the ice” towards healthy communication around uncomfortable issues by sharing reactions to the show and ideas for actions to encourage change.

How can we persuade our leadership team that we should sponsor a Breaking Ice performance?

We are here to help! We are available to answer any questions, to provide detailed information about the program, and to connect you with previous sponsors and partners. In our experience, the most successful approach to gaining support for Breaking Ice as part of the company’s DEI efforts is for leadership teams to see a performance before it is rolled out throughout the company.

Can we come to a performance before we decide if we want to engage the Breaking Ice team?

No, sorry. Because performances are tailored to address specific issues and workplace challenges of the company or department, we do not allow access to anyone for whom the content was not intended.

Do you have a video?

No, sorry. Breaking Ice creates performances specifically tailored to the goals, needs and culture of the Sponsor.

Have more questions?

Contact Noel Raymond at 612-787-3620 or

What People Are Saying


“Such a unique and immersive experience. With equity and inclusion, you can’t really “walk in someone else’s shoes” but this performance was as close to that as possible in terms of being able to understand another person’s perspective and experience. Also, no power point presentation could come close to the level of emotional impact of the performance by Breaking Ice.”

“The performers were captivating, all eyes and ears were focused on them. Their word choice and the scenarios they presented were extremely thought provoking.  Brought to light a lot of issues that we ALL face during our day-to-day activities at work.”

“The Pillsbury Theatre group performance was a highlight for me. It was a great reminder that issues of race, class, gender, equity and diversity are lived experiences and not simply topics to write about. Also gave me language that I could visually use to describe challenges.”

“I discovered a broader interpretation of diversity and inclusion. It also helped me to emotionally connect to the struggles of others.”

“This was tailor made for our environment thus more impactful than a generic training video shown across the country. People hear their own stories and those of their coworkers. It stays with you and moves you.”

“The performance helped me visualize and understand the different perspectives and (for me – very importantly) that I am not alone in this. The internal fears people have and how that drives action/inaction was eye opening.”

“I LOVED the Pillsbury House Theatre [Breaking Ice] and learned more about myself and how I may better relate to my direct reports and other coworkers.”

“[My key learning is] The need to have open, honest conversation with my team regarding Inclusion and Diversity.”

“[I learned to] Be more aware of what I say – and that it could be interpreted in a different way than I intend.”

“I like how they addressed real issues that are going on daily in xxxxxxxx. Facilitated good dialogue between attendees.”

“My favorite comment yet is the former D&I leader who said in his many years of being in this work, and in conferences/trainings, etc. across the country, had yet to have an experience like that one. Thank you!”

“We have continued to get very positive feedback on the Breaking Ice session. 100% of the survey respondents recommended that we do this for the broader team!”

“I thought the Pillsbury Theatre piece was brilliant.”

“Very powerful, something everybody should see.”


“With two weeks of our Annual Leadership conference under our belts, it is clear that Breaking Ice was a highlight of the entire conference – for our leaders in the room and for me, personally. Your ability to tailor Breaking Ice to American by integrating very real and airline-specific scenarios was a great way to get people thinking and to get some very important conversations started. Your team has helped set a strong foundation for the work that is coming in the near future. Thank you so much for leading the way.”

– Doug Parker, CEO, American Airlines

“Target has partnered with Pillsbury House Theatre’s Breaking Ice immersive experience to offer thousands of our team members an opportunity to observe, process, and discuss the various experiences individuals have inside and outside of the workplace. At Target we are committed to helping everyone increase their acumen on inclusion and believe that experiences like this help all of us further understand how to co-exist in our individual authenticity while allowing others to do the same.”

Caroline Wanga, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Target

“I cannot begin to thank you for the outstanding [Breaking Ice] performance and program yesterday. It brought so much emotion to all of us and made us a stronger unit. I knew from the beginning this was going to be amazing and life changing, but I did not realize how much until I was a part of it. Please thank everyone! We are better people because of all of you!”

Jolie Haupert, Chief Administrative Officer, Metropolitan Banking, U.S. Bank

“We are incredibly fortunate to have a performing company of your caliber to help us engage our employees on health equity issues. The performance was very effective at getting people to step out of their comfort zones and understand different perspectives. Thank you for sharing your writing and performing talents to help us address the timely and relevant issues our staff face in their daily lives.”

Rina McManus, Director, Ramsey County Public Health

“I’ve attended many diversity training events over the years, but nothing has come anywhere near the impact of Breaking Ice. [It] put into words and experience what is said, thought, felt. And it created a framework and environment for honest conversations sorely needed.”

– Joel Spoonheim, Director of Health Promotions, HealthPartners

“We can’t stop talking about you guys here!”

– Terrie Hart, Workforce Diversity Manager, BJC HealthCare





Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

Bank of America

Belk Department Stores

Best Buy

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota

CUNA Mutual

Entergy Corporation

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Independent Insurance Agents

Mass Mutual Life Insurance


Ryan Companies

Target Corporation

Thrivent Financial

The VGM Group

U.S. Bank

Wells Fargo


AnMed Health

Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas Health Care System)

BJC HealthCare

Children’s Minnesota

City of Hope

Clinical Laboratory Collaborative


North Memorial Health Care

Novant Health

SEAHEC/New Hanover Regional Medical Center


Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber

Hennepin County

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

Minnesota Department of Human Services

Minnesota Department of Revenue

Ramsey County

Saint Paul Regional Water Services

Washington County


Anoka Ramsey Community College

Augsburg College

Carlson School of Management

Hawkeye Community College

University of Northern Iowa

University of St. Thomas


Bush Foundation

Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative

First Covenant Church

The Funders’ Network

NeighborWorks America

Sheltering Arms Foundation

an integral part of Pillsbury United Communities