18 Missed Interpretation


In Missed Interpretation, we witness an encounter between two parents. A White parent makes an assumption about a parent who is a Person of Colour. This scene invites discussion about microaggressions, and how the intention of what one says or does might be very different from the impact.

Topic Risk Level: High
Dramatic Skill Difficulty: Low to High

Watch the Scene:

Facilitation and Jokering

Inner Dialogue (Higher Skill)

  • Replay the scene to the point where there is a long period of silence between the two characters. Provide what the inner dialogue of each character might be.

Index Cards (Lower Skill)

  • Have learners write and reflect on a time that someone made an assumption about them. What was that like for them? How did they respond to the situation? If comfortable, share with the larger group and practice active listening.

Out Scene (Higher Skill)

  • Imagine what might have happened later that night when these two characters went home. How might each character tell this story to their partner, family member, roommate, etc.?
  • Imagine what might happen if the two parents returned to the same park the next day. Now that both characters have had a chance to reflect overnight, role play what might happen in the next encounter.

Initiating Questions

  1. How do we handle mistakes, especially when they cause harm to others?
  2. Are there different levels of apology? If so, what might they be? When is an apology meaningful?
  3. Have you ever felt so scared of making a mistake that you didn’t act? What was that like? What about admitting to a mistake?
  4. Have you ever been forgiven for making a mistake? What was that like?
  5. How can we take responsibility for our mistakes in our actions?

Spotlight on Jokering:

Watch a virtual workshop of “Missed Interpretation” in the video below

Contributor Note

The idea for this scene came from a story that was told by Dr. Boni Wozolek, Assistant Professor of Education at Penn State University. We would like to thank Dr. Wozolek for permission to adapt her story for this project. For more information about her work in social justice, see: Wozolek, B. (2020). Assemblages of violence in education: Everyday trajectories of oppression. Routledge.


Haunting our Biases: Using Participatory Theatre to Interrupt Implicit Bias Copyright © 2022 by Kevin Hobbs; Michael Martin Metz; Nadia Ganesh; Sheila O'Keefe-McCarthy; Joe Norris; Sandy Howe; and Valerie Michaelson. All Rights Reserved.

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