Archives for posts with tag: playback theatre

Another evening of Playback Theatre and I feel humble. There is such a strong urge in me to respond, engage that sometimes I forget that it is okay to watch, sit back and absorb what is happening around me. I am worried that if I don’t perform, I will appear lazy, scared, unimaginative. But sometimes I don’t want to respond. I just want to dance. I want to move to my own rhythm, be in my own metaphor, offer something that is not collaborative, not tuned into the group, just me. Is this a result of being in a family, always trying to be aware of the needs of others? Sometimes I just want to move in space, and offer that as my contribution. A moving body, following my inner muse, inspired by others but not beholden.

And sometimes when I try to coordinate my impulses with those of the group I feel awkward, insensitive, insincere. Like I am proposing ideas that are not articulate, not clear, from a different point of departure. My ego feels too strong, so I try to back away and I lose the thread of the improvisation. My struggle in creative processes (which includes living in a family) has always been the tension between individual and collective experiences.

I remember a quote attributed to Emma Goldman, anarchist involved in the heady days of the Russian revolution:

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution…”

Apparently not her words, but those of anarchist t-shirt printer – the sentiment remains imprinted in my approach to collective endeavours. It becomes the question for me: How do I engage, as myself, and be in something that is larger than myself?





Tonight was another session with  Playback Theatre. It started out with a certain amount of disconnect and I was in a very heady place from all of the writing/thinking I have been doing. It would have been great to go straight into a play on a body level, but that took a while to find and I am not even sure if I did… I understood the need/desire to drop the work into a place of metaphor, responding to the stories that were being told in a poetic way, but I wasn’t feeling it in my body. So I watched for a while, and let myself be disconnected. Sometimes it is hard not to give, even when I feel like I have nothing to give. As if, perhaps as a mother, student, lover, friend, researcher, my only role is to give and give. And then I reached a moment when I offered a story, to see if that was what I wanted to give. And it was hard, because it felt vulnerable and not like research but more fragile, like standing on a ledge. The story was not clear to me in the telling, not clear in the receiving and changed in the process. I didn’t know why I was telling it but I felt compelled to share the intensity of mixed emotions, joy of being with family and in place, overwhelming sorrow at the possibility of losing a friend through illness. The first playback experience, primarily in movement was confusing, somewhat fragmented to receive, as if I was trying to find something that was not quite there. I felt like I needed to show my gratitude but the gift didn’t quite match my story. The second playback, after the clarification of my desire to be a constant for my friend, was offered as a vocal response and that was quite the journey for me. I felt like it brought me through a series of complex emotions that touched on the feelings of stability, faltering, longing, loss, grief, comfort, sorrow and love. The range of landscapes that I witnessed within my body/mind/spirit was quite expansive and cathartic. The discussion that followed brought attention to beginnings and endings for the players. How does the player remember that the gift is for the storyteller, not for the players? It is important to sense when the gift has been received and the re-telling can come to close. Players can experience empathy for the teller but need to remember that the story is the teller’s, not the player’s. These are difficult concepts to remember in the moment of re-telling a story. Perhaps the most  important thing for me, was honoring the feelings of the teller, remembering that playback through metaphor requires a serious amount of listening and compassion.

Tonight was the first of hopefully many evenings of playing improvisations with a group of people interested in the form. What is the form? We decided to ask Laen to lead us through some sense of what Playback Theatre is – where a person in the audience tells a story, one person asks for precision in the story, highlights the essential pieces of information and why the story is being told. Four people listen to the story, one is chosen by the storyteller to be the embodiment of that person, while the others can represent aspects, metaphors, feelings, objects of the story. The four playback the story, striving to represent the essence of the experience. The narrative details are only one part of the information received and the four do not discuss. They initiate or propose and the others join in or counter propose.

There were other exercises leading up to the telling of the long story which offered opportunities to interpret smaller amounts of content, interpret someone’s feelings and give us the chance to work off of other people’s proposals.
My response to this is that there were moments that were intriguing, I ran at too high a pitch, I am worried that I may have over worked my body and brain… I wish I could maintain my integrity as a performer within my own physical limitations rather than trying to push too hard. It feels a little over wrought and I worry that the stress I put into my interpretation of things says more about me and less about the things I want to convey.
Metaphor – How to get from the literal telling of the story into a poetic moment -through movement. I remember the work we did with Lin Snelling and Guy Cools. It flowed because there where distinct roles for all of the players, there was a direct connection to the physical space of the improvisation and there was also the space of the imagination and impulse.
This play back stuff still feels too heady. My body wants to ground in the space and voice, then see where things flow. Holding the story feels like interference rather than substance.