Theatre – A Process<![if !vml]><![endif]>by
Selia Karsten, BA,MFA,EdD
Playback Theatre as described in this document
is designed for workshops. The workshops begin with warm-ups and are followed
by the improvising of stories told by volunteer participants with the help
of a facilitator, designated as the conductor. It is recommended that the
conductor have training and experience in this process in order to best
assist the participants in a meaningful and safe experience.
introduces an improvisational atmosphere for playback by encouraging “warm-ups”.The
participants are asked to (one at a time) describe how they are feeling
at this moment in time. The person describing how (s)he feels to the conductor
is the “teller”. The teller may say that (s)he is feeling “excited”. This
feeling, “excited” is improvised by the participants. The teller may ask
for a re-enactment of this feeling until, in his/her opinion, the feeling
has been captured by the performances (s)he sees. Participants use their
bodies and voices in the enacted improvisations to capture the requested
The teller next
goes through the A.R.T. Process. (S)he may:
the feeling and stay with that feeling
See a Repair of that feeling
to another chosen feeling. For example, they may decide that they would
rather feel “calm”. Participants would then improvise this feeling until
the teller is satisfied with the performance.
Ask for a Transformation –
that is, ask the performers to go from the feeling of “excited” to the
feeling of “calm” in their improvisation.
Whatever the choice of the teller,
the feeling is played until the teller is satisfied with the performance
as capturing the essence of that feeling.
responses in movement and sound to a suggested idea.
performers working together to reflect conflicting feelings, for example,
“happy” and “sad”.
Fluid Sculptures: all
performers join together to form a representation of an idea or feeling.
Once the participants
have demonstrated the playback process by acting out a number of feelings
and ideas, it is time to ask for storytellers.The
conductor gets the group to select a theme for the stories to be told.
The conductor guides volunteer tellers in telling stories (related to the
chosen theme) from their lives.
Telling Stories for Playback
The conductor asks
the teller to choose one of the participants to play him/her in the story.
The teller is encouraged to select a person who might have the same energy
as the teller did at the time of the story. Performers are chosen on a
non-traditional basis, that is, without regard to age, size, race, etc.
but according to an intuitive sense that this is the right person. The
teller gives his/her actor a word for the feeling(s) that dominated him/her
at the time of the story. For example, “I felt confused and angry”.
The conductor guides
the teller in relating the story. Other actors are selected to play other
people (and sometimes inanimate objects) that are featured in the story.
Each actor is given a predominant feeling. The conductor helps keep the
story on track and when it appears to be nearing completion, the teller
is asked, “how did the story end?”Once
the conclusion is told, the teller is asked to give a title (and/or a colour)
that might describe the story.The
actors may ask for clarification before beginning the improvisation. These
actors may also need a minute to gather any spontaneously appropriate props
or costume pieces in the vicinity. They do not rehearse but improvise based
on what they understood. The conductor signals the play with instruction
to teller and audience: “Let’s watch!”
After the performance,
the conductor asks the teller if the essence of the story was captured.If
there are corrections required, the story is replayed from the point where
it may have gone off track.
Following the acceptance
of the story as played, the teller has three choices.These
are the A.R.T. choices, acceptance, repair or transformation.
The teller may decide to stay with
the story as played.
The teller may ask for a repair. How
does (s)he wish to have behaved in the story? Only the teller’s actions
are repaired. Other characters
in the story follow the teller’s actor, responding to any changes that
actor may make.
The teller may decide to see a transformation. In
this replay, the actors from the end of the scene and continue on with
a different behaviour (as chosen by the teller for his/her actor). This
choice is based on having experienced the story as performed. The teller
chooses three words to describe how they would like to be in the transformation
is based on my experiences as teller and training as conductor and actor
with Yes Oh Yes Theatre Company under the guidance of Annie Stirling. Annie
studied with Jonathan Fox, originator of the playback process. Books
and articles regarding playback may be found in the list of references
within the following research proposal developed in 1994.
You may also find
information on the following website.
For information regarding
playback workshops, contact firstname.lastname@example.org