What’s Your Story?
My daughter has just begun to babysit and the other night the two adorable little girls she was trying to put to bed begged her to read endless stories. Finally, she bribed them with an original. When she told it to me later she said she tried to tell them The Little Mermaid but she couldn’t remember it all. As I listened to her version of the story, which did indeed begin like The Little Mermaid, I realised that it was actually a story for herself and of herself. The message was about being happy with yourself and what better moral could there be for a 14 year old girl?
We are made up of many stories and Playback Theatre is one way of telling them using improvised theatre. I was lucky enough to meet Judy Swallow, one of the founding members of the first Playback Theatre Company in New York, in April and she described Playback as ‘citizen theatre’ where people who do not consider themselves actors feel able to tell each others’ stories. Now there are Playback Theatre companies all over the world.
The person with the story is called the teller and the company serves the teller and also the audience by portraying the story beneath the narrative.It can be abstract; it can be realistic and it often resonates. I was a teller at the Playback Theatre Sydney when I was in Australia and I was amazed at how much of the story I didn’t think I told but the actors played out anyway. I felt a bit like my daughter – I told a story I didn’t know I was telling at the time. And I felt good about it and proud and I learned things I hadn’t quite understood before. Not every Playback experience is cathartic like that. But it’s a possibility.
Playback is used for conferences, in schools, at community events as well as at more general public performances. This video offers an example of a company that tours schools in New York state. I love the look on the teller’s face as she watches…
In Sheffield we are currently forming a Playback Theatre Company. An ‘audition’ is being held at The Sharrow Pie Experiment on London Road (154 to be exact) on 24 June at 7:30. We’re using the term ‘audition’ because you’re really auditioning us. There’s no age limit and there’s no charge. Come and find out what its like, ask questions and, of course, eat some apple pie. Bring yourself, bring a story. Ring me if you want to talk about it on 07738 851 873.