Playback Theatre is a form of theatre that encourages a high level of communication between all involved. The facilitator / conductor, the performers and the audience are all engaged in deep listening and because the performers are modelling empathic and active listening techniques, they encourage empathy between audience and storyteller.
Our ensemble have brainstormed ten communication tips derived from their experience listening and reflecting thousands of stories. The 10 tips below all apply as much in everyday communication as they do in Playback Theatre.
In Playback the performers do not ask questions, they listen to the whole story and they imagine themselves in the storyteller’s shoes before responding. It is the facilitator’s job to ask questions, but also to get out of the way and let the storyteller tell the story that they want to share.
- Listen to understand first, then to be understood.
- Remember you have only one mouth and two ears for a reason. Listen more than you speak.
- Listen to the speaker rather than listening for your own response.
- Remember the power of stillness and pause.
- There’s no harm done speaking a little slower.
- Learn people’s names and use them when you speak with them.
- Ask questions, get to know people by asking them about themselves. Be interested in what they say and see if you can find common ground.
- Let people finish. It’s hard to stop yourself when you have a good idea, but it can be great to hold that thought and let the person finish. What they finish with might change how you respond.
- Put your phone away when talking. Give your full attention.
- Not all cultures use direct eye contact.
Thank you to every one who attended Playback’s Theatre Works Season.
A special thanks to the audience members who shared their stories.
Feedback from some of the audience:
“I always love it. So much tension every time. Beautiful actors.”
“Don’t think it could of been better.”
“Good giggles. Comfortable, easy, relaxed evening.”
“The honesty of the stories and the quality of the interpretation was inspiring.”
“Loved the positive spin on some sad stories.”
“I liked the involvement of the audience and the accurate take the performers had on the stories.”
“Emotional. Engaging. Excellent.”
“The musicians were fantastic and really worked well with the improvisation.”
“Very engaging, thoroughly entertaining. The ensemble are very talented.”
“Validating, moved, honouring, vulnerable, thank you.”
“The best I have seen – the diverse theatrical skills used was excellent.”
“I liked the supportive environment created for the audience member telling the story.”
“Great, very creative, actors were excellent and versatile.”
Melbourne Playback is looking forward to seeing you at our Portraits Public Shows this weekend at Theatre Works. Saturday 29 at 8pm and Sunday 30 at 6pm.
Come along and watch audience members stories come to life through theatre.
Or you may have a story to tell?
Meet company members in the foyer post the performance.
Originally I trained as actor at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba (just west of Brisbane) and have always had an interest in physical theatre, circus and acro-balance in my work. I love how these skills support my acting craft and also provide me with a great way to train my body. I only came to acting when I was about 30 years old. Prior to that I’d worked as a carer for people with disabilities and also taught job-skills to folks who’d been long-term unemployed.
I moved down to Melbourne in 2010 and joined Melbourne Playback the following year. I was interested in the chance to hear real stories from people and to use theatre as a way to perform these stories back to the audiences who told them. This month I’m running some introductory acro-balance workshops with our Company as part of our weekly warm ups and training. It’s been great to share some of my circus, acro-balance and physical theatre skills with everyone and we’re currently having fun (and overcoming some fears…) whilst we play with what it takes to ‘base’ someone, find out how to become a ‘flyer’, learn who has the responsibility in a lift, discover how to support and really trust one another and identify what sort of strength (physical and mental!) that we need to do the balances.
Not only are these important ideas for actors, but also they are great metaphors for any group or team to think about in daily work. It’s exciting to see how circus and acro-balance can mix with the Playback form to give us a broader physical language to work with. Now, we’re integrating these skills into our performances to create images and poetry in our story-telling and we’ve already had some beautiful results.
Welcome to our first E-news for 2013! It’s already March and the year is well and truly into full swing!
Melbourne Playback is engaged again this year in working with Qantas Ground Operations in delivering specifically designed Service Culture & Leadership Experiences. This exciting project has us travelling to Sydney every week to engage with the people of Qantas and the culture of their workplace. This week our crew have been on the ground with the Ramp and Baggage Staff at Melbourne Airport. We’re gaining a real understanding and appreciation for the co-ordinated work that’s required to ensure aircraft are cleaned, bags loaded, seats allocated and passengers on board, so that an On Time Departure (OTD) is assured!
2013 has seen us working with several long term clients again: VISY, Melbourne Health, Mt Eliza Business School, City of Darebin, Brentwood Secondary College and Methodist Ladies College. We’ve recently begun a project with Australian Sudanese Youth in Footscray looking at their experiences with the justice system (co-sponsored by Juvenile Justice and Storyscape) that will culminate in the participant’s performing their stories and producing videos of the challenges they face and the hopes they have for how justice might be applied and communicated.
At Playback we deal in story. The stories of diverse organisations, communities and people. Often we’re working in environments where change is underway. Sometimes the changes are being embraced and celebrated, sometimes there is uncertainty and fear, sometimes people want others to initiate the change, and at times strong resistance to change is present. Our role is to create a space for the diversity of opinions, experiences, thoughts and feelings to be expressed, and at times to be a catalyst for change. It’s a privelege to be part of people’s engaging, striving and wrestling with change. It’s exhilirating at times and it can also bring it’s moments of challenge. Recently I’ve been finding inspiration, guidance and comfort, in the following quotes: “There is nothing permanent except change” (Heraclitus) and “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” (Barack Obama)
Happy New Year and here’s to ongoing change!
Learning and Development staff forum on in July 2012
Donna Conroy Projects Officer, People, Learning and Culture provided feedback from the participants. Here are some of the comments made:
- I would like more of the Playback type work around values congruent responses to common difficult work situations.
- I think this session was especially meaningful way to present and learn about such situations.
- Melbourne playback Theatre Company – they were excellent!! Having the opportunity of meeting other workers in Connection.
- Lots of interesting things discussed. Staff participation, not just sitting there and listening.
- The atmosphere was very relaxed and enjoyable.
- The Playback performances were spot on and just amazing to watch and also to have a laugh to make you feel really good about yourself and further to learn and see from a different perspective on how things are seen. They were awesome in my book… should be more them at our forums, please.
- Playback Theatre Company, wish it went longer
During our time at Theatre Works Melbourne Playback performed for Haileybury, Simon Perry Classroom Drama Teacher said, “Just wanted to say the girls absolutely loved your Playback workshop and performance. Your energy and thoroughly entertaining characters had the girls spellbound…They all left saying that was the best thing they have been to in these last two weeks…It’s been unreal for the girls and for some hopefully it’s a step into the world of the performing arts. Thanks again and can’t wait to catch up soon.”
Our next Performance was for Culture Mamas, a group of mums and bubs:
“What a great performance and how insightful for us all. I just loved being able to enjoy it without worrying that my girls were upsetting anyone! Thanks so much to you for bringing those soul-enriching experiences.”
Many thanks again to you and your company for an enriching and enjoyable theatrical experience for our mums, bubs and grandparents. We hope to do it again in the future! Culture Mamas.
Over the weekend we run professional development workshops and performed to public audiences on the Saturday and Sunday nights.
Penelope Bartlau left a post on our “Memorable Moments”:
Last night we told stories to Playback: I shared & revisited an extraordinary moment in a jungle in Mexico, of terror and exhilaration when I accidentally disturbed a rabble of Ulysses butterflies from their hiding place in a fallen & hollowed tree. They flew out & over my head in a beating storm of sound, and away as a mass of bright blue. The Playback team encapsulated and reflected this moment, bringing and giving the moment’s sensation and feeling.
Same too for my husband, speaking of an experience when he & his cousin faced a sea-eagle, the three of them arms/wings outstretched: the were boys facing a strong wind and pretending to fly and the bird hovered, suspended – a metre in front of them, observing the boys as strange equals. The bird dived down and snatched a mouse hiding in the grass from between the feet of the boys, and held it prize-like in front of the boys for just a moment before flying away with it’s prize.
It was a delight to see the se stories, and to have them shared with the audience at Theatre Works last night. Such improvisational mastery these performers, musicians and the lighting operator have. Truly they are very, very good listeners – hearing us, and each other and playing exquisitely.
Melbourne Playback Theatre Company would like to thank everyone who attended and shared their stories and thanks Theatre Works for all your help and support.
by Melbourne Playback Theatre Company
“…seethes with breath-catching moments of insight and an unscripted emotional intelligence… you couldn’t ask for a clearer affirmation of what acting can do on the spot, undirected…”
Never seen a Melbourne Playback performance? Come and see what you’ve been missing.
Over the past 30 years Melbourne Playback Theatre Company has developed a reputation for creating intelligent, physical theatre that is highly skilful yet playful.
A rare form in the world of live theatre, playback is performed by an ensemble of actors and musicians who specialise in creating theatre on the spot by drawing from experiences and observations shared by audience members.
With the audience as the scriptwriter, each Springs Brings performance will be completely unique – transforming people’s observations, experiences, opinions and reflections into honest, humorous and insightful theatre.
Spring Brings boasts a highly talented and respected ensemble of performing artists, musicians and theatre-makers that continue to explore the playback theatre form and the theatrical possibilities of storytelling.
Spring Brings…. all kinds of true stories out from the corners. Funny stories, odd stories, incredible stories – stories of discovery, pain, wonder, and mischief. Fresh stories that have sprouted up this spring – perhaps with a few roots in the debris of winter just gone or the years just passed.
Each performance is underscored by two musicians improvising live in the performance space.
Performances September 8 & 9 at 7.30pm
Theatre Works, Acland St, St Kilda
Tickets $25/$15 + bf
Weekend Intensive Workshop September 8 & 9 10am to 4pm
Bookings and further information www.melbourneplayback.com.au
What an absolutely fantastic performance from the Playback team in Creswick last Sunday.
I’m not sure if it’s been passed back but the group received a standing ovation following their session. They hit the mark beautifully in terms of Ian being able to draw stories out of our members and the group then entertaining us with a portrayal back to the group. Some members were in tears during some of the stories. We are a proud organisation with some fantastic personal stories and Playback captured that beautifully.
Please pass on my thank you and congratulations to the group. I will definitely recommend Playback to others.
Jamie Devenish, Member Engagement, Project Coordinator, CFA Fire & Emergency Management
Ian David, Melbourne Playback Theatre Company Facilitator and Sarah CFA member
We had so much positive feedback in June, we couldn’t fit it all in one post!
Focus on Youth issues in the Shire of Hume:
The team we had was awesome!!! They were a fantastic opener to the day; they really set the mood!!! The feedback from the audience was that the day was FANTASTIC! I even had to ask them to start early and they did with no trouble; we will use them again for sure!!
Kayla Miller, Youth Participation and Engagement Officer, Hume City Council
Melbourne Playback conducted many workshops throughout May including Public Workshops (see website form workshops coming up in September 8 & 9)
Melbourne Playback supported Hallam Senior College with their subsidy request for a workshop dedicated to confidence, team-work and presentation skills. Lizl Tregidga is a teacher at Hallam Senior College and teaches an all-girls senior VCAL Personal Development class. Lizl said in her request “We have just come into a partnership with the National Women’s Council of Victoria and will be working closely with them this year. As part of the plan for our girls (my class, the broader female student community at Hallam), I was hoping to organise an incursion focusing on an full day ‘girl empowerment’ program.”
Feedback from the day printed in the school’s newsletter said:
The Melbourne Playback Theatre Company focussed a lot on encouraging the girls to build their confidence by gaining and holding an audience and just feeling comfortable being themselves.
Sebel Town House hosted a performance for Financial Counselling Australia (formerly AFCCRA) for all parties to discuss and reflect upon the complexities, frustrations and successes that both groups experience in solving client matters. Playback is an effective tool for groups to reflect and appreciate the circumstances under which we all work, to find solutions to processes and, as a way to increase understanding of the needs of others.
The following feedback was received from Lauren Levin, Manager, Policy & Strategic Projects, Financial Counselling Australia (formerly AFCCRA):
The session was great. I’m just doing our survey and will forward any specific comments I get, but the people I spoke to love it. Your team is totally professional.
Thanks to all for the great feedback – we look forward to seeing you at Melbourne Playback again soon!