One million ways to use Story

Melbourne Playback took part in the ‘Celebrating Story’ conference again this year. Andrew and Ian offered an active workshop entitled ‘interrupting and disrupting story’ on Thursday and a team of us performed a playback theatre show to open the second day of the conference.

It is always fascinating to meet other people who work with story in their professional lives and exchange ideas and approaches. I am particularly interested to see how story is increasingly being used in the corporate world within organisational development, change management and other areas concerned with organisational culture and performance management.

I was inspired to hear how one organisation had discovered the value of collecting the stories and anecdotes from its staff and has started publishing them to accompany the annual report. (Some qualitative material to balance the quantitative data). Another organisation uses the sharing of personal life stories as an integral part of a two-day retreat for its senior management staff. And a group of midwives use story to learn from each other’s experiences. In these cases, story is a tool used for individuals and working communities to define themselves, explore their culture and share knowledge. Humans have used story like this for eons. It makes perfect sense for business to harness the power of storytelling too.

For me, this conference was a reminder of how important and relevant the work of Melbourne Playback can be to communities and organisations. We have a real passion for storytelling and its role in our lives. We love finding theatrical ways of illuminating the meaning within stories and helping stories enrich and transform the collective experience. It is fantastic to meet others who share this enthusiasm for story and to see how they are using it in similar contexts. Thanks to Andrew Rixon of Babel Fish Group for bringing such a diverse group of story practitioners together again this year.

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Kinglake Performance – 2 October 2010

8pm, 2 Oct 2010
KLW Mechanics Hall
1055 Whittlesea Kinglake Rd, Kinglake West

All tickets $5 – RSVP Karen Ph. 5786 1053 or email hidden; JavaScript is required

Melbourne Playback is thrilled to be combining with members of the Kinglake Phoenix Singers, Whittlesea Township Choir, Get on Stage students and Paydirt the Musical cast next Saturday night for a fun night of song, story and theatre.

This is the first time Melbourne Playback has performed alongside community choirs and we are excited to see how playback theatre and song can inspire and enrich each other.

This project is brought to you by Uniting Care, Melbourne Playback Theatre and The Kinglake Phoenix Singers. Thanks to all those who contribute to our subsidy program.

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‘Your Stories’ a performance in Frankston

We’ve just had a wonderful night performing at Cube37 in Frankston. It was great to return to the Mornington Peninsula/ Bayside area again this year and hear some more community stories. We heard about a courageous fat cat stuck in a roof for four days; a writer and the story that literally exploded from her page; an ex-firefighter who found himself protecting his parents and their property on Black Saturday; a mother carried to hospital by a paramedic and a dog-catcher; and a skilled Chinese migrant struggling to pass Australia’s immigration tests. A night of great variety – full of humour, heart and humanity.

The comments below are some of the responses from the audience survey forms.

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songs and story in fire-affected communities

The Choir of Hard Knocks inspired Victorians and gave an insight into the lives of those for whom life has been tough. Many more Victorians did it tough through the fire districts over Summer 2009. In this new project, Melbourne Playback Theatre Company joins with community choirs in the fire-affected regions for a series of nights of music and story.

The project plans to support local choirs to sing the songs of community, and to hear fragments of life now in the recovery.

And to create a great night of celebration and sharing.

If you’ve ever sat in a Melbourne Playback show and felt moved by another’s story, or if you’ve experienced the magic of seeing your story on stage, please consider donating to make this project possible.

Story by story we rebuild our lives. And the lives of others.

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relationships, team building and playback theatre

We recently performed for a corporate client in the financial sector. The team of about 30 staff were working with the founder of the Critical Management Group, Marc Stigter on a longer program designed to guide them through what Tuckman might call the ‘forming and storming’ stages of their development. We were brought in early on in this process to do two main things; to model high performance teamwork and to provide an opportunity for the group to reflect and share their ideas about the team.

Our facilitator opened the invitation for stories simply by asking the participants to reflect on a time where they witnessed or were part of a high functioning team. We then heard stories from several members of the group. What struck me was a common theme that ran through each of the stories; the importance of strong personal relationships to teamwork.

One story was of a high-functioning team from a previous workplace. The team was full of talented individuals and senior management decided to split them up in an attempt to pollinate the rest of the organisation with the ‘magic’. The woman who told the story reflected that management failed to realise the magic of this team was based on strong working relationships more than the talent of the individual team members. Another participant spoke about a strong friendship that she had built with a colleague and how that had enhanced her engagement and motivation at work.

But perhaps the most surprising and powerful story shared as part of our performance was the one that hit most at the humanity and heart of us all. The man who shared the story had been managing a new team that was geographically spread across the country. Within a short space of time, coincidentally three members of the team were diagnosed with breast cancer. What followed was a very moving account of how the entire team came together to support the women. Despite the geographical distance, close personal relationships were formed and the group found a meaningful bond. Tragically, one of the three women lost her battle with cancer and the team found themselves grieving together for a friend and colleague. The work team had become a family. Significantly, the man told us, this challenging time was followed by a period of very high performance teamwork and staff turnover remained at zero for an unprecedented number of years.

After this story had been shared and we had performed it back for the group, I could tell that something significant had occurred in the room. It was clear that the story had had an emotional impact on everyone and that the group had gained a new insight into one of their colleagues. This story and others shared within our performance had played a role in building trust and understanding within the team. It had also allowed the group to articulate something that they crave for the future of their own team; stronger personal relationships.

In my time as a performer with Melbourne Playback, I’ve noticed how playback theatre has a knack for connecting people in this way and helping build relationships. When someone shares a story and the group is encouraged to listen and reflect on the story in a deeper way, a shared understanding is created. Through story we learn about each other. We reveal our values and identify what motivates each of us.

I’ve seen friendships form between audience members at our public performances and between participants in our workshops. Similarly, the stories that we share as part of our rehearsal process help build a deeper understanding between our own ensemble members. I believe that the strong personal relationships developed through this process play a critical role in our own success as a team, both on the stage and behind the scenes.

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Welcome to our new actors!

We are pleased to publicly welcome three new performers to the company!

Rachael Dyson-McGregor, who joins the performing ensemble this year, has a natural flair for the Playback Theatre form. Rachael trained at Unitec, Auckland and has worked with NZ theatre companies: Potent Pause Productions, Auckland Theatre Company, Massive, and Tim Bray Productions, as well as co-founding chor:us collective and the Peripeteia Players. Since she moved to Melbourne in 2007, Rachael has worked with Underground Cinema, 24 Hour Play Festival and devised and produced a theatre and dance collaboration, Neon Toast, for Melbourne Fringe Festival 2009.

Trainee Program

And in a first for Melbourne Playback, in 2010 we are excited to launch a new 12-month trainee program for two emerging performers, Tom Harkin & Diana Nguyen.

Diana Nguyen is an actor and community development worker in the South Eastern Suburbs. She currently works with The Song Room, Her Productions and SEAAC for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Diana went to NYC to study The Theatre of Oppressed with Julian Boal and has performed in various community projects with young people. Diana’s recent performances include Silence (La Mama 2009), Translations Generations (Big West Festival 2009), Miss Saigon (CLOC 2009).

Tom Harkin was a member of St.Martin’s Youth Ensemble 2005 and has trained at Eric Morris’ acting studio in LA. Tom works full time as a Senior Learning & Development Facilitator at The Reach Foundation using his passion for the dramatic performance space and acting techniques to work with teenagers in freeing their natural impulses and inherent potential.

The traineeship will offer Diana & Tom the opportunity to rehearse and participate in the life of the company and benefit from a mentorship with a senior member of the Melbourne Playback ensemble.

We are inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and diversity of experience that each of these three actors have already brought to our rehearsal room! Welcome.

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Summer Workshops

Playback Theatre Workshops

We are offering two workshop series in late January 2010. Places are limited, book early.

  • Summer Weekend Intensive (29-31 January)
  • Presentation & Public Speaking Workshop (30-31 January)
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Public Performances – 28 & 29 Nov 2009

What stories has the Carlton Courthouse heard in it’s lifetime?

Let’s add some more.

This weekend we invite our audiences to have their own stories heard and brought to life in this beautiful theatre.

We hope you’ll join us as we continue the conversation here. Use this space to share your thoughts, describe your experience and discuss the show with other members of the audience and the ensemble.

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2009 Spring workshops – the garden of story

Ian David & Mike McEvoy will facilitate this weekend’s workshops and are looking forward to sharing the journey into “the garden of story” with a great group of talented and passionate people.

We invite participants to use this space to continue the discussion and discoveries made throughout the weekend’s workshops.

To start, let’s see how many ways we can complete the sentence,

“The best stories… ”

To complete, see if you can capture the weekend’s story in 5 words.

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