Meet the Company

Melbourne Playback is made up of a team of highly skilled and experienced theatre practitioners and facilitators all of whom are active participants in Melbourne’s vibrant wider arts community.

We work as actors, theatre directors, performance makers, musicians, drama teachers and dramaturges.

A number of our members also have skills relevant to our clients in the corporate, health, education and community sectors.

Phoebe Mason

Phoebe Mason Artistic Director, Ensemble

Phoebe is a New Zealander of Irish, Scottish and English descent and joined Melbourne Playback in 2017.  She has trained and worked in improvised and devised theatre since 2002, including graduating from the John Bolton Theatre School in Melbourne in 2016.
Alongside working with Playback, Phoebe works as a therapeutic clown, and makes devised theatre as a writer, performer, director and dramaturg. Phoebe previously practiced as a lawyer, specialising in environmental and indigenous peoples law.
Diana Nguyen

Diana Nguyen Ensemble

Diana joined Playback as part of its first traineeship/mentoring program in 2010. Diana is a performer, creator and writer to her creative entrepreneur resume. Her extensive work includes stand up comedy, Going All In (2023) Chasing Keanu Reeves (2022), and recently Melbourne Theatre Company world premier of ‘Laurinda’ co written by Diana and Petra Kalive.

Screen credits Include: How to Stay Married, Fat Pizza, Pilot ABC tv show Clean and Jerk Underbelly, Irish Black, Bollywood Chak De India, panelist on Q&A (ABC) and Channel 31 The world in our Backyard.

Diana produced written and performed in Phi and Me TV, a highly successful show about a second generation Vietnamese family at the 2011 -2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festivals, which received Screen Australia funding in 2019 after 4 years of crowdfunding. The web series has won global awards and is currently in TV development.

You can also find Diana, dancing and snorting on LinkedIn.

Scott Jackson

Scott Jackson Ensemble

Scott studied at the university of Ballarat arts academy graduating in 2008. He also trained in Stage Combat with the SSCS, SAFDI, BADC, and Captivate Action Ltd, As well as recently attending the Paddy Crean Workshop In Banff, Canada.

Scott has worked for the Australian Shakespeare Company for the past 6 years, working on shows such as Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio) A midsummer Nights Dream (Demetrius) Hamlet (Guildenstern) As You Like It (Le Beau/ Silvius), and Shakespeares’s Best Bits (Snout). He also performs in the touring School incursions for the ASC.

Scott’s credits include: Romeo and Juliet (Romeo) and King Lear (Oswald) for Ozact Theatre Company , Macbeth (Ross) for Melbourne Company of Players, No Two SnowFlakes, a feature film directed by Ron Brown, A dogs Tale by Scallywag Media, La Peste for Bone Marrow Productions, Semi Monde by Noel Coward for Seven actors Productions, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead for Robotfish Productions. Scott also Taught Acting, Shakespeare and monologues for the Dubbo Ballet Studio. Scott is a proud member of the MEAA since 2008.

Danny Diesendorf

Danny Diesendorf Conductor, Ensemble

Danny has been with Melbourne Playback for nine years and has facilitated many training events and Playback Theatre Performances. He is passionate about using stories as an entertaining and rich way for groups to share their knowledge and open up dialogue.

In his current role with Melbourne Playback, Danny works as a facilitator with a wide range of corporate and community groups. These have included corporate cultural change programs and communication training, including with students, trainers, executives, airline staff, aid-workers and sustainability groups.

As a facilitator Danny brings prior experience leader of group-based programs with Relationships Australia. He has also undertaken projects in community contexts with Melbourne Citymission and Neighbourhood Renewal Programs. In November 2012, Danny presented a seminar on father inclusive practice at the QEC international conference, based on his experience with Relationships Australia.

Danny has taught and directed theatre extensively, including with the National Theatre and Monash University Schools Theatre Festival. He currently teaches a theatre company as part of NMIT (TAFE) which is predominantly made up of performers with disabilities.

As a workshop leader with Melbourne Playback’s workshop program, Danny teaches improvisation, mime, storytelling, clowning, comedy, creative writing and teamwork skills to corporate groups, NGOs and school groups.

Some of Danny’s theatre writing and directing credits include Mr Affogato, Hip Hop on Pop and The 72 Hour Mime Project, which received a Melbourne Fringe Award. More recently he directed Wishes in Space and Darkest Hours, created with the students of NMIT’s Ignition Theatre Company and performed at North Melbourne Town Hall.

Danny’s formal studies inform his approach to group processes and communication. He has a Graduate Diploma of Animateuring with VCA (Theatre-making/directing) and trained for a seven month period at The International School of Corporeal Mime in London. He studied masked performance and physical theatre styles with Tony Kishawi and Full Tilt Performance Troupe. His other qualifications include a Diploma of Community Development and a Certificate IV in training and assessment.

Danny has acted in more than forty different plays and devised shows since 1995. These include X with Barking Spider and numerous plays, with companies including CIA, Full Tilt Performance Troupe and Jigsaw, by authors including Pinter, Berkoff, Tsolkas and Fo. Danny has also directed and performed street theatre spectacles and roving acts for Folk Festivals, Multicultural Arts Events (both locally and abroad) as well as the Crown Logies and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. He has created performances in a wide variety of styles including Bouffon, Commedia Dell’Arte and puppetry.

Alex Sangster

Alex Sangster Conductor, Ensemble

Alex Sangster joined Melbourne Playback Theatre as an actor in 2002, and began working as a conductor in 2007.

Alex started performing professionally in 1988 with Handspan’s 4 Little Girls and later trained at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), graduating in 1995.

Screen credits include; Blue Heelers, Halifax, Phoenix and Street Angels. Alex has performed in numerous fringe theatre productions as well as Playbox’s Language of the Gods. She also won the Australian Young Playwrights Award for a radio play broadcast on ABC Radio National.

Alex has been involved in numerous community theatre projects including Melbourne Festival show Outside In at the Atherton Gardens Housing Estate.

She has taught drama at YMCA and at the National Theatre and has facilitated a number of retreats designed to awaken Emotional Intelligence.

Alex is a Minister of the Word at Chalice Uniting Church in St Kilda.

Wendy Rowlands

Wendy Rowlands Musician

A graduate of the VCA Performance Course (1982), Wendy’s teachers and mentors included Andre Hadges, Don Scott, Bob Sedergreen and Tony Gould. Her freelance professional musical life included playing violin in orchestras such as the Australian Pops Orchestra and the Elizabethan Trust Orchestra; accompanying on piano and as répetiteur for choirs, concerts, theatre and auditions for MSO, VCA and AMEB;  as well as playing in multiple performance bands. Wendy has also had a long association with Melbourne Playback Theatre as an improvising musician, calling upon many of her diverse skills in responding to spontaneous theatre, expressing and bringing to life people’s stories.

While playing violin with Brazilian Choro band, ‘Pipoca’ for many years, this exquisite music became a passion…perhaps obsession! Pipoca was one of those special experiences of a unique group of wonderful musicians from both classical and jazz backgrounds playing together, including George Butrumlis, Pip Robinson, Doug de Vries, Shane O’ Mara, and Mario Lattuada. The band’s leader, percussionist Denis Close, would import, transcribe and arrange recordings (records) directly from Brazil with the mission to keep ‘choro’ alive! To quote Wendy-‘I was introduced to so much music including the music of Egberto Gismonti, who just seemed to resonate and express deeply, my inner world’ . Wendy also worked for many years as a violin teacher at Melbourne Grammar, Firbank, Ballarat Grammar, and Girton Grammar, Warranwood, Little Yarra and Castlemaine Steiner Schools. Her life was filled to the brim with music.

Jalen Ong (he/they)

Jalen Ong (he/they) Ensemble

Born in Malaysia, Jalen (he/they) is an actor and theatre-maker who graduated with a Bachelor of Performing Arts from Federation University Arts Academy in 2021. Before moving to Australia, he was a control system engineer.

His recent credits include Gold Diggers (ABC), The Tempest (Melbourne Shakespeare Company), Liminal Treats (Scratch Arts/Melbourne Fringe), Ego Machine showing (Citizen Theatre), Polite Mammals (Wholesome Hour/ArtPlay), and And She Would Stand Like This (Antipodes Theatre). In his free time, Jalen is a tech enthusiast and is curious about energy healing.

Paolo Bartolomei (he/him)

Paolo Bartolomei (he/him) Ensemble

Paolo is a charismatic Italian performer, born in Rome. Since moving to Australia in 2016, Paolo was accepted at the National Theatre, where he was awarded with the school’s first student visa and was the recipient of the Cybec Foundation Scholarship.

His recent acting credits include “Circuit” at the Art Not Apart Festival in Canberra (2020), he has appeared in the ABC TV production of “The Newsreader” (2021) and NBC TV production “La Brea” (2021). In June he was selected to be part of “Multitude” for the Rising Festival directed by Tamara Cubas and in August he was on stage with “Medea: Out of Mouths of Babes” for Theatre Works directed by Steven Wright-Mitchell.

Lily Fish

Lily Fish Ensemble

Lily Fish (any pronouns) is an award winning performer, theatremaker, director and teaching artist.

They are the recipient of the “Best Performer” award – Independent Theatre, 2024 Green Room Awards, 2024, for Rakali.

Lily is a graduate of the National Theatre Drama School and the John Bolton Theatre School. They have trained in Butoh, Suzuki, Viewpoints, Improvised Movement, Puppetry, Mask (full, half, neutral, clown), and Bouffon. They are an ongoing student of preeminent Lecoq pedagogue Giovanni Fusetti.

Lily is a founding member of physical theatre companies PO PO MO CO, The Wholesome Hour, Brunswick East Entertainment Festival and contemporary clown duo Fish and Twiner’s Bait Shop. They also perform regularly with Born in a Taxi.

Their play Yarn is published through PlayLab.

Sodi Murphy-Shrives (they/them)

Sodi Murphy-Shrives (they/them) Ensemble

Sodi Murphy-Shrives is a transgenderqueer performing artist, writer and director residing in Naarm. With a diverse history of theatre and film projects behind them, their main focus is on helping to create community-based works that lovingly disrupt dominant cultural narratives. They also currently work as a Student Theatre Mentor at Melbourne Uni.

Karen Berger

Karen Berger Musician

Karen has worked in Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe as a performer/devisor, director, musical director, facilitator and teacher. She is a long-term member of Environmental Performance Authority, who create site-specific, participatory experiences for audiences.

Karen formed Bowerbird Theatre with David Joseph to create Deceptive Threads, which won the Khayrallah Lebanese Diaspora Art Prize. In 2018, they created Lingua Botanica, an immersive investigation of plant cognition and therapeutic horticulture. In 2021 they launched a narrative audio tour at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and in 2022 they collaborated on Lamine Sonko’s exploration of Serrer myth, Guewel, and Kaira Hachefa’s butoh/puppet show, Barbary Coast, a personal perspective on Algerian Independence.

Karen has a B. Music Performance and Grad. Dip. Animateuring and was awarded Victoria University College of Arts ‘Most outstanding postgraduate by research student’ for her M.A. Her PhD, Exploring the Interior, used site-specific theatre to investigate postcolonialism.

Ian David

Ian David Conductor, Ensemble

Ian joined Melbourne Playback Theatre Company in 1999 as an actor and began conducting shows in 2007.  Ian worked with the company until 2016 and has rejoined to company as of 2024.

Ian’s actor training began at the National Theatre Drama School in 1981.  He developed is improvisational skills at Al Wunder’s Theatre of the Ordinary over 7 years.

Ian holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Performance Studies. He has been a student of Hilda Knottenbelt’s Creative Voice and trained with Ruth Zaporah’s Action Theatre.  Ian attended the New Zealand Playback Theatre Summer Schools in 2007 & 2008.

In addition to his B.Arts (hons) his academic qualifications include a Bachelor of Economics, Bachelor of Theology, Diploma of Education (P-12), Diploma in Beauty Therapy, and Cert IV in Workplace Training and Assessment.

Ian is a Minister of the Word in the Uniting Church in Australia and is in placement at Fairfield Uniting Church

Alan Davies

Alan Davies Lighting

Alan has a long history with Melbourne Playback going back to 1987 when he joined the company as an actor. After 9 years in the company he moved on, only to return a couple of years later as lighting operator. He has designed and operated the lighting for almost every public Playback performance since October 1998.

Outside Playback, Alan has worked in community radio, teaching and training, and currently works in online communications.

Ernie Gruner

Ernie Gruner Musician

Ernie Gruner joined  Melbourne Playback as a musician in March 1999. He was the Company’s Treasurer for 10 years, and currently is involved with archives, marketing and social media.

Ernie is passionate about the use of music in story. Music has the capacity to change the atmosphere of Playback performances to allow participants and audiences to strongly connect with the emotion within stories being presented. It also can provide support and color for the story.

He brings a strong background from performing or creating music for a diverse range of theatre and dance projects. He also brings the ability to access many cultural backgrounds thru work with a wide variety of musicians, bands and communities over 30 years, and is regarded as Australia’s leading klezmer violinist.

He works as a professional musician, teacher and booking agent. He regularly performs at events ranging from festivals to weddings to conferences and manages Kaleidoscope Music, an entertainment booking agency specialising in acoustic music. Previously he worked for 10 years in science.

Ernie’s band experience includes ;  Saray Iluminado (Sephardic Jewish, Bosnian Sevdah), Bohemian Nights (Gypsy, European, Middle-Eastern, Tango), Klezmeritis (East European Jewish), Bowlines (improvising violins) and Jugularity (Jazz Comedy Cabaret). Theatre projects include Konstantin (contemporary classical), Deup (Senegal) Café Scheherezade , Our Chalk Circle, Progress and Melancholy, Sarajevo and Emma Celebrazione. He has over 90 recording credits in jazz, rock, country, classical, celtic and world/folk music areas, and has worked with Shane Howard, Archie Roach, Lamine Sonko and more.

Television experience includes ABC TVs Spicks and Specks with Jewish and Middle-eastern bands. His teaching experience includes giving private lessons (classical, klezmer, celtic and improvised violin) and workshops in klezmer music , wordless Jewish singing and improvisation.


Associates Melbourne Playback's Associates

Melbourne Playback is proud to collaborate with a number of Associates in our work within the corporate, community and education sectors.

Mike McEvoy

Mike McEvoy joined Melbourne Playback Theatre in 2005. He is an Honours Graduate from the School of Creative Arts, VCA and is also an ensemble member with Rawcus. Mike has facilitated training programs and communication workshops at Qantas, NAB, Melbourne Business School, the CAE, and theatre workshops for Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, St Martin’s Youth Arts Centre, in high schools, for young men at the Melbourne Juvenile Justice Centre, for teenagers with disabilities and for the Education Foundation.

Rachael Dubois

Rachael Dubois (formerly Dyson-McGregor) joined Playback in 2010 and is an actor, facilitator and previous Artistic Director. She has a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts from Auckland’s UNITEC. Rachael facilitates groups in corporate, government, NFP, and education sectors. She enjoys applying the principles of improvisation and adaptive leadership to different working environments and enabling groups to hone their communication, presentation and teamwork skills.

Rachael also works with school groups as a Teaching Artist and provides workshops in devising, improvisation, Shakespeare and acting technique. She has worked with Malthouse Theatre Education and has performed excerpts from Arcadia, The Wier and The Ferryman as well as creating and performing an original solo.

Lenka Vanderboom

Lenka was bitten by the PLAYBACK bug in 2001 whilst studying theatre at WAAPA. She is a teaching artist for Melbourne Theatre Company’s Indigenous Scholarship Program and was the Creative Director of our 2015 & 2016 Reconciliation week public events. She is passionate about developing innovative opportunities for Cultural development, story telling and community building. Lenka is a multi cultural Yawuru woman who in 2014 became our first Indigenous performing member since our inception in 1981.

Sermsah Bin Saad

Sermsah’s name in the Indigenous community is synonymous with theatre, fashion, modelling, local television, the festival and event circuit, opera and choreography. In the non-Indigenous community, he is probably more known for cracking into the tough Top 14 on 2008’s “So You Think You Can Dance”,overall in the Top 7 Males of Australia. He also led the dancers in memorable musical numbers such as ‘Nothing I Would Rather Be’ and ‘Broome Love Theme’ in the crowd-pleasing, mega hit movie “Bran Nue Dae”. Above all, Sermsah values his heritage. He believes in ‘Liyarn Ngarn’ a saying springing from his Saltwater Country hometown of Broome in far-north WA meaning ‘coming together of the spirit’.

Ananth GopalAnanth Gopal  

Ananth is the Founding Director of social enterprise Polykala which facilitates Adaptive Leadership training. He an educator in Cultural Geography at The University of Melbourne and is a doctoral student at the AUSSCER (University of Wollongong). He was an actor with Melbourne Playback in 2014/2015. His training as an actor began in New Zealand and continued in the U.K. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Geography (Melbourne University).

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Beck Henshall 

A consulting psychologist, trainer/ facilitator, and coach with 20 years experience managing and leading teams Beck regularly collaborates with organisations to achieve people results. She’s held positions or consulted to a wide range of sectors such as, Government, Telecommunications, Health, Education, National Sports clubs, NFP’s, and many medium sized Australian businesses.

Andrew Rixon

Andrew Rixon

Andrew is Director of Babel Fish Group, a boutique management consulting company specialising in leadership and change. Leveraging the power and engagement of participatory approaches Andrew has worked across many different industries and organisations within Australia and internationally across the US, UK and Asia.

Andrew also works as a management and leadership educator with experience across Melbourne, Monash and Swinburne Universities teaching Organisational Behaviour, Organisational Leadership, Global Business Strategy and is an experienced Industry Consulting Coach. Andrew is a member of the global BP Faculty for Leadership Development.

Josiah Lulham

Josiah Lulham Conductor, Ensemble

Josiah is an actor and theatre maker who works across a variety of different mediums and theatrical practices. To illustrate: in 2016 Josiah appeared in David Williamson’s The Removalists, Jess Newman’s original musical Einstein: Master of the Universe, Phil Rouse’s adaptation of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at Theatreworks, and The Grub Theatre Collective’s site-specific Planning Atlantis.

When he is not a performer, Josiah is an amateur anthropologist – having studied anthropology at the University of Melbourne – loves Live-Action Role Play, and is a fierce advocate for the City of Darebin. He is represented by Melissa Rose Management


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