Since 2013, Melbourne Playback Theatre Company has been facilitating the youth theatre program SeaACT program in the South Eastern Suburbs. In 2016 Melbourne Playback was re-funded by Creative Victoria to facilitating a new exciting program with young people living in the City of Greater Dandenong to provide a space of storytelling and performance in the area.
The program was facilitated in four components:
We had over 45 young people participate in the program in the 9 months at the Walker Street Gallery and Drum Theatre. They came from diverse backgrounds from the South Eastern Suburbs, different schools and 50% of the participants have been part of the SeaACT program since 2013.
The impact of the program for the young people in SeaACT was astounding and life changing. The opportunity to make work with professional artists and be heard, was the essence of the program.
The program started with a series of 5 writing workshops with Didem Caia, an emerging writer from the Emerging Writers’ Festival. Over 5 weeks with the facilitation with Melbourne Playback drama exercises, their stories flowed in the rehearsal room. Finally intimate stories the young people wanted to share with each other, were documented and written into a script by Didem.
The rehearsal process was a game changer for the participants who were used to improvising and performing the playback form. The rehearsal period was intense, with extra rehearsals held, and focusing on learning lines and not letting down the team. Through this process the young people became great friends and supported each other, and became comrades in this creative piece. They articulated their unique voice by collaborating and presenting a show, the participants’ skills were grounded and developed. They had ownership of their performance, and the audience were in awe of the work.
The process of MPTC was intense with collaboration of 4 artists working together with the young people for 3 months weekly. It was a wonderful working process for the young people to watch how professional artists worked with each other, but also with them, how the collaborative the process was. The young people saw the playback process improvised and then transferred to the rehearsal process.
We had over 150 people attend the performances at Walker Street Gallery in Dandenong, and was highly promoted by Emerging Writer’s Festival Festival and supported by City of Greater Dandenong.
The impact of the program could be seen by the commitment of the young people, and the hardwork of Melbourne Playback artists who committed to the project. Our Artistic Director Emily Taylor, said it was the most rewarding work she has done with the company and hopes we continue to nurture young people living in City of Greater Dandenong and in Victoria.
The program was in partnership with Emerging Writers’ Festival, City of Great Dandenong, Drum Theatre and Copyright Cultural Fund.
This public playback panel performance drew over two-hundred and seventy people to Northcote Town Hall; one of Melbourne Playback’s largest ever public theatre performances.
The event created the space to hear stories from the community about the many ways people react and want to act on this enormous issue. This event was rich because it crossed between both intellectual, practical territory and the justifiably strong emotions that many people have around this issue which brings with it such threat.
The performance was often at its most moving when people spoke of many things they love deeply, such as their children and the places they have connections with, in context of the threat of runaway climate change.
The discussion through Q&A with the panellists and then through the medium of Playback theatre was wide-ranging. Topics and stories opened up over the evening included:
Audience members witnessing or being part of positive changes, whether acting politically on the issue or making changes in their own lifestyles;
The impacts audience members have already seen in their environment, on their lives and sense of purpose.
Anger and confusion seeing some leaders in government and business blocking or undoing effective action on climate;
People’s journeys through fear, despair, motivation, involvement and reflection.
The Playback performance was preceded by three speakers; Lucy Best, Professor Rob Adams and Stephen Bygrave who brought their diverse experience to talk about how their work has contributed to implementing solutions and the path they’ve been on to become involved in the work they do.
In the words of Vivian Langford (of 3CR radio) reviewing the event:
“It is fascinating to hear both the hard headed solutions to climate change, from the panel and Q&A in the first half, and then the subjective side from the audience. The “Oh Shit” moment when they realise we have to do something about it. Followed by the musicians and actors creating a new narrative for our times…Melbourne’s Playback Theatre had a lot to offer as objective action on climate is so often undermined by fearful emotions and apathy.”
There are moments in life where you are powerfully reminded why you do what you do. For me as Creative Director of The F Word, Thursday 10th March was one of those moments.
It began with the atmosphere in the room. Despite a freak rainstorm and lots of traffic congestion, Howler theatre was packed and buzzing. Already I knew a singularly special audience had converged to experience and participate in the evening’s events.
We had gathered on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. We began. We opened the space for our stories.
Photo credit: Ruby Gaile
Were you at The F Word? What do you remember most from the night? Go in the draw to win tickets to our next show by sharing your story in the comments below.
Our first panellist, Jane Gilmore challenged us first on the notion of equality (the first thing I usually say is that feminism is about equality) but equal to what? There are some things that women don’t need to be equal to men with. Equality is a subjective term. We need to be more vigilant with our language, more precise. What exactly do we want? Equal pay and opportunity? Yes. Equal violence and suicide rates? No.
Melba Marginson gave us a detailed history of her work with migrant and refugee women, showing how important it is to educate women on their rights when they come to Australia, to enable them to find their feet in the culture here. Melba also focussed on accented English and how
“many of us need to be reminded that accented English is still English, and as Marginson eloquently explained, we will only be enriched by enhancing our understanding of other cultures through actively listening to people with these accents.” – Caitlin McGrane, Aphramag
Video credit: BatchEdit
Tammy Anderson then took the stage with power and vibrancy, sharing with us her experience as a playwright, actor, ambassador, speaker, director and board member. She spoke of inter-generational trauma, of the battles she has faced and how she has faced them through her art. She shied away from nothing. Her generosity with us was astounding.
Clementine Ford closed the panel by sharing a great story about an all women’s pool in Coogee (highly recommended by her) as well her experience with trolls and online abuse. She shared with us how making jokes about people who are misogynistic online is the way she has found to get through to them, and to show other women that they don’t have to hide away and stop speaking out when they encounter such attacks.
And then…we had a playback performance.
Photo credit: Ruby Gaile
Our all female team took the stage, led by the vibrant Alex Sangster. Now it was time to open up the floor. We heard stories of identity, of struggle, of power and joy. What was missing from the panel was brought to the stage in the stories. A story of the word ‘lesbian’, from not knowing what it meant to it being a favourite word. A story of being in transition between gender, of mother and son, of family and independence. Stories of grief, of solidarity, ultimately of support.
“Spontaneously women and men came forward with extraordinary stories of love, loss, grief and transformation.” – Caitlin McGrane, Aphramag
Our actors, musicians and facilitator met each story with guts, heart and energy. I cried and laughed and gasped and cheered.
Every speaker, every storyteller, every moment was met by rapturous, supportive applause. Every diversity in the room was cheered and celebrated and loved. There was no question of ‘should we be feminists?’, or ‘what is feminism?’ There was no question. We were all in it together. There was power in that room. It was radiating off the walls.
“Be it trans rights, refugee and migrant rights, indigenous rights, or disability rights, they are all human rights and the people affected by these issues all deserve a platform to be heard. Playback Theatre and the wonderful panellists definitively demonstrated the compassion, courage and strength required to achieve equality in all these areas.” – Caitlin McGrane, Aphramag
I didn’t stop buzzing for days. It was an incredible evening.
Thank you to everyone who came, and those who wanted to. We hope to see you at the next event.
If you were at The F Word we’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve even got tickets up for grabs to our next show if you do!
The SeaACT (SEAAC Theatre) program is partnership with Melbourne Playback Theatre Company and SEAAC Youth Services that engages young people living in the City of Casey and Greater Dandenong Council in an innovative Theatre Engagement Program. The program involves MPTC workshops within the two areas, including young people, community development workers from Council and service providers and CALD community groups.
“I have learned to have more confidence and energy when acting on stage and other things like studies exam and tests. I want the program to continue because I want it for other people too so they can have more confidence of what they do and not be shy. This program has supported my brothers, sisters and others. I have no complaints about this program. It is too good. KEEP IT UP!!”
Mustafa, Hampton Park Secondary, 13 years old.
The program was first envisioned in 2012, through consultation with SEAAC Youth Services who we have performed regular Refugee Week Celebration performances. In 2013 we received a pilot Arts Victoria grant (now Creative Victoria) to work with the City of Casey community, and create a theatre hub at the Hampton Park Uniting Church Community Centre.
The program was a great success with other 120 young people registered, and we engaged with the Hampton Park community through the term workshops and performances. We had young people from Greater Dandenong travel 45 minutes to attend the program in Hampton Park. This showed us this program was a need for the young people living in the South Eastern Suburbs. SeaACT young people performed in front of 500 people during the SEAAC Refugee Week Celebration in 2014. This included a performance in Greater Dandenong and council saw the value of the program and supported our Vic Arts application for 2015.
During the 6 months of no funding by Creative Victoria, City of Casey had seen the impact of the program, and in Term 4 2014 funded for a small SeaACT program to continue. SEAAC engaged with students at a local school, and the participants performed in front of their peers.
In November 2014, SeaACT program was re-funded by Creative Victoria to operate in the City of Casey, and pilot program in Greater Dandenong. The program has been a gem for the young people living in these isolated areas, as their stories are heard, shared and valued. Some of the young people attended a MPTC rehearsal on Mondays, and one young person recently performed at the Malthouse, through a referral from the SeaACT program. We endeavour to continue this program, and create a performing arts hub in the south eastern suburbs.
Evaluation of the program:
The SeaACT Drama Program provided young people with an opportunity to learn essential skills acting such as group acting, confidence building and improvising. 22 young people completed the evaluation form at the end of the program and provided extremely positive feedback about the program.
82% of the young people learnt something new from the program that they did not know previously
78% made new friends at the workshop which meant that they could share and discuss the new information that they had learnt
90% enjoyed learning drama skills with Melbourne Playback Danny and Mike
90% would like to continue the SeaACT program
Case Study of the Program:
“We all love to say that SeaACT has been a great supporting program to everyone. They helped me to build my confidence and they gave me the opportunity to be a youth leader and build my speaking and improve my public speaking. Now I have the confidence speaking to anyone I want, and got some skills to improve things I need in the future. Thank you SEAAC for all your help and your support. SeaACT is a great program to anyone.”
Today we want to share with you one of our favourite songs. We sing together every rehearsal, every training, every warm up. We sing together to warm up to each other, to open up to the space, our voices and our hearts. We sing to let go of our day so far and arrive in this moment with these people.
We sing because it feels good.
Somagwaza was taught to us by Jo Salas when her and Jonathan Fox (co-founders of playback theatre) visited Australia in 2013. Somagwaza is a song from South Africa where choral singing plays a major role in traditional Bantu music. This song is sung when young men are initiated into manhood.
Where’s your favourite place to sing, shake it off and feel good? Let us know in the comments below.
This stirring song has been popular in our workshops, and we’ve recorded it just for you. Its in three parts which are on separate tracks and the final track puts all the parts together.
You can download it free from Sound Cloud and use it in your own workshop, dinner party, warm up, family reunion or any group of people wanting to feel good.
Hint: when putting the three parts together, make sure all three parts say the word ‘Somagwaza’ at the same time. Therin lieth the harmony.
Chance encounters, mysterious strangers and chats at the coffee machine. The challenges and triumphs, the heroes and villains, this is your year on stage. Uncover forgotten moments and celebrate your year with Melbourne Playback.
This is what the audience had to say from performances recently held at the Beckett Theatre, the Coopers Malthouse.
“I love the way you honour people’s stories – what is said and what is unsaid. I feel enlivened – not only as I consider the process and synchronicity of the performance, but as I consider the emotions captured and expressed. Thank you :)”
“It was the most amazing & gripping & wonderful journey! For some unknown reason I had tears rolling down my cheeks at times, and laughed a lot at other times.”
“Amazed at actor’s improvising skills and ability to quickly determine the means by which they expressed the ‘Lost Stories’.”
“I really enjoyed the integrity the cast have with sharing stories from the audience. The truth and generosity is really rewarding from an audience perspective.”
“I Loved it! Amazing – my stories were there and I didn’t say a word.”
“Fun, different, entertaining, enlightening! and special. Eye-opening to hear different people’s stories.”
Melbourne Playback Theatre Company presents: The Little Things
Those little things caught in your memory, that make you catch your breath, cause your heart to warm or keep you smiling even after you’ve walked away. The things perhaps too small even for an anecdote but are the essence of your personal story. This is a celebration of those little things. They make a big difference after all.
The Melbourne Playback Ensemble is Rodney Afif, Karen Berger, Ian David, Alan Davies, Danny Diesendorf, Rachael Dyson-McGregor, Andrew Gray, Sherridan Green, Ernie Gruner, Petra Kalive, Allen Laverty, Mike McEvoy, Diana Nguyen, Michelle Nussey, Alex Sangster, Emily Taylor.
Dates & Times
October – Saturday 12 at 8pm and Sunday 13 at 6pm
Tickets Full $25 Concession $15
La Mama, 205 Faraday St, Carlton BUY TICKETS
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.