EPISODE 2: WHY ARE STORIES SO IMPORTANT?
By Lucy Schmidt
According to my first hit on google: Stories are universal, conveying meaning and purpose that help us understand ourselves better and find commonality with others. Thanks, TCK Publishing. I must say I agree. But I want to dig a little deeper. I want to try and define, for myself, what I believe is so important about our job as story collectors, performers and tellers.
An animals’ knowledge is written in their DNA. Birds just know they fly, and fish, they swim. But when humankind graduated from these limbic brains to our thinking brains, our purpose was no longer merely reproduction. We used these new, improved, memory-storing brains to justify our very existence. Creation stories differ the world over and what you believe, generally stems from where you were born. From an entity called God creating the earth in six days and resting on the seventh. To Rangi and Papa being separated by their children and creating earthmother and skyfather.
Or, my personal favourite – the powerful Odin and his brothers constructing the earth from the corpse of Ymir. The oceans from his blood, the soil from his skin and muscles, vegetation from his hair, clouds from his brains and sky from his skull.
These stories were not the thoughts of one person. Now we could communicate, collaborate – and elaborate. Imagine the following scene. A – ‘Wow, that round thing rolls.’ B – ‘Yeah, so does this one.’ C – ‘Maybe if we cut a hole in them and put a stick through, we could eventually turn it into some form of transport?’ D – ‘Great idea, Axle!’
In my career as an actor I have played a monkey, a shearer, a dominatrix, a rugby player, an angel, a man, a check-out chick, a scientist, a spider, a sheep (animals feature heavily) a fairy, a duchess (twice), a king’s fool. To name but a few. Of course, I researched these characters – well, enough to make them believable within the play (I hope). Sometimes it was easy enough – visit a zoo or a brothel. But sometimes I had to resort to historical text. Stories written before I arrived on earth. Like, factual accounts of the role of the jester in the medieval English court. So, it occurs to me ‘the importance of stories’, is that they allow human beings to store and build on knowledge. Like a living breathing history that grows through the contributions of successive generations. We are the only animals on earth that have this ability.
Of course, stories have only recently developed in written form. Cultures with oral traditions still pass on important information from generation to generation though story and song. This information can be lifesaving. Where food and water appear in an unforgiving desert. What type of vegetation is edible and what is poisonous – or even which have healing properties. When to plant certain crops and how to harvest them. But there are also stories with hidden meanings. In medieval Europe, warnings for children were wrapped up in cautionary stories called folk lore. 18th century romanticism revived an interest in traditional folktales.
The German born, Grimm brothers capitalised on this by touring the countryside, collecting local fairy tales and recording them in volumes of stories for children. Unfortunately, it is widely speculated that they also had a habit of changing the evil male characters of these stories to female villains.
Thus, encouraging children to become more suspicious of women, than the original target – the evil step-father. Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Hansel and Gretel are still popular in western society hundreds of years later – all of them starring females not to be trusted.
Old wives’ tales are passed down from generation to generation also generally down the female line. My half Irish grandmother taught us how to predict the gender of my pregnant sister’s baby by plucking a hair from my sister’s head, threading it through a gold ring and holding it over the pulse in her wrist. If it turns around in a circle it will be a girl. A diagonal swing signifies a male child. Sure enough, as the circle predicted, my niece, Kate, was born a couple of months later.
Stories collate our histories. Reassure our identities. Give us the ability to grow our knowledge. Remember that time that a world-wide pandemic called COVID-19 swept our globe, killing hundreds of thousands of people and causing unforeseen stress on the economy from which it could take decades to recover? Chances are, since it’s taking place right now, you do. But do you remember another nasty little virus nicknamed the Spanish Flu, that killed an estimated 50 – 100 million people over the course of two years? Chances are, you also know this. Because even though it happened 100 years ago it was widely reported at the time.
These stories about previous experiences with a killer virus, meant we were much more prepared in 2020. We knew to close schools, shops and places where people convene because of one community in Bristol Bay, Alaska, that shut off access to their village and banned public gatherings in 1918.
It became the only place in the world to escape the Spanish Flu, unscathed. But stories are not always true. ‘The Spanish Flu’ is rumoured to have begun in New York. It was attributed to Spain because they were neutral in WW1 and could report their deaths without any ‘other side’ thinking they were weakened by the plague.
Stories make us individuals, and even though we take comfort in shared experiences, no story is the same. When we ask our audiences for their stories during Playback shows, we handle these with the care and respect they are due.
Without your stories, there would be no show. SO please, when we are finally safe to perform again, share a story with us.
EPISODE 1: THE 6 RULES OF IMPROVISATION APPLY!
By Lucy Schmidt
It was only 64 days ago that the Australian Government announced an enforced societal lockdown unseen ever before. Our freedoms were to be slashed for our own good. This was serious. The culprits picture was plastered across TV screens worldwide. A very contagious, and deadly, virus was hitchhiking from body to body across the globe, leaving a path of human destruction and despair in its wake. Strict protocols of hand washing and social distancing were to follow. COVID19 bought with it new customs and lingo – panic buying, curve flattening, iso, Zooming, hand sani… to but name a few.
But what about the rules that we, Melbourne Playback Theatre Company, were already committed to? Turns out that they were just as helpful as always in my household. Allow me to share.
1. COMMIT YOURSELF
As my partner (hereafter referred to as ‘The Doc’) and I recovered from the shock announcement of a worldwide pandemic, we decided we were going to ‘jump in’ boots n’ all to keep ourselves (and therefore others in our community) as safe as we could. Hand sanitiser that I had bought for The Doc’s 50th birthday party was luckily never used. We found it and squirted it liberally on leaving and entering the apartment. Hands were washed according to YouTube clip tutorial standards. Happy Birthday sung twice for good measure – sometimes a little Nina Simone thrown in for a soul change.
Fortunately, our beautiful niece had bought us a 48 roll ‘Who Gives A Crap’ box of toilet paper for Christmas as a ‘joke’ present. Which, in this ‘present’ was no joke! People were being knocked out for a four pack at Aldi.
The Doc made a clandestine trip into the office, grabbing anything that may be needed for the foreseeable future, then set up a home office in the lounge. Washable masks, bought online for the bushfire smoke, were donned as we took our daily walk. If people were not committing to the 1.5 metre social distancing requirements, we committed to walking around them. Once our minds were made up and our house rules were agreed upon, committing was easy. Yes, occasionally there were blips, like when a friend arrived downstairs to drop off a jig-saw puzzle and I had a brain fade and went to hug her. Luckily, she too was committed, and backed off like I had a knife in my hand. Well done, team!
2. MAKE YOUR PARTNER LOOK GOOD
I did this literally! The Doc had to attend an online happy hour Zoom that was designated 70s dress-up. “Sweet!” I said. “I’m happy to help. Why don’t we really commit” (see Rule Number 1 above), I’ll do your make-up and everything”. I looked up online pics of the real deal. I even attached long purple lashes, liquid eyeliner (notoriously difficult to apply) and the obligatory garish matching eyeshadow.
A long black wig was donned and a jaunty scarf tied around it, to “make it look even more like real hair”. I was chuffed with the results.
A transformation back forty years in forty minutes! I was so excited that I forgot that I wasn’t attending the party. I had to make do with drinkies for one on the balcony, until I was joined by this amazing looking 70s apparition (ooh great, a new person to chat to). When The Doc said sadly that nobody else dressed up, my little heart broke. I reassured that everyone was probably really cheered that the brief had been taken up so faithfully – even if only by one person. And she did look good! We had a little party of our own.
3. ACCEPT OFFERS
Without the third rule, this blog would not exist. I have taken up every offer, unilaterally. Do we want some feijoas? Yes please. And a lovely apple and feijoa crumble was cooked by The Doc. Yum. Do I want to write a monologue in twelve hours to be filmed by an actor for Centrepoint Theatre’s online archive? You betcha. And for a mere $20 you can view ‘EScaPe – A Kitchen Sink Monologue’ (and nine other New Zealand writers’ work – not to mention ten brilliant performances) here on their website. I have swapped an easy 500-piece jigsaw for a 1000-piece one that features snowy pines and blue skies. It is infuriatingly difficult and we can only do it on the weekend because during the week a tablecloth goes over it and The Doc uses said table to do her Important Job.
But. We are determined to finish! Because accepting the offer means we ‘say yes’. I have said ‘yes’ to many a drink on the balcony. Sometimes I even say ‘yes, and’ – yes, I’ll have a drink and another drink after that, thank you.
I have said ‘yes’ to making socks for all the people on the third floor of our apartment that have birthdays during the restrictions.
To every Zoom offer (except ones that conflict with The Doc’s online yoga classes – sacrosanct). I even say ‘yes’ to self-issued challenges, like walking 70 kilometres in a week. Accepting offers is like signing for packages, exciting, and sometimes a true surprise awaits – if only you say YES!
4. LET GO
This rule is arguably the most important rule to apply during these times of change. We must let go of the freedoms we enjoyed before COVID-19 for the good of everyone we share the world with. We have let go and let our hair grow. Everyone being in the same boat, without a hairdresser, makes letting newly grey hair distinguish my temples an easy decision.
We have let go the usual social get-togethers, movie dates, dinners out. Tickets for Patti Smith expire and postpone to a new date. We let go. It’s easier without a choice.
My dear mother passed away last year on the 5 of August. My seven siblings and I made an oath we would make it back to ‘her little beach’ on the east coast of New Zealand on the same date this year and take an ocean plunge. Upon her request, her ashes had been delivered into these same choppy, white-tipped waters after she died. We would ‘take a swim with our mother again’ on this first anniversary. Alas, we all inherited her love of travel and are dotted about this globe from Ireland to Melbourne. Due to grounded planes, we will not be able to keep this promise. Letting go is part of life. Letting go of this plan is much easier than letting her go last year. But at least we were all there for that. Standing around her bedside in the little ramshackle bach she adored. If it had been this year, she would have been alone in hospital. Many poor people have had to make their last moments alone – the cruellest restriction of these times. Realising that it is the ability to ‘let go’ that gives us purchase to accept the epic ups and downs of life is an important lesson. One we must remind ourselves of, often.
5. BE PRESENT
Breathe. Notice the sunlight through the trees. Hear the Merri Creek rushing past, swollen with the recent rains. In a way, the COVID-19 restrictions have given us all an opportunity to reset. Patterns that were so ingrained have been re-evaluated. As a regular walker, I observed that gyms closing and restrictions on other leisure options made for crowded paths. It was like the clock had turned back to simpler times, where the ‘outing’ of the day was a family stroll through the park. I liked to see this. I also got up earlier to avoid this. As society ground to an almost halt, the sting was taken from the usual speed of the city. We were all concerned about catching or passing on this disease. We took time to wash our hands thoroughly. Took time to look through cupboards and soak chickpeas overnight. To cook from scratch.
The Doc and I made plans of what we would do with this extra time gifted by this awful virus. We scanned the jigsaw pieces for a ‘particular’ blue piece of sky (note: hours can be lost this way) I cleaned the fridge and pantry – instead of the usual rushed wipe. I paid attention to the detail. It was a joy.
I meditated daily as the afternoon sun streamed through the slats of the blinds. The whole world was joined in anticipation of what would happen. We were unified by a common enemy instead of each other. We huddled around TVs to get new instalments from countries facing the worst of the pandemic. Heard beautiful arias sung from balconies in Lombardy. Uncertainty placed us all in the moment, together. I try to stay as present now as we were in the early days of the pandemic but admittedly as we get used to living with this uninvited guest we revert to the status quo. But reminders like the smell of garlic and onion sizzling in a pan, the sound of rain on a roof, the warmth of a hot water bottle as the nights get colder can bring us right back to where we thrive. The present.
6. PUT DOWN YOUR CLEVER (PICK UP YOUR ORDINARY)
I take this final rule as an encouragement of simplicity. When we are not trying to be super-impressive and original, we can drop our ego and operate from our true selves. Vanity and obsession with how we are perceived can inhibit our thought processes.
But instead, let us concentrate on letting our needles point to our own true north. There have been a lot of limits put on our day to day freedoms. And now they are being lifted slowly. Let us act collectively to avoid further spread of COVID-19, instead of finding imaginative ways to beat the system and avoid a fine.
When masses of people have the clever idea to flock to a beach party, when people decide to ignore sore throats and coughs and go to work instead of isolating, when we decide we are different from the many, then we put the many at risk – as well as ourselves. There is no clever way to outwit a virus, other than the very simple rules of washing, social distancing and isolating. But if you are clever enough to come up with a vaccine – ignore this rule and please carry on!
Recently we wrote about overcoming nerves, but what about warming up? As performers, speakers, teachers, facilitators, we all have our own rituals to prepare us before we face our audience.
Creating your own personalised ritual can take years of trial and error. When to eat? How much sleep do you need? Do you stretch? Sing? Do a crossword? We all have our own traditions and sequences to get us in the zone.
But once you refine it, your ritual can become a reliable friend. It can be the trusted sequence that prepares you to perform at your best.
We surveyed our company to find out what kinds of warm up rituals they do. The answers are as varied and individual as our ensemble members!
We are creating a resource page of warm up rituals. What’s yours? Let us know in the comments section below.
Our company says:
1. Connect with the breath.
Lie in semi supine, flat on your back with knees bent up, head resting on a largish book (either 20 mins at home earlier in the day or briefly during the warm up). Take a moment to be still and notice the breath.
2. Stretch (and shake out nerves).
We all have our personal favourites from yoga poses to Grotowski-inspired specific sequences. The repetition of a routine that reminds us of past performances can be as important as the stretches themselves.
3. Warm up the voice
Humming, trilling, yawning, brrrrrr (vibrating lips), rrrrrrr (trilling tongue) sounds, singing. And of course, tongue twisters!
4. Connect with fellow performers.
Group warm-up exercises force us to make eye contact and be ‘in response’ to our fellow performers. Zap is a great one for this reason. Nerves often send us retreating into our own heads, so anything that can encourage presence with other performers and playfulness is good. Being gentle & positive with co-performers before a gig is important.
What are your top three warm up rituals? Let us know in the comments below.
Whether its presenting, auditioning, interviewing or leading a team, all of us get nervous. Here are some hot tips to keep you cool and calm under pressure.
1. Focus on the Breath
An oldie but still a goodie. We all hear this one a lot. But breathing is still the first thing we forget to do when we are under stress. And its the best remedy to calm a brain reeling from overwhelm, nerves or stage fright. Breathing deeply sends much needed oxygen to our brain which helps us to think more clearly and calms our nervous system. The best thing to do just before you present is your favourite deep breathing practise.
Try this: Before you walk into the room or onto the stage, put your hands on your belly and take a few deep breaths into your hands.
2. Power Pose (in the bathroom)
In her TED talk, Amy Cuddy reveals her research that our bodies can change our minds. By holding a power pose for two minutes we can significantly increase risk tolerance, increase testosterone by 20%, decrease the stress hormone cortisol by 25% and feel more assertive, confident and comfortable: the best way to feel when facing a group of people.
Try this: arrive early and hold one of these power poses in the bathroom (or a private space) for two minutes before you enter the presenting space. Sounds strange, but it works.
3. Dress well
Sounds shallow, but it can save a lot of stress. Take time the day before to plan out what you’re going to wear. Choose clothing that is appropriate to the occasion, but also make sure its comfortable. Make sure you’ve worn it before. If you sweat, make sure it’s dark or loose enough that it won’t show. Make sure you can move your arms and sit down comfortably. Take the time to make sure everything is clean and (if necessary) ironed.
Planning in this way will make your preparation smooth (no panicked running around the house or last minute changes) and will make sure you feel confident and comfortable on the day.
4. Tell a story
If you’re presenting, open and close with a story. Throw a story in the middle of your talk. Stories grab listeners attention like nothing else. Stories are memorable and connect the listener to your content instantly. If you feel people have stopped listening, you haven’t included enough stories. Turn boring content around with an interesting anecdote.
If you’re interviewing or auditioning: connect with the decision maker with a story that will interest them. Even better – make them laugh.
5. Practise precision: no waffling or waving
If you can say it in less, do. There’s nothing better than a presentation that gets to the point, tells a few entertaining stories and sprinkles humour throughout.
If you know you wave your arms about or feel uncomfortable standing in front of people, put something in your hand. A pen, a whiteboard marker, a presentation clicker or something related to your situation. It will ground you and give those flapping arms something to hold on to.
What’s your tried and true tip for staying calm under pressure? The more tips the better! Share them with us in the comments below.
Good luck out there! Stay cool.
When did you last sing?
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.
So come on over, listen and sing:
Did you see the article in The Age recently titled “The rise of soft skills: Why top marks no longer get the best jobs”? The journalist John Elder described how leading companies from Australia and the UK are valuing more than ever ‘soft skills’ in their workforce.
So what exactly are soft skills?
They are skills that build personal connection. Have you noticed how things are more likely to go our way when we are able to make a genuine connection with someone? Soft skills help us do that. They are skills in emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution and using collaboration (rather than compromise) to solve problems. Its something we can all relate to.
Soft skills really can be a game changer.
Associate Professor Jennifer George is director of a new masters program at Melbourne Business School that is offering business training that includes a soft skills program complete with actors from Melbourne Playback.
We join the participants for sessions in voice projection, posture and presentation skills. Later on we do ‘real-play’ sessions where our actors play scenarios with such as the boss who the participants have to break bad news to.
For skills that are inter-personal, there is no substitute for trying it out in a safe place, with an actor who isn’t actually your boss.
The ability to have a go, get feedback and have another go is invaluable as a way to learn these skills. They can’t be mastered by theory alone.
What soft skills do you want to master? You elevator pitch? Listening? Collaboration? Share them in the comments below.
And try this: ask a friend to have a go with you. Make up a scenario based on your target soft-skill, play it out together, talk about how it went and try again. Give yourself permission to do it really badly. Make it fun. You’ll be amazed how easy it becomes.
Read the full article from The Age here
Ian David Melbourne Playback facilitator working with Qantas on presenting skills
Presenting to any sized audience can be daunting and fill you with anxiety. You are the focus. All eyes are on you. Expectations are high. Everything you say, everything you do, your appearance, your tone of voice, your gestures and the content of your presentation play a part in the efficacy of your delivery. Knowing what you want to say is only part of the whole equation. You want your presentation to have an impact and for the audience to remember the information.
Know your audience
Whether you need to persuade or just inform, you need to understand a number of things about your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? How experienced are they? This helps you frame your content in a way that resonates most strongly with your audience.
Be an expert
No one likes to be told things that they already know. Know more than your audience. This means doing your homework and having evidence for your assertions. Be clear about how you arrived at your opinion.
Prepare your speech
This might feel like an obvious one. But so often, people have not written down what they are going to say. They have a few notes scribbled down on a bit of paper and suddenly in front of hundreds of people they can’t read their notes or understand what they were thinking in the first place. Writing down what you want to say before hand, even if you don’t read it while your up there, helps consolidate your thoughts and ideas. It can provide you with a structure about how you might approach your material.
Rehearse alone, in front of people, film it, record it – do it again and again and again. You need to know what is coming next. You need to know it inside out and back to front. You want it to be second nature. Once you think you cannot possibly do it again – do it again! Keep refining. Keep asking yourself; Is this clear? Does my presentation logically flow? Am I presenting in an engaging way? Am I waffling on? Remember; less is more.
Anecdotes are your friend
Inserting a personal story or a story that acts as an example is an excellent way of connecting with your audience. It makes complex concepts comprehensible. It does this by allowing the audience to use the imaginative side of their brain and understand the point of your presentation from a humanistic perspective. This increases their understanding about why your presentation is important.
You may have written and rehearsed the most exciting speech in history, but if you present it monotone, your audience will disengage. When we are speaking casually to our colleagues, friends or family we use lots of dynamic tones to emphasise a point or to help articulate the story we are telling. Sometimes this exciting dynamic voice disappears when we present. Nerves are usually the culprit. The first step to ensure that we speak with dynamic vocal tone is to be aware of our tendency to flatten tone. A good friend can help with this when they listen to you rehearse! Are you too loud? Too soft? Too monotone?
We subconsciously read so much into the way people physically hold themselves. The best way to present is to make sure you are standing tall and relaxed – confident and open. Leave your arms on the podium or down by your sides when you are not using them to make gestures. Make sure your gestures are natural and spontaneous. Maintain eye contact. Make sure the clothes you choose to wear facilitate easy movement and do not distract from the incredible amount of work that you’ve put into this presentation.
At Melbourne Playback, we specialise in working on our communication skills – in our workshops, presentations, performances and rehearsals. How to develop your communication with your colleagues, employees and supervisors is one of the main skills we can offer to you and your organisation. We believe that there are four main areas to focus on:
- Awareness. Be present.
- Listen. Empathise. Understand the story.
- Be bold.
- Be generous. Make your partner look good.
1. Start to observe your own behaviours.
How does your tone of voice affect those you are talking to? How does your body language affect them? How are you affected by other people’s tone of voice/body language/choice of language (not necessarily content – try and focus on the way information is being conveyed).
2. Develop an awareness of eye contact, your own and the people you’re communicating with.
How do you feel when someone avoids eye contact with you? Are there times when your level of eye contact may be making your interlocutor feel uncomfortable? Different cultural groups have different norms when it comes to eye contact. Try and be sensitive to what you perceive is appropriate for different individuals.
Awareness of your own breath is a very important tool. This can become particularly useful when the interaction is disturbing you – you feel intimidated or angry. Becoming aware of your breath and allowing yourself to breathe before responding in a challenging situation can give you both a chance to calm down and see more clearly. If you can explain your position in a centred way, it’s more likely that the other will be able to understand your perspective.
4. Practice really listening.
If this interaction is potentially important, try to allow your interlocutor to finish their train of thought before interrupting with your response. If you don’t understand something important fully, ask questions. Aim to understand!
5. Remember that there may be more than one ‘right’ way.
We are all different and different methods will work for different people. Try and see things from other people’s perspectives.
6. ‘Never take anything personally.’
Much easier said than done! But it’s important to remember that a person’s reaction to you will always be conditioned by their previous experiences – perhaps there’s something about you that reminds them of their mother, perhaps their dog was run over this morning. This doesn’t mean excusing bad behaviour, but it does mean leaving space to not jump to conclusions. If you are aware of how you are reacting in the time of the interaction, you are less likely to say or do something that you regret later.
7. Where appropriate, try and maintain open body language.
Closing off the front of your body – crossed arms, hunched in shoulders, turning your torso away from the other – can be perceived as an unwillingness to listen and a defensiveness about your own ideas.
8. Search for the appropriate balance between assertiveness and acquiescence.
(Again – easier said than done!) Especially, develop congruence of content of communication and manner of communication in this regard. Are you trying to stand up for yourself at the same time as looking down, maintaining a hunched posture, speaking softly and mumbling? You are definitely sending a mixed message and will probably not achieve the result you desire. However speaking too forcefully while requesting something tricky may also backfire.
9. Where appropriate acknowledge the other person’s abilities, input and strengths.
No matter how much your boss or employee might be annoying you in this instant, there must be something positive they bring to your organisation, or even something positive you know they do in their home life. Keeping a part of you aware of that will help to keep an interaction calmer and more constructive.
10. Be patient with yourself and others.
Don’t over-react if you realise you’ve made a mistake. Apologise calmly. Where appropriate, be ready to forgive others for inappropriate communication.
WORKSHOP: Master the language of communication
In May 2014, Melbourne Playback is offering an active workshop to bring new awareness and mastery to your verbal and nonverbal communication. With a focus on authenticity, the tools gained will help you; express your true self more confidently, increase your likelihood of getting what you want, avoid conflict and maintain good relationships.
Who should attend?
Business professionals, leaders and small teams wishing to develop strong working relationships by enhancing interpersonal communication skills.
Find out more information on our website.
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.
It’s ambitious, but with your help we think we can come up with 101 reasons to see a Melbourne Playback performance. Be creative, think laterally and preface your comment with the next number in the sequence.