The Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble


I have been a member of The Living Arts Playback Ensemble since 1991. Playback Theatre was first developed by Jonathan Fox, a director, theatrical scholar, and social activist, in the 1970s. The Living Arts Theatre Lab is one of several Playback companies worldwide, affiliated through an International Playback Theatre Association.

Playback Theatre is an improvisational form whereby personal stories told by audience members are transformed into theater pieces. A story can be anything: a childhood memory, a current life dilemma, an anecdote from work or travel, or a vision of the future. The essence of a story is then "played back" by a company of trained actors and musicians using spoken improvisation, movement and music. Sometimes a story becomes a myth, sometimes a realistic enactment. Some stories are tragic; others are funny or illuminating.

For organizations, Playback Theatre is a potent vehicle to celebrate success, process change, problem-solve, grieve loss and share hope. For example, in medical schools, Playback Theatre has been employed to reconnect students to their original dreams of becoming doctors. At conferences, Playback Theatre provides an aesthetic and entertaining arena for people to share and reflect upon their experiences. In corporations, Playback Theatre is a particularly effective change management tool which can be applied to a variety of different circumstances: to humanize the effects of a merger or reorganization; to say goodbye to someone who is retiring; to celebrate the achievements of a group.