Playback Theatre

Engage in improvisational storytelling bringing audience narratives to life.

Playback Theatre is a form of improvisational theatre in which audience members tell their stories, which are then enacted by a team of actors. The actors use their bodies, voices, and imaginations to bring the stories to life. A Playback Theatre group typically consists of actors, musicians, and a conductor. The conductor interacts with the audience members and interviews them to elicit their stories and feelings which can then be portrayed by the actors and musicians. The technique was developed in New York, by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas in the 1970s, and it spread worldwide. 

Playback Theatre helps people to connect with their own stories and the stories of others, to build empathy and understanding, and to explore important social issues. By enabling such dialogue, perspective sharing, and self-reflection, Playback Theatre can help individuals and groups to heal, resolve conflicts, and develop empathy. Students will develop an understanding of how this form of theatre can be used to work with different communities and audiences.

This course moves beyond simply introducing students to Playback Theatre as a form, and also cultivates ways of seeing, knowing, communicating, and responding to community stories through theatre. Through Playback Theatre students can develop a variety of transferable skills, such as communication, teamwork, creativity, and problem-solving. These skills are essential for success in any field, and they would be particularly valuable for students who are planning to pursue careers in social work, education, or the arts. Communication skills and empathy development are advanced through the following Embodied Inquiry Questions that guide this course:

  1. How do you listen deeply and share with vulnerability?

  2. How does the body respond to the collective holding of emotions?

  3. How do you experience yourself amidst the multiple voices and perspectives present in a community?

This course is part of a growing number of Arts Education courses offered within the University. This interdisciplinary elective leverages the power of Playback Theatre to advance community building thus exemplifying the Govt. of India National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 statement that engaging course options will be on offer to students, in addition to rigorous specialisation in a subject or subjects.” NEP 2020 is exemplified both because of the novel and creative nature of this course, but also because it expands the pool of elective options available to students. Thus furthering student choice and interdisciplinary learning opportunities within the Undergraduate Programme.