Playback Theatre was created by Jonathan Fox and the Original Playback Theatre Company in New York, in 1975. Playback is an original form of improvisation in which audience members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted (“played back”) on the spot.
Whether in theatres, workshops, educational or clinical settings, playback performances help people share their common humanity, modeling a process that can transform how people relate to each other. When a story is told and then enacted spontaneously, a deep bond of understanding is established between the storyteller and the audience. The feeling often shared by audience members is that the teller’s story is their story too. When people join together in sharing their stories and watching the re-enactments, a profound shift occurs in their willingness to focus on commonalities rather than judgments of otherness.
Playback Theatre aims to create a welcoming space where every voice and any story - however ordinary, extraordinary, hidden or difficult - might be heard and told. It is a place where each person's uniqueness is honoured while at the same time building and strengthening our connections to each other as a community of people.
Since 1975, Playback Theatre troupes have been created in over 20 countries around the world, encompassing many different languages, cultural contexts, and political and social dynamics. It thrives in a variety of settings, existing as community theatre gatherings as well as a professional service to both the business and social sector.
Visit the International Playback Theatre Network to see where Playback ensembles are serving their communities around the globe, and for articles about Playback Theatre.