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From the Editors

By Radhika Jain & Steve Nash

When the Streets are the Mirror of Playback
By Farah Wardani


Playback as a tool to induce revolution in the Lebanese community -and when stepping aside is the real show!

The October 17th Revolution in Beirut marked the start of several months of hugely popular, anti-government protests across the whole of Lebanon. In this article the author describes her response as a theatre practitioner who is committed to social change, to this dynamic and dramatic development. She discusses the realities of trying to bring Playback Theatre to the streets at a time of civil unrest, reflecting honestly about the challenges that she and her playback colleagues experienced, and the impact that this has had on them as a company.

How it began

October 17th, 2019, 8:30 pm, Beirut, Lebanon. Twenty-nine years after the ceasefire in Lebanon, the Civil War (13 April 1975 – 13 October 1990), was still alive, in the minds of the Lebanese. This open wound remains bleeding with thousands of missing, thousands of dead. The country proceeded with no reconciliation, no accountability, ruled by the same militia leaders and their followers until today. These followers are fellow citizens who live by and for the leader/political part, blocking every possibility of change, through elections, violent acts and contributing to the propaganda that provided their basic needs instead of joining a fight to establish a fair system for everyone. They prefer minimal personal gain over a relationship of rights and duties with the government.

I perform that evening as Layla, a deceased combatant from the Lebanese Civil War, as part of Malja’86 (Shelter 86), a drama based on the stories of personal, individual objects that witnessed and survived the Lebanese Civil War and were passed down to succeeding generations (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Farah Wardani as Layla

The stories were collected through Playback Theater performances that happened all over Lebanon, targeting every area that had been affected by war. The objects are remnants from a memory that the generation that lived through the conflict held and passed to the following generations, carrying the painful memories of the past. Sami, the protagonist of this play, searches his grandmother’s memories in an attempt to find his missing father. He encounters a variety of characters inside her memory, whom, he believes, could help him uncover the truth by telling him about their own experiences and memories.

While I was playing Layla, on the opening night, the former fighter who lives in Sami’s grandmother’s memory, during a demonstration scene that represented one of the first trade union movements that contributed to the militia leaders inciting the war, I hear people shouting “Thawra” (revolution in Arabic). I had shivers all over my body and thought I was completely absorbed in the act. I felt a connection to my community and to this ongoing war, whose horrific legacy I share with every other Lebanese. What I thought to be an immersion in a role, turned out to be an alignment with reality. Spears Street, the street beneath our studio was filled with people marching towards the downtown of Beirut, declaring the beginning of the Lebanese Revolution. Unusually, I captured a video with my phone, knowing that this was the start of something enormous.

Taking Laban Playback Theatre to the streets

The Revolution took over the country, and all planned activities were stopped to join the revolution on the ground. Mlaja’86 that opened on that Thursday night was expected to run every night till Sunday. At Laban we announced on our social media outlets the following:

In a matter of such national importance and duty, Laban is joining the civil protests in Martyrs Square, join us to raise our voice for the people and against the oppression. See you there!

This was a moment to be seized and built upon for us as engaged artists, as activists, as change makers.

The Revolution presented and produced street art, social art, political art, graffiti, songs, dance circles and debates. Movies were created and distributed worldwide via mobile phones. Every song was a masterpiece, every brush stroke on a wall was a mural, every dialogue was an improvised work of art.

In the meantime, we questioned “What do we have to offer?” We, a team of 25 performers, Laban, a theater-based organization, has been offering safe spaces for expression since 2009. After hours of discussion, the team members met and decided that no art could capture the moment and that taking our art to the streets would be a selfish act. Our work climbs over the shoulders of the Revolution and adds nothing to it.

Next to the Martyrs Square, a woman approached my playback colleagues and I, after entering the Beirut Opera House (Figure 2). The Opera House had been closed since the beginning of the civil war, despite the ending of the war, as the government, still controlled by the same warlords had plans to demolish it and turn it into a hotel and a private business. Just like other significant locations in central Beirut the rebels had taken over the Opera House and an act of reclaiming our stolen memory and city. The woman came to us on her bike, an extremely unusual thing to see in Beirut, a city that barely has space for pedestrians to walk on the crowded streets.

Figure 2. Laban at the Old Opera House, Beirut

She stopped and said, “You are the playback people; I thank you for this” and made a hand gesture that embraced the whole city, the whole country, the revolution. We stood in awe and humility, and my colleague asked her to explain more. She replied: “Your theater has taught us that we all have stories to tell. We have voices to speak. Here we are writing our stories. Shouting them out, thank you!” And she rode off on her bike. We took to the streets for months, experienced tear gas and rubber bullets, got hit by the police, some of us got arrested. All of us protested, shouted, sang, danced, talked, just like in our art, and our bodies, minds, and souls produced beauty and resistance. We poured ourselves into this revolution in the same way we pour into our playback. It was a collective masterpiece in the making, a collaboration of not only the team and the audience but everyone. Meanwhile, the conversation never stopped:

What do we do with our art? We are artists, we do it to make a living, to support our families and to survive.

As our monthly playback performance, “Your stories on Stage” running non-stop since 2013, was approaching, we received several requests from friends and activists to hold playback performances on the street. Our safe spaces are usually the closest thing to a public space that Lebanon has had. It seemed too small compared to the filled streets and squares around the country. A former member, who left the country in the coming two years, along with 6 other team members, as they were hit hard by the crisis, the disappointing fall of the revolution and the Beirut blast. He said, “The one who opens something knows well how to contain it“.

Serving the personal, and serving the political

We decided to perform our art to contain the individuals, not the community. In our playback, we always take the story shared by an individual, an audience member, to the communal level, we go as far as we can with the echoes of each story. We tackle the political in personal stories. Now we switched the game, now is the time to tackle the personal in all this political happening. For several nights, I wished we did drum circles, street art, Dabkeh dance, or any art form that could be transformed into jam sessions and that the masses could join in immediately so that we could go on the streets and engage with the people, instead of the minimal and intimate playback. I saw other artists taking their music, clowning, and dancing into the streets but what was happening was bigger than any framed artwork from any rehearsed or prepared acts.

Figure 3. Your Stories on Stage, Laban’s monthly playback performance

The monthly performance of November 2019 arrived, on the second Wednesday of the month as usual. People came in, a lot less than usual in numbers. The streets had all the eyes and light on them. The safe space remained available for those who wanted to go small in the middle of the big act. Four weeks and the policing government was turning violent already, and the rhetoric of treachery was all over the mainstream media. The stories shared, directly and indirectly reflected people’s fears. The Lebanese have seen a glimmer of hope, an extraordinary hope, and now they fear to believe it and lose it. They weren’t ready for another heartache, another loss. They are not ready to be beaten repeatedly. There has never been a revolution like this in Lebanon, but it was the dream of several generations. The story was too communal and political, but we focused on personal investment. Our stage served as a margin to the revolution. (Figure 3)

Lessons learned

I was six months pregnant with my second child and my elder was four. We were on Al Azariyeh street where six clowns are flying around and playing with people from all ages. A financial expert has gathered some people around him, as he talked about the financial crisis that was in its early days. My son had his eyes focused on the financial expert and completely ignored the clowns. When the man finished his explanation, my son started clapping wildly. The man unintentionally had put on a show and stole the limelight from the clowns. He had the charisma, the presence, the passion, the dedication, all the ingredients needed to grab the attention of any audience. The clowns proved the theory and the direction: if the show is bigger than your art, then things pace themselves. Pause your art and your time will come.

This was not a dramatic ending of our work, in fact it was only the beginning of a reflective process, merged with real, hard work. We are now humbler, in openness to learn, change and adapt, to listen deeply on and off the stage and reflect that back in our practice. Our monthly performances carried on, up until today, moving a few months online due to COVID-19 lockdowns, but never stopped. We are more political, bolder about it and more than ever we believe that our art is a magnifier of a truth, and a justice that we seek daily. We own a very powerful weapon that is opposing a very well-armed system and we are full of confidence that we shall beat the monster and create a new story to be modeled worldwide.

About the author:

Farah Wardani is a Lebanese theatre actress, trainer, clown doctor, puppeteer and applied theatre practitioner. A theatre graduate with an MA in Drama Therapy, a Diploma of High studies in theater and a BA in psychology. She is a Playback Theatre practitioner, trainer, actress and conductor. A director of Laban, a Lebanese theatre- based NGO that uses social and psychosocial theatre approaches for social change, capacity building and therapy. Farah trains and uses Theater of the Oppressed, Drama Therapy and other techniques with different communities and contexts as a medium for healing, social change, and political activism.

Anti-oppressive Playback Theatre
By Mireya P. Ruiz Esparza


This is a proposal for practitioners and audiences who want to challenge themselves to change themselves, change us and change the world. In this article the author introduces a model of Playback Theatre that is based on Leticia Nieto’s analysis of the psychological dynamics of oppression and privilege (Nieto, 2010). Building from an honest statement of her own “position“, she describes the key features of Anti-oppressive Playback Theatre and shows how this model differs from other approaches to playing the lives and stories of others. Readers are given an insight into the training and practice that are required in order to develop the skills that can enable and promote social justice for themselves, and for those around them.


Before getting to know Playback Theatre I studied anthropology and worked several weeks each month with indigenous communities. A concept I gathered during those years that has guided my path is “position”. This concept is contributed to the anthropological discussion by Renato Rosaldo: “The concept of position refers to the way in which quotidian experiences permit or inhibit certain types of discernment” (Rosaldo, 1991). Our history, our context, our lived experiences prepare us to understand certain phenomena better than others. Therefore, each person, due to their position observes from a particular angle. None of us has the complete view, so it is important to assume that our observations are limited.

Not only is our viewpoint incomplete, it is also partial. It is impossible to remove and put aside the conditioning imposed by our culture, our way of seeing – and living in – the world. There is no impartiality, nor is there neutrality when a person watches or listens. Getting rid of ideological evaluations, prejudices, sympathies and antipathies is impossible. They are always impinging at an unconscious level.

This bias inherent in any person leads us to an important declaration: all research is interpretation, and as such is provisional, in that it is created and reproduced by “positioned” people. In this sense, it is important to know the position of the person who writes (in this case me), to be a little clearer about the partiality contained in my gaze, my words, and the choices of texts and quotes I made.

My position

I am a Mexican, a 50-year-old woman, doctor of anthropology, questioning regarding my sexual orientation, racialized as Mestiza, culturally Christian/atheist, living with a disability, and a survivor of child sexual abuse. Today, when there are some official figures on this cruel face of patriarchy, it is known that “Mexico is the first country in the world in sexual abuse of minors, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Of these violations, 90% perpetrated against girls occurs within homes and in the family environment” (Barragán, 2021). Child sexual abuse marked my life, it was a prolonged abuse that began when I was six years old and ended when I was twelve – when I had the courage and strength to stop it. Now I know that the wounds and anger that the abuse provoked in me, I channeled into social and political struggle. From a young age I remember a great impulse to fight to change the living conditions of the most unprotected people.

My heart was filled with joy when the Zapatista movement emerged in Chiapas in 1994, I was in college at the time. It has given me the evidence that political work is a service to the community, the conviction that the resolution of community problems is built collectively, and for this, it is necessary to rebuild the social fabric that has been destroyed in many of our communities. And it gave me the certainty that it is possible to build another world and that our experiences have enough wisdom to recognize the paths.

Figure 1. The author, Raising Your Voice performance, May 2015, Colectiva de Teatro Playback reVelArte

I discovered Playback Theatre in 2007 at the hands of Leticia Nieto. Her anti-oppression model “Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment” (Nieto, 2010) has made me understand the complexity of oppression, recognizing that the truth is not at the poles but across the spectrum: there are many nuances, many conflicting roles, many areas of Privilege and Marginalization, superimposed on the same person. This model has made it possible for me to see that the work of transformation implies personal work, where each person learns to distinguish the path to build anti-oppressive skills in their areas of Privilege and liberation skills in their areas of Marginalization.

Finally, psychodrama came to me with its healing power and the socionomic proposal of Jacob Levy Moreno, which has allowed me to hope that the change in the micro-social will be reflected in the macro-social. My gaze has definitively searched for ideas, spaces, tools, proposals that lead to transformation. Transformation of the world where oppressive dynamics prevail, allowing, for example, the existence of girls who are victims of sexual abuse. My position makes me interested in investigating the potentialities of Playback Theatre as a theatre of transformation.

Is Playback Theatre a theatre of transformation?

The word transformation comes from the Latin transformatio. It has the prefix trans (from one side to the other), the word forma (figure, image) and the suffix tion (action and effect). Therefore, transformation is the action and effect of changing from one form to another. Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas tell us that one of their many inspirations was Richard Schechner, who advocated a theatre of transformation – theatre that stimulates a lasting change in the identity of the viewer, as opposed to theatre as just an entertaining experience that stimulates no change.

From this definition we can determine that Playback Theatre is a theatre of transformation. Jonathan Fox says, “The overall goal is a relaxed community, listening closely to their fellow citizens, open to deep associations of memory, and ready to raise a hand to tell a story” (Fox, 2018). Being in a space like this is transformative, because in this world, spaces with these characteristics are not common. Therefore, by experiencing these spaces, it is certain that a change of form is made in the people who participate in it.

Jonathan and Jo share that from the beginning of their experimentations they hoped that their theatre would contribute to a more just and peaceful society. The key to their vision was and is the affirmation that everyone has a story that deserves a safe place to tell it and to be listened to with respect. Little by little they realized that this vision contained a direct call for social justice, that Playback Theatre could be a place where unheard voices could have a space, as long as “… our awareness, historical knowledge, and interactive skills were robust enough” (Fox & Salas, 2021).

A space that works for social justice does not happen by itself. There must be awareness, historical knowledge and interactive skills to create a safe environment and give access to all stories. Opening a space where all stories feel welcome implies a first level of intentionality towards social justice.

But we must also keep in mind that we are all part of the oppressive system that gives room to some voices and silences others. Our position makes it impossible for us to look at all sides of a story, even if it is told and listened to with respect. If we want to go to deeper levels in this intentionality towards social justice, we need an Anti-oppressive Playback.

Playback for Dialogue, Status and Rank

  • Playback for dialogue

Playback for dialogue” is an adaptation for when there are parties in conflict in the audience (Fox, 2018). The objective is to open a space for dialogue and listening between these parties – emphasizing balance and fairness, so that both parties feel confident to tell their stories. Fox gives two examples: 1) a performance in a hospital with medical staff, families of patients and patients, and 2) a performance with people of color and white people.

There is a significant difference between social roles (doctors patients) and oppressive social assignments (people of color-white people). Whilst in both examples there is a conflict present, the quality of the conflict is significantly different.

Social roles (patient-doctor) may seem to build oppressive hierarchical relationships, but this is not necessarily the case. Social roles that are not delineated by oppressive social assignments, have more to do with behavioral styles or with situations. We can have medical staff who use their place in the hospital to abuse patients, but it is also possible to find medical staff committed to their work and their patients. In this sense, the roles are chosen (and occur within a specific context – in this case the hospital). They are roles that are taken and left. We can also find patients whose behavior may be haughty or inhibited, that is, the role of patient or doctor does not present oppressive hierarchies of permanent Privilege and Marginalization. If we focus only on the situational roles of doctor and patient, there may be a lot we fail to see.

  • Status-play

These social roles act from what Leticia Nieto calls Status-play. Status-play is easy to observe and most likely we are aware of it. “We all know how to take a high-Status or low-Status position, and we all get lots of practice in both. High-Status behavior is marked by a dominant or assertive posture and verbal messages of assertion, leadership, dominance or knowledge. Low-Status behavior is marked by a submissive or passive posture, and verbal messages of agreement, compliance, acceptance, and support. Both high- and low- Status moves can be useful in some situations or destructive in others – these are fundamental modes of behavior, not good or bad in themselves” (Nieto & Boyer M., 2006 Part 2, 2007).

This is not so with oppressive social assignments; these are not self chosen: either you are a person of color or you are a white person. In addition, they are memberships that do not vary over time. And we know that they bring Privilege to one party (white people, in this example) and Marginalization to another party (people of color).

  • Rank

Leticia Nieto calls this classification and evaluation mechanism Rank. “The Rank machine does only one thing: It sorts people into two piles, a small pile of people who are overvalued and a larger pile of people who are devalued. We call these two piles Agents and Targets. Since the Rank machine is part of our deep conditioning, we rarely become aware of what it does, or even that it’s operating… We meet a person, and the Rank machine has assessed them as well as us, and categorized them and us, often before either of us speaks. We don’t have control over this; it just happens. What we do have some control of is our awareness of the Rank machine, and how we respond to the categorizing that goes on in ourselves and others” (Nieto & Boyer M., 2007).

  • Status and Rank

It is useful to separate both concepts – Status-play and Rank – to understand them. However, they are always both present, so it is very productive to distinguish them. A person who belongs to a socially Marginalized group (person of color) may engage in high-Status behaviors, may be seen as confident, imposing, but that behavior does not change the underlying dynamics of social and institutionalized inequality that they experience every day. In the same way, a person with a Privilege assignment (white person) can adopt low Status behavior, go unnoticed, not take up much space, but that does not change their membership in the Rank category that grants them privileges because of their skin color.

In this sense, the rift that separates people by oppressive social assignments is deeper than the rift that separates people who play different social roles such as doctor and patient. Such examples (people of color/white people and doctor/patient) highlight significantly different situations. The conditions to be able to achieve a dialogue between the parties are also very different; if there are patients and doctors in the audience some elements are needed, if there are people of color and white people in the audience different elements are needed. The first example will reveal appropriate or inappropriate social role behaviors and the second example will reveal oppressive social assignments that maintain social injustice.

Anti-oppressive Playback

When we are faced with a conflict of social roles and we want to address it from those roles, the “Playback for dialogue” adaptation can be used – if what is sought is to generate an encounter. But if we are facing a conflict generated by oppressive social assignments, it is necessary to define an adaptation called “Anti-oppressive Playback“.

Anti-oppressive Playback” is necessary because breaking the systemic structure of oppression is not easy. The daily experience of a person who lives with Marginalization is radically different from the daily experience of a person who lives with Privilege in the same Rank category. These experiences are also inversely proportional, that is, the less access of one, the greater access of the other. This makes true dialogue very difficult. Seating these people in the same space to share their stories requires us to keep all of this in mind. We must make ourselves the best tools to build the optimal processes and conditions for a space for anti-oppressive dialogue that can give us back the humanity that oppression takes from us, both to people who experience Marginalization and to people who experience Privilege. Anti-oppressive Playback requires a long and very specific training that needs the consent of the practitioners who want to perform it. The conditioning caused by the Rank system is profound, we are not aware of it even though it is present in all our social interactions. Anti-oppressive training always invites us to challenge the social conditioning to which we have been subjected and invites us to doubt certainties. This training makes us uncomfortable. It is a challenge that requires discipline and commitment. The training is long, because it is a slow process to get rid of the shells left by the Rank system. The training is specific because we must continually do social analysis to examine how oppressive social forces appear in our interactions. While it may be desirable for the anti-oppressive approach to be applied to all Playback Theatre, regardless of a special purpose, the demands of the training mean that I do not believe it is possible.

  • A Starting Point

Nick Rowe writes “I have asked myself what I would do if, as a white, heterosexual, English, middle class man, I was cast as the teller’s actor when the teller was, say, a black New York rapper, or a woman who is openly expressive around sexuality. Would it be possible for me to do justice to their stories?”. He discusses two approaches, the “organic approach” and the “approach of radical difference”. The “organic approach” starts from the fact that the representation of the other on the stage is not problematic. It appeals to listening and to the authenticity of the person who acts. This approach “supposes a true, universal self beyond culture and language” (Rowe N., 2007).

This stance is difficult to sustain when we have the concept of position in mind. Paraphrasing Rowe, the question worth answering is: can we trust the self of the actor, especially when it comes to playing someone else who is significantly different? Jutta Heppenkausen asks herself a question very close to this: “In this work of reflecting theatrically, can we trust in an empathic capacity understood as something ‘natural’?” (Heppekausen J., 2018). The assumption that we can understand and represent lives completely different from ours, denies the concept of position. We cannot escape from our cultural, political, ideological and social gaze. Good intentions are insufficient, the goal to resonate and connect is not enough:

“If when acting I only improvise ‘from the guts’, the question arises as to how the body images that I develop spontaneously ‘entered my guts’ and what meaning they have for ‘every me’, for my socially determined capacity for action … Unintentionally consciously, the Playback Theatre companies could contribute to reproduce in the representation of the Playback Theatr the social conditions against which they committed their work” (Heppekausen J., 2018).

A criticism made of the organic approach, from the approach of radical difference, is that it focuses on identification, and identification can make the teller invisible in representation. Identification is the negation of difference and distance. Jonathan Fox shares an encounter with Pamela Freeman, an African-American woman: “I told her that it was important for me to connect positively before raising the question of our differences. She answered that for her, it was the opposite. She needed truth- telling before she was willing to connect. I learned a lesson that day, and I committed myself to learn more about the state of racism in my country” (Fox J., Leadership Online Course).

To tell the truth is to talk about what makes our access, and lived experience, different. To tell the truth is to talk about the oppression under racism that one lives, and the other does not. Talking about these differences is always uncomfortable because many times they are differences that open an abyss of incomprehension of what has not been experienced. Starting from the discomfort of difference (and not from the pleasant feeling of identification) can provide us with bridges to open true dialogues. “Not the claim to understand the other, but the recognition that the other is different and incomprehensible, this must be the starting point for intercultural training” (Heppekausen J., 2018). Leticia Nieto shared an idea from Henri Nouwen with me, “learned ignorance”: the persistent stance that I must learn each person’s meaning rather than assuming that I share them. This starting point is important in Playback Theatre and vital in Anti oppressive Playback Theatre. It is vital to be clear that the differences in life caused by oppressive social assignments position us. Recognizing that my gaze is partial allows me to be alert and accept that there are parts of a story that  I can understand and there are parts that I cannot understand. “This knowledge and our ability to reflect, the intersection between an attitude of not understanding and understanding lead to a broadening of perspective in the representation of stories” (Heppekausen J., 2018).

Figure 2. Colectiva de Teatro Playback reVelArte offering a Gender workshop for women only. These workshops were held from 2015 to 2019.
Figure 3. Colectiva de Teatro Playback reVelArte offering a Gender workshop for women and men. December 2015

Towards an ethic in Anti-oppressive Playback

“The key factor in ethics is the intention that underlies our behavior, the intentional motivation that drives the behavior…the intention is ethical insofar as it aims to improve the well-being of all, including oneself” (Walsh R., 2011).

To construct an ethic in the adaptation of Anti-oppressive Playback returns us to the concept of position. The concept of position accounts for a place we occupy and from where we observe and listen. Life experiences place us where we are positioned, the Rank categories also position us: age, disability, religious culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social class, Indigenous background, nationality, gender (Nieto & Boyer M., 2006 Part 1). While Rank assignments are stable, our position moves with every experience we have. This axiom gives us another concept: re-position.

In the preparation and training to promote Anti-oppressive Playback, we must commit ourselves to broaden our gaze and listen. Starting from our positionings, we must open ourselves to the realities that we do not see immediately to constantly “re-position” ourselves. This process will help us to avoid simplifying  stories, invisibilizing or harming people.

Ben Rivers and Jiwon Chung (Rivers B. & Chung J., 2019) share a series of guiding principles, including:

  • “Anti-oppressive practice requires an informed, critical worldview together with a critique of the ways in which we are entrained into accepting and normalizing oppressive ideologies.
  • As practitioners, we must therefore assume responsibility for addressing our own internalized oppression and complicity with hegemonic discourse.
  • We must train to identify and bracket our own personal biases, prejudices, and psychological projections especially where these reflect a privileged status.
  • We should listen for the complexity of a story including its psychological, social, cultural, historical and political dimensions.
  • Practitioners should understand the potential for retraumatization in unskillful enactments. We should also know how to respond to traumatic reactions if they do arise”.

In the training that reVelArte Playback Theatre Collective has had with Leticia Nieto, it has been important to know our belonging to Privilege and Marginalization groups:

  • We work on our stories to reveal how the oppressive experience of our marginalization and the comfortable experience of our privileges go through us.
  • We learn to develop anti-oppressive and liberation skills in our stories.
  • We work to recognize in the story we each hear from our partner which Rank category we must choose to analyze first (because all areas of Rank are present and active in every story).
  • We work to notice which skill – oppressive or anti-oppressive – is in evidence.
  • We practice recognizing and admitting the position of Rank that each one has, in the story that listens, this is important to recognize our possibilities and/or limits.

Leticia Nieto’s model (Nieto & Boyer M., 2006 Part 2, 2007) includes 5 skills for people with Privilege (Indifference, Distancing, Inclusion, Awareness and Alliance) and 5 skills for people with Marginalization (Survival, Confusion, Empowerment, Strategy and Recentering). Some of these skills are oppressive and some are anti- oppressive. The oppressive skills of Privilege are Indifference, Distancing and Inclusion; and the anti- oppressive skills are Awareness and Alliance. The oppressive skills of Marginalization are Survival and Confusion; and the anti oppressive skills are Empowerment, Strategy and Recentering.

Anti-oppressive skills provide us with more options, more possibility for action, they connect us on a deep and true level. However, oppressive skills are always present, and we resort to them on many occasions. Knowing, understanding, and connecting with the skills in the stories we tell and hear is a fundamental to training in Anti oppressive Playback Theatre. Skills training allows us to understand that all of us have ideas and actions that are oppressive, both in our categories of Marginalization and  in our categories of Privilege. Giving those oppressive actions and ideas a place, not being afraid to see and acknowledge them, paves the way for developing anti oppressive skills.

This work re-positions us personally and as a group. It allows us to train our awareness of the oppressive system of Rank to realize (ever faster) how it surrounds us and to respond to it (in our daily and group life) putting in action anti-oppressive abilities. This requires a lot of training in a practice space that allows us to develop anti oppressive and liberation skills; tools that radically change our daily experience and our relationships – even though the Rank system continues to operate.

Broadening the ethical perspective: from small to large

For Ken Wilber (Wilber K. et al., 2010) ethical development is accompanied by the ability to take on increasingly broader perspectives, moving from an exclusive interest in myself (first level) to the need to take care of the entire network that sustains life (fifth level). When we assume more comprehensive levels of ethical development in our lives, we do not abandon the first levels – we include them in the next level. Wilber calls this ethical development Integral Ethics.

A metaphor that helps is to look at each ethical level as a cinematographic shot. You can have the “extreme close up shot” which zooms in on a small part of an object or person. You can also have the “extreme long shot” that allows you to see the whole context where that object or person is. Integral Ethics assumes that each of the levels contains a fraction of the Truth. All levels together have the complete Truth. It is not about focusing on the Truth of one of the levels, but about experiencing the integrality of them. Integral Ethics can provide us with a frame of reference for our training. This view of ethics seems to me to be very useful in our lives and in the practice of Anti-oppressive Playback.

  • First level: the lens of the Self

“The first task is to know yourself” (Fox J., 2006). The first level of ethics is the personal commitment to get to know yourself, inquire about yourself, and take responsibility for the decisions you make and the actions you take. Writers in this field typically share who they are according to their social memberships, allowing them to position and declare themselves. I share one example below:

“It is important to note that the authors of this article are savarna people who are female-identifying and born into households that practice the majoritarian religion in India, Hinduism. While we are speaking as active dissenters, we are not speaking of or for the lived experience of the minority communities. It is only as allies and playbackers that we author this piece. The attempt is to reflectively document the playback theatre performed at the site of resistance, Bilal Bagh. The process of writing this essay has been one of un- and re-learning along with recording of a pivotal moment in India’s political history-in-making. Each writer on this team has been challenging discourses and practices of oppression and discrimination while educating themselves about the ways to show up in allyship and solidarity, accepting the long and fruitful journey for what it is” (Srinivasan K. et al., 2020).

These women with Hindu religious culture participate with Playback Theatre in a broad protest and flesh out stories of women with Muslim religious culture. Women who, assuming their Privilege in the category of religious culture, reveal it and strive to develop the ability of Alliance surpassing the still oppressive skill of Inclusion that the privileged gaze so rests. My viewpoint is that no one should do Playback Theatre if they are not willing or capable of seeing and working on themselves.

  • Second level: the lens of my groups -We/Us/Our Group

A second ethical level is to widen our gaze to include our collectivities. To fulfill this ethical level, it is important to set up homogeneous laboratories, which bring together Marginalized people in a Rank membership. Together, they can reveal the network that builds the oppression that marginalizes them and the way each one experiences it, and they can collectively outline the path to develop liberation skills. They can figure out ways to light the threshold to the next ability. We are in collective: the I, the you, the we interact at this level.

At reVelArte for several years we explored the category of gender. Only women made up the collective. We did the exploration first within the collective: reading and reflecting on the texts of Leticia Nieto; training with her; passing our stories through the body in motion; feeling, looking and reflecting on the experience lived in space. We acknowledged our histories through the oppressiveabilities. We fed our beings with the light that recognizing liberation skills in stories gives. We practiced in the body, emotion and ideas the transits that open the door to the next skill. As a second stage, for two years we shared all we had learned with another group of women, through workshops (sometimes including Playback Theatre). (See figures 2 and 3 above)

Working with my categories of Marginalization has allowed me to understand the suffering that marginalization entails and reveal the way to free myself from it. Making separate training spaces by category of Marginalization is a good strategy to go into depth- something that won’t be accomplished if the group is mixed.

“Playback, when used within social movements, is characterized by the desire to elevate and amplify the voice of the oppressed… oppressed populations are able to define their own sense of self through accounts that celebrate the richness, complexity, and dignity of their lives… Oppressed groups and their allies can use Playback to celebrate triumphs and successes, and for the transmission of important skills, strategies, values and histories within or between communities and social movements” (Rivers B. & Chung J., 2019).

A greater challenge at this level, is to work on our categories of Privilege. Privilege is so comfortable that it is difficult to become conscious of it. We settle for reaching the Inclusion skill (from Leticia Nieto’s model) and avoid going beyond it, because the next skill is very uncomfortable. My life partner is in spaces where men work on their Gender Privilege. In these spaces the Playback Theatre could also be very useful. Opening spaces where we work stories that come from our Privileged categories can help us illuminate what remains in our blind spots until today. Until I do deep work with each of my categories of Privilege, I will not be ready for stories of privilege in Playback Theatre.

  • Third level: the lens of all human beings

A third level involves the third person (he, she, they), “all human beings“. Preparing for diversity requires spaces with diversity: “it is important for companies seeking to enable a dialogue on diversity and social justice to include a membership that is diverse in age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, legal status and so on” (Sajnani N., et al., 2007). Having a diverse group prepares you for spaces where Privileged and Marginalized people are present.

“…a company that does not explore its own stories of issues of race, class, and other categories of oppression will probably not be sensitive to the stories embedding these themes when they occur in performances, and there is a strong likelihood that prejudice will be perpetuated. This process is never easy or quick. But it is essential” (Fox J., 2006).

We need to create a laboratory with people whose memberships are Marginalized, for some, and Privileged, for some, to deal with the conflicts that arise when we talk about our systemic differences. A diverse laboratory to deal with the anger experienced by an Empowered Marginalized person in the face of the Indifferent Privilege of the other, and to deal with the painful discomfort of Awareness of Privilege that always wants to return us to the subtle oppression of Inclusion.

In such a laboratory we can learn what to do when the narrator speaks from their privilege. It is a general concern for practitioners “to make sure that oppressive dynamics are not reproduced inside or outside the performance space” (Rivers B. & Chung J., 2019). The ethical guidelines for trainers and practitioners of Playback Theatre, state, among other things: “When necessary we take appropriate action to address prejudice that may be expressed consciously or unconsciously by a teller or workshop participant (Salas J. et al., 2020). Reflection on what appropriate action might be led Jonathan Fox (Fox J., 2006) to write an article called “The Limits of Empathy: Avoiding Bias on Stage” on how to deal, in Playback Theatre, with stories that reveal oppressive prejudice and bias.

To face these complexities there is a horizon that gives me a world of hope. This horizon is shared by Leticia Nieto “even the most oppressive history can be received by anti-oppressive arms willing to support the smallest movement towards liberation” (Nieto L., 2019). This phrase is potent. It is not an easy task, but it is important to develop that capacity. Nieto´s model provides us with the tools to be able to open ourselves – not only to stories of Marginalization, but also to stories of Privilege. Practicing it in a laboratory will give us the experience to be skillful in conducting and enacting those stories.

“The ethical challenge was: how to serve a narrator who does not show an anti-oppressive/anti-racist conscience? We could not protect the public from the statement ‘we have to overcome the race’ with its effect of discount and contempt … What we must do is address it when it becomes apparent; address it without embarrassing the narrator, without going on to educate/indoctrinate, without interrupting the ritual container” (Nieto L., 2019).

  • Fourth and Fifth Level: the lens of all beings in the world and the cosmos

In Ken Wilber’s Integral Ethics, we find two more levels. The fourth level that integrates “all beings in the world”, where the view is extended to the whole network of life on the planet. The fifth level requires having the perspective of all sentient beings in all worlds- where the gaze transcends the planet and is in connection with the place we occupy in the vast and infinite cosmos.

Playback Theatre practices have reached the fourth lens. The reflections of Jo Salas (Salas J., 2019) in the text “Climate change and Playback Theatre” are part of this intention to use Playback Theatre as a tool to open ourselves to the experience of connecting with this level. Integral Ethics invites us to have a daily practice to connect with all levels. Strengthening the necessary muscles that allow developing the ability to assume broader perspectives and keep them in mind. Integral Ethics can be a frame of reference that guides our training.

Figure 4. Anti-oppressive Playback Theatre performance with Néen Teatro Playback and Leticia Nieto (conductor). December 2022

Closing and Opening

Many practitioners have paved the way for an intention to use Playback Theatre to respond to the deep call for social justice. Some have started to describe the learning from this work. There is still much to read, listen, comprehend, practice, dream, systematize to continue investigating and opening  paths.

This article represents one step in the systematization of ideas that can give us a theoretical background to our social justice work in Playback Theatre. Researching and writing it has made me feel that I belong to a community of playbackers who have their minds, hearts and bodies set on transforming the world – on giving the stage and microphone to the stories that reveal Marginalization and Privileges generated by the system of oppression in which we live. To this community, thank you for existing. I see you. I hear you. Let us keep giving life to an Anti-oppressive Playback.


Leticia Nieto, Irene Andrade, Claudia Ledesma, Isabel Pérez, Eva Isela Mejía.

Thank you for being there…

Thank you for the collective journey, the shared path…


Barragán, A. (2021) “El 90 % de las violaciones contra niñas en México sucede en el entorno familiar”. El País. Sección México, Noviembre 3

Fox, J. (2006) “The Limits of Empathy: Avoiding Bias on Stage”. Company Partnership. February

Fox, J. (2018) “But What Is It For?” . Leadership Online Course Lecture notes 5a, Centre for Playback Theatre

Fox, J., and Salas, J. (2021) “Playback Theatre and Social Change (from Personal Stories in Public Spaces: Essays on Playback Theatre by Its Founders)”. Tusitala Publishing, New Paltz, New York

Fox, J. (no year) “The sociopolitical context of our stories”. Leadership Online Course Lecture notes 9a, Centre for Playback Theatre

Heppekausen, J. (2018) “Historias difíciles en tiempos difíciles. Distancia estética y fortalecimiento de la capacidad de acción en la representación teatral tomando como ejemplo el Teatro Playback” Traducción: Cristina Frodden. The IPTN Journal (Interplay). March 11

Nieto, L., and Boyer M. (2006) “Part 1: Understanding Oppression: Strategies in Addressing Power and Privilege” In ColorsNW Magazine, March

Nieto, L., and Boyer M. (2006) “Part 2: Understanding Oppression: Strategies in Addressing Power and Privilege. Skill Sets for Targets” In ColorsNW Magazine, October

Nieto, L., and Boyer, M. (2007) “Part 3: Understanding Oppression: Strategies in Addressing Power and Privilege. Skill Sets for Agents” In ColorsNW Magazine, March

Nieto, L. (2010) “Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment. A developmental strategy to liberate everyone”. Cuetzpalin Publishing. EU

Nieto, L. (2019) Text in Playback Theatre Supervision Course with Jonathan Fox [xx] Salas, J. (2019) “Climate Change and Playback Theatre”. In Playback Theatre Reflects. August 4

Rivers, B., and Chung, J. (2019) “Playback Theatre and Social Change: Functions, Principles and Practices”. In Playback Theatre Reflects. May 21

Rosaldo, R. (1991) Cultura y verdad. Nueva propuesta de análisis social. Grijalvo, México

Rowe, N. (2007), Playing the Other, The Ethical Limitations of Playback Performing (Chapter 9). London: Jessica Kingsley.

Sajnani, N., Crandell D., and Israel, B. (2007) “Workshop: Playback Theatre and Social Justice- What’s at Stake Relative to Diversity and Anti-Oppression”. June 16-18

Salas, J. (2019) “Climate Change and Playback Theatre”. In Playback Theatre Reflects. August 4

Salas, J., (2020) Code of Ethics for trainers and practitioners. Leadership Online Course Lecture notes 10c, Centre for Playback Theatre

Srinivasan, K., Priya L.S.N., and Ravikumar, R. (2020) “Bilal Bagh: Playback Theatre at a Historic Protest by Muslim Women”. In Playback Theatre Reflects. July 10

Walsh, R. (2011) What is Ethics, and What is an Ethical Life? (1). Channel Dr. Roger Walsh //

Wilber, K., Patten, T., Leonard A., and Morelli, M. (2010) “La Ética Integral”, en La Práctica Integral de Vida. Traducción del inglés de David González Raga. Editorial Kairos, 283-313

Further readings

Fox, J. (2018) “The Theory of Narrative Reticulation. A brief description”. December. Leadership Online Course Lecture notes 3a, Centre for Playback

Fox, J. (no year) “Life-changing stories”. Leadership Online Course Lecture notes 8a, Centre for Playback Theatre

Heppekausen, J. (2015) “Lo personal es político: contribución a una ética, a un mundo más humano” Teatros de transformación. Coordinadora Ana María Fernández Espinosa. ÑAQUE Editora, España

Hosking, B., and Christian, C. (2010) “Playback Theatre as a Methodology for Social Change”. In Centre for Playback Theatre -building communities of understanding-. April

Leadership Online Course Lecture notes 2e, Centre for Playback Theatre

Ross, N. (2021) “The Spirit of the Order: Playback Theatre Against the Normalization of Evil”. In Playback Theatre Reflects. January 2

Salas, J. (2011) “The participant performance model”. (Excerpt from “Stories in the Moment: Playback Theatre for Building Community and Justice” by Jo Salas, in Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict, Eds. Cohen, Varea and Walker. New Village Press).

Salas, J. (2017) “Standing Up: Playback Theatre and School Bullying”. In Playback Theatre Reflects.

Volkas, A. (2010) WWGN – Maya interviews Armand Volkas. Channel Worldwidegoodnews. //

Volkas, A. (2013) Interview conducted by Lisa Gale Garrigues, posted 5/23/13 //

About the author

Mireya resides in Mexico, and she is the founder of the Mexican School of Playback Theatre. She completed Leadership Training in Playback Theatre in 2022 and this article is an adaptation of her essay on the same topic.

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By Samantha Swift, Paras Patel & Steve Nash

The Mirror Monster: Psychological Safety and Aesthetic Distance in a Corporate Setting using Playback Theatre
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The Mythological Path of the Playbacker
By Roman Kandibur & Marat Mairovich


In this two part article, we consider Playback Theater as a type of oral tradition. In the first part we focus on the formation of myths from personal stories during a playback performance. In the second part we conduct a comparative analysis between the concepts of Narrative Reticulation (Jonathan Fox) and the Functions of Mythology (Joseph Campbell). Our exploration is presented as a conversation, a dialogue between the two authors, about the benefits of developing mythological awareness among playback practitioners. This is how this text was born. Editing was undertaken, but hopefully some of our banter and self-irony, along with our more serious thoughts, are preserved. Many of the concepts we discuss have been tested in practice, in the most dramatic circumstances, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We did not know that our ideas would be tested in this way. But it happened. We hope that this text will prompt your own understanding of Playback Theater and mythology. Enjoy your trip!

Introduction – Theory and Practice

By the time you read this, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for over a year. And the Ukrainian community of playbackers used and confirmed much of what was written in our article.  Several things helped us continue to use Playback in the conditions of a full-scale invasion:

  • Identity and history: The shock of the first days was felt by the Ukrainian playbackers because of the loss of relations and support. Before the war, we were barely acquainted people with a common interest called Playback Theater. But since the beginning of the war, the community chat has become a powerful tool to support us. Stories about struggle, volunteering, refugees -became part of the community. It united us and made us closer to each other.
  • Serving others: Our cosmogony, our Center of the World began to revolve around the idea that we, as playbackers, can be useful now. We played for people in bomb shelters, refugee shelters, for volunteers. And it wasn’t always a playback performance. Sometimes it was workshops, sometimes just songs, sometimes games.
  • The hero’s path: It took place during our activities, and for the entire community. We heard the call, crossed the threshold, died and were reborn, and came back to life as others. This trip changed not only us, but also the spaces we were in contact with.
  • Allies and assistants: As in many fairy tales and myths, when the hero has problems, aid comes from fairy-tale helpers. The world community of playbackers came to us. The Humanitarian foundation of the Ukrainian School of Playback Theater, which was filled by playbackers from all over the world, was an important material support for many Ukrainian playbackers. This support had an almost sacred meaning. It was important not only because of money, but as a sign that we are cared for and supported. And it gave hope and strength to move forward in the most difficult times of this war.
  • Online community projects: The new space that opened in response to the COVID pandemic, was useful for us. Ukrainian Playbackers used ideas from the article below such as the ‘Supervision Club’, which helped leaders take care of their teams. ‘One-and-a-half rooms’ concentrated on supporting Ukrainian Playbackers, and gave a voice to various professionals, expanding our communications, and allowing community figures to be heard. The ‘Story Collectors’, is a project that documents the war stories of Ukrainian Playbackers. The idea of myth making enabled us to create supportive spaces online. You will find them all in this article.

Part one. Let’s chat about myth

М – Marat Mairovich

R – Roman Kandibur

  • Narrative of the narrative

R: Modern philosophical and scientific thought, postmodernism, for example, talk about narrative (storytelling) as the main manifestation of a person in the world. Everything else is a consequence of the storytelling. It turns out that even science is also narrative in nature.

M: Even the very approach to understanding reality and existence is by its nature narrative.

R: No matter what we do, we still tell stories. Even now, when I tell you this, it is also a story. And even our actions imply narrative. Imagine: a man is packing the pipe. He had done this action hundreds of times before. This is already a habit. But it is based on the story of how to smoke a pipe, which his grandfather told him, and all the stories about how a person first tried tobacco smoke.

M: In general, when we open our mouths, stories are born, even when we are in contemplation, we get a story.

R: Playback Theater is the only thing in modern society now that implies oral tradition. In fact, we refer back to the experience of humanity when all narratives were oral.

M: You’re right. Stories were oral for a reason. They were passed on so that the personal narrative becomes part of the collective experience. In Playback Theater it is there, as well as the transfer of individual and social experience. And they interact.

R: Yes. And it is impossible to convey with the help of a book. The oral tradition developed 70,000 years ago, and writing appeared about 5,000 years ago, during the agrarian revolution. Harari (2011) writes that the first writing was about how much and where grain was stored. It was not originally invented to convey stories.

M: Like Harari, you and I are now creating a story from this. If it is better to tell the narrative orally, rather than write it down, why are we writing all this?

R: Well, we write as if we were talking. We deceived everyone.

R: Then there is a question. We, the playbackers, are reviving the oral tradition, but at the same time, it turns out that we, like all the people, began to perceive stories indirectly, because we created another level of abstraction in the form of text, which formalizes and structures what is happening, as narrative structures our experience. This is no longer from person to person, but rather a person – a text -a person.

M: It seems to me that anyway there will be some adaptation of the narrative here. One adaptation is textual, the other is oral adaptation from generation to generation. In any case we are dealing with a narrative. Contemporary culture creates and conveys stories through text. And before, the adaptation of narratives was gradual, from generation to generation, through oral tradition. It makes me think about what Playback Theater is, and why it is suitable now.

R: Come on, come on!

M: Usually myths are created and adapted from generation to generation – in the oral tradition. We’re talking about mythology and the adaptation of narrative in contemporary art. Now everything in the world is shrinking and accelerating. And so, the adaptation of the narrative turns out to be the moment of ‘compressing’ the narrative on the stage. History, a segment of real life, is compressed and adapted to the necessary questions and answers of the modern world. And we, the playbackers, working with the stories, adapt them to the ‘Here and Now’ of our audience. We also ‘compress’ them because we reproduce them right there in place. Right? Maybe you see some other adaptation of the narrative? Has anything else changed since ancient times?

R: It seems to me that the character has changed. We are now living in the era of humanism. Right? Human rights, market economy, liberal democracy. One way or another, this is all clear to almost every homo sapiens on earth. Well, that’s what Harari says. In ancient times stories by the fire were told about gods, ancestors, animals, while man was just a small part of the big picture of the world. Now, the myth of the gods is not relevant. The myth about ourselves is more relevant to us.

M: Ok, I accept. Although if we are talking about Hellenism, then there are already undivine elements of the myth.

R: Yes. But Odysseus is a demigod. They are all a little bit not human … They are heroes! Well, this is a Greek epos.

M: I agree, gods influence events, but they are not about gods. Well, mostly about them.

R: Therefore, answering your question, Playback Theater is very relevant to the modern world. We rely on the ancient experience of myth-making, directing it to the modern humanistic narrative.

M: Well, yes, way to go! Accepted.

  • The power of myth

M: I know that myths are divided into two types: the first is about the creation of the world (cosmogonic myth), and the second is about the awareness of the world.

R: Do I understand correctly that the first one is “The world was created in 6 days, and on the 7th there was a party”, and the second is about what?

M: The second type is about initiation, transformation and life cycle transitions. For example, a boy becomes a man.

R: And these myths unfold through Campbell’s functions: a description of the world, its laws and rules, the path of transformation and healing, a miracle (Campbell, 2004).

M: The power of myth is not only in ritual, but also in the size of the tribe connected to it. The myth is especially strong when many people are connected to it through the same ritual. For example, the Jewish holiday of Passover, when they read the Passover Haggadah (the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt – הגדה): the same text for many generations, they eat the same food, and sing the same songs. Even a person who does not believe in God quite often experiences sentimental feelings and a feeling of “connectedness” to his people, ancestors. The same can be found in all cultures: Christmas, Shivaratri, etc. But, on the other hand, if during the same Easter dinner, grandfather tells a story from his life, then (in my opinion) it will be less powerful than the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

R: It all depends on what you use to measure the amount of power.

M: In my opinion, the power of influence of a myth is the number of people affected by this myth and their ability to participate in the rituals associated with it. Strength for me depends on the people and generations connected to the myth and on the frequency of repetition of rituals.

R: And what if grandfather’s story influenced the life of his grandson so much that, even being told once, it completely organized his whole future life?

M: Then we have different measurement criteria. But both are relevant, especially for Playback Theater.

R: I think they are relevant for art in general. A shaman in an African tribe and a performer at the crossroads of Avenue Street in New York are doing the same thing – they revive the myth through ritual. Richard Schechner (2004) wrote about this in his fundamental work on performance studies.

M: Yes, they (shamans/performers) create the ritual space. And the story of the grandfather was told in the ritual space “Seder Pesach”, which is also the point of unification of the individual and social influence of the myth. Then the influence of such a platform as, for example, Zoom, can have a very large impact, as a space of mythology, because we can create great and powerful myths that are not controlled by geographical and cultural boundaries.

R: And in this sense, the strength of Playback Theater and myth, is very relevant. After all, we live in a time of postmodernism, when the main action is narrative and messages.

  • Playback Theater as an act of myth-making 

M: Personally, I have this need – to tell a story at a Playback Theater performance. Why? It seems to me that we have a dialogue in our life all the time: subconscious – conscious. In the process of telling a story, and in the process of watching how it is played back, the story is “packaged”, some subconscious things emerge.

R: Well, yes. We (playbackers) “package” the narrative into a specific form that allows us to understand the hidden meanings of the story. The same story can be packaged differently. And the meanings may be different.

M: Yes, different meanings. And sometimes people tell traumatic stories multiple times. They share them at the performances of different companies, at rehearsals, repeating and checking various types of “packages“. Just to let others play with the story like children play in the sandbox. They seem to say – this is my story, I feel bad with it, I cannot understand its meanings, because it hurts. And then, watching it come to life on the stage, he begins to realize some layers that he himself could not reach.

R: That is, it happens thanks to the packaging / shape?

M: Yes. If we work according to the laws of mythology, the packaging itself becomes transcendentally deep. Because a myth is a story that works for everyone, and it is something that can be passed on from generation to generation, its influence extends to the whole society. At the same time, the myth is always relevant at the individual level, it clings to personal layers, answers basic questions. What works here is that the form helps the content to manifest. The myth teaches us to “correctly” comprehend a personal story.

R: Yes, and here’s what I thought. In playback, we often literally play stories; we reproduce the text without creating aesthetics. And if we perceive a story as a myth, and generally think about it as a myth, then we will go into the depths of the story.

M: Yes, we will be freer, and we will see wider and deeper.

R: Remember, at the festival in Odessa you said that the story itself is not a myth, but the story told in Playback Theater is a myth? So, the very process of performance creates a myth.

M: Well, yes, like in Campbell’s approach.

R: Yes, in the book Pathways to Bliss (Campbell, 1949) he describes the four functions of myth: Cosmogony, Laws of Morality, Path of Transformation and Miracle. Playback fits all of these features. The story describes the space of action, the place of action, describes the laws and rules that live in this story, has a personal impact on the transformation (self-impact) of not only the storyteller, but also all those present. Stories told in the playback performance give rise to the red thread of this performance, and their connectedness gives the feeling of a miracle.

M: Campbell also says that today art carries out the function of creating and disseminating mythology. That is, modern shamans and priests are artists, actors and directors. And I believe that one of the main playback functions is myth-making. Playback works with personal stories, turning them into mythical ones, that is, stories that are relevant not only to one person, but to the entire community, so that others can find their own questions and answers related to this myth.

R: For example, a personal story about breaking up with a girl turns into a Lost Love myth. The story told in the space of the Playback Theater performance ritual is a myth. Oral tradition in the flesh.

M: Yes. And in this way, we, like our ancestors, transmit knowledge about this world.

  • Miracle and story

M: It seems to me that a miracle happens when a story is told and suddenly it comes to life on stage.

R: Campbell says that in every myth there is this sense of magic, of a miracle. And our thesis is that any story told in Playback Theater becomes a myth. Let’s say the storyteller shares: “I drank a delicious cup of coffee in the morning” – there seems to be nothing magical about it. But in fact, there is. When we reproduce this story on stage – in a song, or a dance, or any other figurative form, then the effect of miraculousness will just appear.

M: Well, yes. Miracle in playback is the transformation of the mundane into the magical. Another element of myth-making is that many people are involved in its creation. Here the actors are the conductors of the magic, and the audience witnesses the miracle.

R: Spectators thereby become participants in the action. Not only for the storyteller does it become magic, but the miracle manifests itself for everyone, for the entire community.

M: Yeah. First, the appearance of the storyteller on the stage and the story itself. Then the transformation of the story into a myth. And perhaps the spontaneity and improvisation of the actors on stage is the condition for the appearance of a miracle?

R: Spontaneity is magic in Playback Theater. Why is spontaneity magic? Because a miracle in itself is a life in uncertainty, beyond logic, beyond cause-and-effect relationships. It’s when we feel some kind of connection between events A and B, however our logic, our apparatus of reason cannot draw this line, this line is only in the sensory sphere.

M: Yes! We are looking for connections. Not logical connections, but, as you said, precisely at the sensory level, at the level of experiences and impulses. Or maybe something that connects strangely, but doesn’t feel like a miracle? For me, a miracle is also fascination, the perception of the divine, a miracle is something that delights, terrifies, evokes strong feelings.

R: In life we can reduce the intensity of experiences. The instinct of self-preservation works in the head. The mind tries to maintain the familiar perception of the world. But on stage, playback enhances the experience. It comes to life and turns out to be a real magic. Viewers often say, “How do you do this? This is really some kind of magic!”

M: Exactly. The playbacker operates on a territory where everything is magical. This is the space of the collective unconscious.

R: The viewer does not see a logical connection; he does not understand how we do it. Accordingly, he has a sensory response, and magic happens for him. So, this IS magic.

  • What the spectator sees on the stage

R: When the viewer listens to the storyteller, he has two processes. Rational and sensual. I identify with both the story and the storyteller. The viewer perceives stories from their identities: gender, age, occupation, etc. And the second is sensual, he empathizes, and can share these feelings. While listening to the story, the viewer creates an internal architecture, a building in his head called “I understood the story”.

M: And when an actor plays a story on stage, this building can collapse. Surprise!

R: Yes, surprise. We want to be surprised. Often, we hear from the teller: “Oh, the performers saw something else in this story, something more that I didn’t pay attention to.”

M: Good. And the second thing?

R: Second, there is the main element of the story, which must necessarily manifest itself on the stage. That is, in playback, the viewer simultaneously wants two opposite things from the actors: to be surprised and to be shown the essence of the story.

M: The viewer craves for Miracle/Spontaneity and …

R: Yes. The viewer has just heard the story, he understood something about it, but when the actors, for example, start singing it, this is ‘wow’ for the viewer. On the other hand, if the actors do not reproduce the essence of the story, the viewer will be disappointed. That is, the Ego of the hero changes, but at the same time the Soul remains unchanged.

M: Yes. Singing is aesthetics. And through aesthetics we can get to the Miracle.

R: Yes, the practical task of aesthetics is to destroy the circumstances, the plot. For example, the story is about an office worker who is trying to submit an accounting report, and the actors can play it through the myth about Don Quixote and his struggle with windmills. Such an aesthetic filter brings pleasure to the viewer, because it surprises. This, by the way, is the essence of humor. Humor is about an unexpected decision that is not in everyday perception.

M: By the way, the game is built on the same principle. Some rules of the game are created, which are broken at some point. This is often the essence of humor.

R: Yes. We want to go beyond the cognitive perception of the world. As you said, we want a Miracle. Thus, there are two parts in story: the holy, sacred part – this is the heart of story – and the everyday world. On the altar stage the actors sacrifice a routine and remake it, preserving the essence, and then return the same story, only now completely sacred. And it is at this point that story finally becomes tribal and turns into a myth.

M: I agree, the essence of the story is preserved. At the same time, at the intuitive/archetypal level, the actors create an element of miracle/spontaneity. And for a miracle to happen, you need to create a sacred space.

  • Sacred geometry of a performance

R: Stories unfold in a specific space. And if it were a different space, there would be different stories. In Odessa, one performance in winter, a storm began, a blizzard, everything was covered with snow, and only three spectators came. At the same time, the actors thought that no one would come at all. And now this is already a big story – the circumstances, this blizzard and storm, united all the participants in the performance and influenced its atmosphere/cosmogony.

M: I agree. And here the squaring of the circle turns up. Campbell mentions this in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (Campbell, 1949). The squaring of the circle is a kind of symbol of the transition from earthly to heavenly. And this appeals to me with playback and with a myth. So, a holy place, for example, a church, a building in the form of a square, denoting the four cardinal points, and in the middle of this building there is a round altar. And this is the place where the hero meditates, realizes himself in the Universe, his destiny.

R: Then it turns out that the essence of the ritual is the unification of a square and a circle, Earth and Heaven. What is impossible to do in an ordinary state of consciousness, but only in a ritual trance.

M: Yes, and let’s think about the playback process through this sacred geometry. The performance of Playback Theater is a sacred event, and it should take place in a sacred space. That is, we are building some kind of temple for sacred rites. And this is important. Jonathan Fox is talking about this, albeit in a different language.

R: The simple phrase “building up the stage” has a deep meaning and requires a lot of attention. Because what we do every time is we erect a temple and an altar and consecrate them. Playback architects.

M: That’s right. So how does it work? The room in which we play is usually square, and people, playbackers and spectators, very often sit in an oval.

R: Where is our playback circle? I don’t always have people sitting in a semicircle. Usually, the seats for the spectators are parallel to the stage.

M: Well, we definitely have a circle when we close the space with the audience. On one side there is the storyteller, the conductor, then the actors sit in a semicircle, even if the rows are parallel rather than in a semicircle. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Playback Theater performance circle

R: And inside there is the emptiness of the stage, this is the altar, the center of the temple, to which we all go, where the hero’s meditation takes place.

M: Yes. The spectator comes to the temple, and when he becomes the storyteller, he puts the story on the altar-stage, and then the actors meditate on this story, turning it into a myth.

R: Very powerful. I want to return to this moment of preparing the space for the performance – building a temple. Our spaces, where we conduct performances, are square. This is the manifested world in which we perform a physical action – we set up chairs, set up lights, set up music.

M: Yes. And there is also a circle, our “altar”. And here the question is, how do we sanctify it?

R: In my theater, there is a ritual when, just before going on stage, we stand in a circle and count to 21 so that only one playbacker speaks aloud at a time. And if we screw it, then we start counting from the beginning. This is how we tune in and create the initial seed of holiness-trance, with which we consecrate the scene when we open the performance.

M: Yes. All the playback groups I’ve worked with have a similar ritual. One way or another, before the performance, all of them stand in a circle! But I do not agree that we ourselves consecrate the scene – the storyteller does this, telling us a story. When the playback ritual occurs.

M: For me, the sacred temple and the squaring of the circle happens during the performance. The temple and the altar are just a building and an object, and only ritual and action, and a properly prepared atmosphere gives a lot of immersion. But I agree that preparation itself can also be called sacred. Okay, can you divide the concepts into Consecration (preparation) and Sacred action (performance itself)?

R: In my practice, it is important for me to define the value of preparation, this is “building the scene”, since in my opinion, the quality of attention of the playbackers to preparation is super important. “Good enough” Playback Theater is when the actors build a temple and consecrate it with their efforts and attention, their inner ritual, and then open up the space for the entire tribe. And the square of the circle during the performance, the altar of the temple, is open not only to the priest-actors, but also to the storyteller …

M: Exactly. This reminds me of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (Campbell, 1949) the part where the hero finds himself in “The Womb of the Whale.” He is swallowed up by some kind of power, a certain Whale, a cave, a garbage compartment on a star ship. The same thing happens during a performance in Playback Theater. The storyteller, who is leading the ritual, moves from his usual environment, the audience, to the stage. He separates from the tribe, rises on the stage and is “absorbed” by it, that is, our altar/Whale; and then the Whale (the stage) spits him out, and he comes out different.

R: Yes, on stage, on the storyteller’s chair, like in the belly of a whale, a person finds himself isolated from ordinary society and everyday life. This is a very important experience. People have forgotten how to live in isolation, weightlessness, inactivity, peace. The myths that they have consumed in recent decades were about active doing. For example Batman, Superman, Cat woman, Frodo, Anna and Elsa. Playback Theater teaches us not only to be active, but also to be passive.

M: I agree! After all, Buddha actively studied with many famous teachers for a long time, but he never found enlightenment. And, just sitting under Bo’s tree, he isolated himself and said, “until I reach enlightenment, I won’t get up from here.” And here I have a strong connection with the story of Jonathan Fox and his isolation in Nepal.

  • Sacred rules 

R: Sacred rules are about the fact that the laws of morality and ethics came not from human relations, but from the divine. Moses received the tablets on Mount Sinai (Semitic myth), Vyasa wrote Mahabharata (Hindu myth), Odin taught people runes (Scandinavian myth). Relationships between people and morality are not a human invention, but divine laws that came from above.

M: Interesting. I haven’t thought about it yet. And does this have anything to do with Narrative Reticulation? (Fox, 2019)

R: Actually, the laws and regulations are the Ritual, which is voiced by the conductor. That is Guiding. The conductor talks about the playback rules: we raise our hand, we listen carefully to the story, we play it. The conductor, in this place, becomes some kind of actual conductor of the sacred rule. It was not people who came to the performance and agreed on the rules by which everything would happen. Someone came and said ‘this is how it goes’ from Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas; they are like the Prophets of the Supreme Being.

M: The Ritual plays the role of a moral code, which in our case was brought by Jonathan and Jo?

R: Well, they brought it from humanistic concepts that arise from Christian-Jewish morality. Plus, Jonathan’s reclusion in Nepal also falls on this idea.

M: Why is the Ritual important and what is its power?

R: The Ritual separates the individual profane (ordinary) space from the individual sacred (sacred). And similarly, the social profane – from the social sacred. But where is this border between social and individual myth?

M: And where, according to this border, is Playback Theater? For example, in the year of the pandemic, Jonathan started the Listening Hour (Fox, 2020) project (in the Russian-speaking environment you can find the name “Circle of Stories”), and he just listens to stories. Is this enough for a myth?

R: Listening Hour has its own ritual. There is a Guide, there are rules that organize the storytelling, and there is a creative act of the Guide at the end, when he collects all the stories (red thread) – called a “reprise”. Perhaps the very act of telling and listening creates the atmosphere and flow of the stories, thereby creating a myth.

M: Does the therapist create mythology in an individual session? How are we playbackers different from a psychotherapist? After all, it seems to us that it is precisely and especially playback that creates the myth in which the entire tribe is healed.

R: Psychotherapy also works with myths. After all, there is an idea in society about who psychotherapists are. It is with this view that the client comes into the session. As one of the representatives of this profession, I know that within a session there is even a shamanic experience, just like in playback.

M: The question is not in the idea of psychotherapy, but in what happens inside the process. And this is an individual experience. It reminds me of individual myths about how a child goes through his initialization and turns into an adult. Always, at the beginning and, especially, at the end, there is a connection to the tribe.

R: Well then, psychotherapy is a myth about isolation, where a transformation takes place in a small closed sacred space, after which the Hero returns to the world. And in playback …

M: … A social myth is created in which the entire tribe is involved, and in which there is a connection to both individual and universal human experience.

R: Yes. Playback Theater is in the middle, between big social myths and individual myths, this is our strength, the Power of Myth and Ritual!!!

  • Ritual, cyclicity, game

M: If we say that myth is ritual, then one of its properties is repetitiveness and cyclicity. In this case, the improvisation itself can be of ritual character. That is, cyclical. We can come up with structures on the fly, creating some rules with which you can work on stage.

R: Improvisation is ritualized. We have a bunch of rules. Always say “yes”. Tuning in… and so on.

M: I mean how we play on stage. For example, a game is a rule/structure that appears right here and now. The actor begins to act somehow, and there are two options for the reaction of his partners. They either support, following this rule, or they act exactly the opposite.

R: That is, the Game, as a structure created during the game, is born on the altar/stage, and thus becomes a ritual. For me, what you say about repeatability is very important. Myths and rituals are characterized by repetition, this is an integral part of the tradition. No matter how many times we play a wedding, the ritual will be the same. Different people, different places, but the wedding is the same. For Pesach, for instance, twelve courses and so on.

M: No-no-no, I understand where you are taking me. You say that for all myths there is a form of ritual, and I say that within the myth there are elements of Game. For example, the famous tale about Tsar Saltan: he turned into a fly, flew, bit, returned. Then he turned into a mosquito. All the time he turns into something and bites. This is the element of constant repetition.

R: And so it happens in many tales and legends. For example, Cinderella has three tasks. And by the way, in J. Campbell’s monomyth (Campbell, Moyers & Flowers, 1988) – this happens before the battle with the dragon, here is such a cyclical nature.

M: Before, during and after.

R: And usually there are unbearable tasks that cannot be completed. This is not possible in everyday reality. But in a fairy tale (myth), the hero copes with this, relying on magical abilities. This creation of something on the stage, happens through some repetitive actions. These patterns carry energy, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the aesthetics brought by the actor. Perhaps this aesthetics is not in the story itself. But thanks to the combination of this repetition, support and so on, we can build some Cosmogony on the stage, some architectural work. The architecture is invisible, but it is present, and everyone is witnessing this building.

M: Plus. The structure is architectural in nature. We can, by word or action, create structure through cyclical, repetitive, and ritualistic. Just like architects and builders build a building floor by floor.

R: Then it turns out that at some point we need to destroy this building.

M: Yes. Break the Game, that is, change the already established rules. But, breaking Game, you do not ignore it, you base on it. Look, if this is a structure, then you can look at it as a kind of shell, a prison that holds the hero until he can break it and thereby change his world. And the fact that we are spinning in a circle in life, it is cyclical, as we cannot get out of it. The Wheel of Samsara. And to get out of it, we, as a Hero, must die, but we die in this action. We die and are reborn as others. We change ourself with the help of heaven. Perhaps our earthly cycle and circle limits us. We thereby reach a new level of ourselves, opening up new opportunities.

R: Yes. And here we are helped by the laws that Joseph Campbell formulated for us in “The Four Functions of Myth” (Campbell, 2004) and Jonathan Fox in “Narrative Reticulation.” (Fox, 2019) This connection will help us to consciously approach the sacred architecture that we build in game and Playback Theater in general.

  • Afterword to Part 1

R: The story that is told and played back in Playback Theater becomes a myth.

M: To comprehend a story from the point of view of a myth is to dive deep. We connect not only to a specific story/storyteller/audience, but also to a common human experience.

 R: Playbackers prepare the space for the performance – they build a temple and an altar, connecting the square and the circle, the Earth and the Sky.

M: Myths are cyclical, like the existence itself. Then game is a microcosm that repeats the macrocosm of life.

 R: Playbackers are conductors of sacred rules. We teach these laws to spectators.

M: Miracles occur in our life all the time, but it is the temple / stage that allows us to realize / feel them in full.

R: Dear reader, that was the first part of our journey. Shall we go ahead?

Figure 2. The authors share their finished article in Izki, Ukraine, 2021. (Photo by Lina Tolkacheva)

Part 2. Playback through the myth-making prism

  • Junction points between Functions of a Myth and Narrative Reticulation

R: I’m interested in understanding the general mechanism of Campbell’s myth and making a comparative analysis with Fox’s Narrative Reticulation.

M: Narrative reticulation. Why do we need this theory, if in practice we are already doing everything that it says? I understand that Fox means that we should improve the quality of our actions through awareness. And he creates a theory that helps to structure experience and look at the world through this prism. We may be doing the same with myth-making. That is, if we know the Functions of Myth (FM) and Narrative Reticulation (NR), then there can be direct practical benefits from a comparative analysis of these theories. And through this analysis, we can improve the quality of our creativity. Right?

R: I agree, and it is important that in the moment of theorizing, our thoughts about the Functions of Myth and the theory of Narrative Reticulation intersect and mutually complement each other. For me, this is like confirmation of both theories.

M: I agree. It seems to me that in this way the theory of NR receives an anthropological theoretical foundation. After all, when a theory meets other scientific theories (argues or agrees, elaborates on them), it becomes more grounded.

R: Let’s put everything in a table.

M: Sure. So, we present to your attention a table of concepts from NR and FM. Here, it is only important to say that we do not quote the authors, but voice our own understanding, and we bring attention to the articles and books in the bibliography for a more complete study of all aspects of these theories.

M: Let’s do it stage by stage, let’s talk about the Atmosphere and Cosmogony. For me, the Atmosphere is something primary. Of course, it will change in the process too, but its main function is manifested before the beginning, and what we, as performers, can influence, can actually create. Performance is based on a foundation; this is cosmogony. What was done “Before.”

R: Yes. And the important moment of the Atmosphere and Cosmogony is time. As a category of everything existent, as the points of beginning and end.

M: So, what can be done before the “manifestation of the world”? We can prepare space, light. And here I want to remind you about squaring the circle.

R: Yes. After all, the temple is a model or reflection of the universe. The space of performance in essence reflects all those stories and states which we can bring into it. That is why it is worth looking at the space-time of the performance through the eyes of a demiurge architect.

M: How the ends of the world are connected the dome of heaven. So, the awareness of the atmosphere/cosmogony should be all encompassing. Like the myth, it is worth creating a sense of transition through all our chakras (from the base/animal to the sublime divine/heavenly).

R: Therefore, we need to realize, legalize and use the elements of space-time. For example, where is the entrance to the performance space, or how the light falls, or how to put chairs for the audience, or how to send a Zoom meeting link to the spectators. All this is sacred geometry, the walls of our temple.

M: Great. Now let’s talk about Guiding/Laws of Morality.

R: I have a feeling that both Guiding and the Laws of Morality are the glue that prevents this circus from falling apart. These are the principles of structure formation.

M: I agree. Guiding has to be ethical and fair. The main figure of the guiding is the conductor. And he brings in moral rules and goodness. He rounds the ends of the audience/community to the center, that is, he takes care of everyone. He dictates the rules of ethical and empathic treatment of storytellers and opinions of different parts of the audience/society.

R: And then who is a conductor through the prism of Joseph Campbell’s Functions of Mythology?

M: God! United and fair!! And also, a Guide giving the right advice (from the point of view of the Path of the Hero).

R: I completely agree with the Guide, but not with God.

R: Let’s agree that the Conductor is the Prophet.

M: Well, okay. After all, the Prophet, he is a part of God, His voice (the Voice of God).

R: Still, what is the practical application of Guiding/Morality?

M: Not to forget about the outcast. God loves everyone, and therefore everyone should be heard. It cannot be otherwise, else a community will not be created.

R: Thanks to laws/rituals, we do not question our innocence or legitimacy every time. Here’s a metaphor: we take on the “burden of the commandments” of the playbacker, entering a special performative state of service. The perception of Guiding at the level of feelings “makes the river flow, the banks direct the water, and the river does not turn into a swamp.” Therefore, it is not only about knowing the rules and rituals and telling the audience about them, but also about taking them as a vow, as a spiritual practice, and feeling them.

M: Yes, well said!!

R: Oh my, and yet what can we say about Story and Way of, God forbid, Transformations?

M: What do you want Roma, it’s the same thing, well, almost. In essence, in both there is a certain chronology, certain pattern of their unfolding.

R: And this is wonderful, I especially like what you said about chronology, it seems to me that this is the very practical side of the correspondence between story and transformation. Will you repeat?

M: The story has its own laws, and they cannot be violated, even if the narration is not linear, it is still logical.

R: And you can realize this with your mind, but more often with your own intuition. The playbacker learns to feel the hidden tempo-rhythm in history, to find the Heart of History – its true essence.

M: Yes. The story consists of ‘cubes-events’. The way the cubes are arranged, the transitions from one cube to another, and their overall totality is Story. Platform-Essence-Epilogue or Start-Mid-End. This logic of arranging cubes-events is exactly what guides us in the process of the story and builds the structure.

R: If we look at the logic of the change of events, the speed of their alternation (tempo-rhythm/chronotope), their intensity, then thanks to all the above we will be able to see the Heart of the Story. But, since there are often a lot of data, this is not even about “seeing”, but rather it’s about “feeling”. The heart of the Story opens rather through intuition.

M: Okay, now Miracle! And Spontaneity.

R: It turns out that Miracle is a kind of clarity or aesthetics that manifests itself from an ocean of possibilities. Thus, by adjusting the quality of contact between all participants in the performance, we create an ‘altar’ on which the hidden is manifested.

M: And the miracle is that it is impossible to cognize it with consciousness. Impossible to structure.

R: Yes, this is a kind of sensory experience that passes through our bodies and minds and is embodied on the stage. That is, the magic is not in the uncertainty itself, but in the fact that we combine our material nature (body, voice, consciousness) with the energy that came from the “Flow” (Csikszentmihályi, 1990).

M: Well, good. So, we’re done discussing the table. Important note. All these elements are not absolutely related and identical. They seem to be talking to each other. And sometimes they can be combined in a different way. For example, Jonathan Fox’s Story may well intertwine with Campbell’s Path of Transformation, as we suggested in the article, but also with Campbell’s Miracle.

I suggest finalizing this part. The most important practical application of our concept is healing. Campbell writes that by restoring the flow of symbols (myth), we connect the conscious and unconscious that are in a narrative dialogue, which is actually an integrity.

M: Yes! And it’s wonderful.

R: This is the conciliatory power of the Playback Theatre

M: And the myth.

R: And then it turns out that this stream of symbols is suspiciously like the Red Thread, what do you think?

M: YES! And also to the Path of the Hero.

Narrative Reticulation/Function of MythologyShort description of Narrative ReticulationShort description of Functions of a Myth
Atmosphere/ Cosmogony
M: This is what surrounds the performance in the physical space (weather, buildings, interior) and in the cultural space (information environment and mentality) “here and now”.

R: And also, this is the time of the performance (time of day, day of the week, season of the year, holidays or special dates). It affects both spectators and actors.
R: This is the manifested world and its structure, the myth of the appearance and destruction of this world. Past-Present-Future.

M: The place of a person in the Oikumene, the structure of the world. The logic of the emergence of “I”.

R: The level of pure energies, primary elements. Primary ambivalences such as Chaos-Order, Fate-Chance, Good-Evil, Heaven-Earth.
Guiding/ Moral laws and regulations
R: For me, this is primarily a Ritual and the distribution of power and responsibility.

M: I wouldn’t say power, it’s rather control! And first of all, conscious control.

R: Guiding is landmarks that guide us towards a certain state (tribal rallying, healing, “every story counts”).
The laws of morality and ethics
M: How to organize chaos and protect yourself by helping the tribe.

R: The essence of the laws between people – laid in heaven (“tablets of the covenant“)

M: social distribution: King / merchant / commoner.

R: The sacredness of the social structure.
Story/ Personal transformation path  Story
R: Narrative, verbalized experience. Story is a logical sequence of events.

M: Story is like nested dolls / Matryoshka, it can be multi-level.

R: It covers both personal stories of and the story of a place, community, state, humanity.

M: In playback it is the Red Thread and four levels of a story.  

Personal transformation path
R: This is a sequence of initiations that help a person come into the world, from a child to come of age, then become an adult, accept old age, and prepare for the Dark Gate.

M: The cycle of life of nature (spring-summer-autumn-winter) and that of a person.

R: It is the death and resurrection of the Ego, the balance between spirit and personality.

M: and between the senses and the mind…

R: That is, body and mind.

M: In general, all that we can express with the phrase the Path of a Hero
Spontaneity /Miracle
M: It is Here and Now, connecting to the senses, reacting to the atmosphere, story and guiding.

R: Connectedness. Existential dialogue between I and You, impulses that are born from contact. It is also about the actions of the actors, about the “birth” of stories in the audience and about the spontaneous interventions of the conductor.

M: Creativity.
M: An unknown event that evokes admiration.

R: I would even say that blows your mind. Living in a territory of uncertainty.

M: Divine, Unconscious event – Discontinuity. 

R: Connection with all that exists, extra-linguistic experience.

M: Indescribable, noradrenaline and endorphin (shake, but do not stir). God peeps out from behind a cloud.
A comparison between elements of Narrative Reticulation and Functions of Myth
  • Path of a Storyteller

R: The performance is the integral Path of the Hero. The storyteller/hero hears the call, he answers it and raises his hand to tell the story. The conductor comes to him as an assistant and invites him to cross the threshold. And then the storyteller crosses the Threshold, the stage boundary. What’s going on next? Death. For the transformation to take place, he must die. How does he die? He disappears because as a person he ceases to exist in the focus of attention of the playback ritual: on the stage he is embodied by the actor.

M: AKIR? Don’t be greedy, tell the whole world about your term.

R: AKIR is the abbreviation we use at the Ukrainian School of Playback Theater. The initial letters for the Russian phrase for “Актер Который Играет Рассказчика” (“The Actor Who Plays the Storyteller”) – AKIR.

M: Good term. Everyone who has read it – use it!

R: Let’s continue. The storyteller disappears/dies, and his counterpart, AKIR, lives on the stage.

M: It is a process of transformation. Death and rebirth. This is how the myth manifests itself.

R: Yes, and the criterion of the Path of the Hero is that the journey changes not only the hero himself, but the whole world around him. Campbell talks about it.

M: Awesome. Our hero’s path and mythology are intertwined. Because the myth changes all the people in the audience, since they are either witnesses or participants in the creation of this myth. That is, we have a process in which all are involved. Some are more active; some are less active.

R: And all spectators can equally be heroes.

M: Yes, and of course there are spectators who choose not to tell the story. They are thrashed or they simply did not join the performance process, and they are not ready to hear the Call and become a Hero. In this case, they become secondary characters of this myth-making. Witnesses.

R: There is also a projection mechanism. If the spectator has not told the story, then they can identify with the storyteller. Many people experience this feeling: “What to tell, what to tell?” And then someone comes out and tells. And then in his head: “Oh, this is my story!”

M: Well, yes, being a hero is not easy. It’s like a princess who threw away the frog’s skin. That is, the path that the spectator would also like to go, but he was afraid and did not let himself go there.

R: Well, here’s a question to the conductor. To what extent was he a quality assistant and guide through the Threshold?

M: Perhaps the question is not only for the conductor, the question for the spectator, is he ready to become a hero at this stage of his life? And then the question is, who do we have then as the Dragon for the storyteller?

R: It seems to me that the audience itself is the Dragon. The judgement of the audience.

M: Cool, yes.

R: Go out and tell something in front of this whole audience, it’s scary. And it turns out that the eyes of all these people, their attention – this is the Challenge, the Dragon, the fight against it. It is located inside the head of the storyteller. That is, it is clear that no one beats up the storyteller. This is the inner fear of evaluation, the fear of rejection. What he copes with when he goes on stage.

M: This is an inner and outer critic. Our life processes can be stalled by criticism. The storyteller does not physically fight for his place on stage. If he had to go through the audience, physically making his way … I don’t know, it’s my logic that works this way.

R: Well here … Well, what is the Dragon doing?

M: Guardian of treasures.

R: Yes. The dragon checks whether the hero is worthy or not. This is one of the checks. It he is going to cope or not. Well, it seems to me that this whole process, the need to get up and go out, is a check and a test.

M: It seems to me that leaving the audience is not a Dragon after all. The whole process of the emergence of the storyteller is the Path of the Hero:

• First, the conductor acts as an external Call – “Who has a story?”

• The spectator raises his hand in response to the Call.

• He goes to the Path, passing through the audience, rejecting himself from the usual life, crossing the Threshold, and finding himself in the distant kingdom – on the stage.

• The conductor turns into an assistant-sage.

R: Exactly! Then I realized who the Dragon is!  The hero-storyteller fights with the Dragon – a chthonic creature – with his emotions and images of the past, critic, chaos of the unconscious, turning it into a structure. Feelings, events and images become a narrative, a story.

M: And then when his story is played on stage, two things happen:

• The symbolic death of the hero – he disappears from the focus of attention – everyone is looking at the stage.

• The acquisition of the Elixir – sacred knowledge that transforms both the storyteller and the entire tribe (audience). That is, thanks to the actors’ play, the storyteller gains a new vision of his story.

R: Yes. And then the Hero returns home with the Elixir, i.e.:

• The storyteller becomes part of the audience/tribe again.

M: This is the Path of the Hero, which the storyteller goes through.

R: And this is only one part of the process, because the Hero is not only the storyteller himself, but also all the participants in the performance.

M: Yes, because the whole audience seems to delegate the storyteller to come out, because he is a representative of the audience.

R: For example, the Red Thread phenomenon is a story told by an entire tribe. This means the Path of the Hero, which we walked together during the performance, and our common myth that was born in the process.

(A story made up of all the stories told in the performance. The Red Thread appears during the performance. It can be linear and follow the Aristotelian arch. It can be interrupted. One of the reasons for the creation of NR is an attempt to answer the question of why the Red Thread appears. There can be several Red Threads, depending on who is looking at the performance and how.

An example from the performance by “Neighbors” Playback Theatre, when the stories were like this:

1) To share your inspiration

2) To go on vacation to Zanzibar and hear the roar while walking in the jungle. It was … a scooter.

3) To be constantly on the move. Losing a home and rebuilding everything again. And so on in a circle. “Lord, why!?”

4) To get angry with an emotional employee, and then be in her place.

5) To say goodbye to a good job for your dream job.

In my opinion, the Path of the Hero is clear in this performance. He goes the path of transformation, hearing the Call and sharing his inspiration with the world, but finds himself in a dark forest, where he is frightened, and the charm disappears. Then he loses everything he has. Death and Rebirth: The Hero gets angry and turns into his Shadow. And the Hero realizes his destiny, and he has enough strength to go his own way.)

M: Yes! This is a good interpretation. And then there is the very theme of the performance, chosen and announced by the team. And also, how the actors reveal this topic through personal stories in the introduction and the conductor through Guiding.

R: And what happens to the Playback Theater company in the process of company life is also, in a sense, the Path of the Hero and transformation.

M: Yes, you are right, and for every participant in this performance who brought something from home with him.

R: I agree. It’s hard to believe that I’m saying this, but in my opinion, it’s time for us to summarize.

M: Well, let’s finish it?

  • Mythological awareness of a playbacker

R: I become alive when the myth unfolds among the participants in the performance, in this space, with these stories, when I say “Yes” to the reality that happens here and now. There is a new energy, a new perception of the world, connections within the community become more significant and valuable.

M: Good. But what if for you, just like for me, playback is already an old and very familiar story?

R: Yes, and this is a big trap for us playbackers. Because it’s not an old story. Here’s an example. Not so long ago I came to teach Playback Theater at the festival of spiritual practices in Lithuania. I came as, you know, such a cool and well-known coach, I just gave a training in Odessa. And I hit reality hard with all my narcissistic face. A huge festival with a zillion people, but only one person comes to my master class.

M: Wow! Why?

R: Because I acted from my old experience, from the fact that I know everything and can do everything.

M: Is it somehow connected?

R: It is. Because when I started to throw away my masks and look at what is really happening here, I was able to develop a different narrative, a different text, with the help of which I began to invite people to my master class: so that they would come. That is, I have combined the global Playback Theater myth and the local history of the festival. And it all worked when both myths (I-Playback-Theater and I-festival) were in consensus.

M: To quote Campbell: “Yes, myths offer models of life, but models must be acceptable for the time in which you live and for that place. And our time is measured by the speed, so what was acceptable fifty years ago is unacceptable today. What was previously considered a virtue has now become a vice. And much of what was previously considered a vice has now become a need … As a result, we have what is called a mechanically imposed mystical experience“. (Campbell, Moyers & Flowers, 1988)

Possibly, Roma, you brought with you a mechanical mystical experience from the previous training. Right?

R: Exactly.

M: Now listen to what good old Campbell says. “The old tradition can be preserved only under one condition, if it is updated in accordance with the circumstances that have arisen.” (Campbell, Moyers & Flowers, 1988)

R: That is, in our case, Playback Theater is busy updating old myths. Well, adapting them to modern realities?

M: Yes. At the same time, nothing really changes. Campbell says: “The basic motives of the myth are the same. They were always the same. If you want to find your own mythology, then first of all you have to decide which society you belong to. Any mythology arises in a certain society in a limited space. Then mythologies collide, relationships are established between them, they merge, and as a result, a more complex mythology is formed ”. And as a special treat he adds: “There is a mythology that connects you with nature and the natural world, of which you are a part, and there is a purely sociological mythology that connects you with a certain society. You are not just a living person, but also a member of a certain group … Usually a socially oriented system is inherent in nomads who moved from place to place, the purpose of which is to determine the place of each person in this group. And nature-oriented mythology is the prerogative of farmers.” (Campbell, Moyers & Flowers,1988) Here. That’s it.

R: Cool, Campbell knows everything about me.

M: And therefore, it is important to connect and be aware of local and global myths.

R: Mythological awareness.

M: Yes. And if you answer the question why it is needed, then here is my answer. Mythological awareness not only helps to create a pleasant Atmosphere for spectators and actors, we also create a whole world – Cosmogony. If this is remembered, then we will be focused on the Squaring of the Circle, on the sacralization of the room and the immersion of people who will perform sacred rites in it.

We will not only be Spontaneous, which is very beneficial for health and soul. We will seek the Miracle, both for ourselves and for the others.

We not only work with Stories, but we also walk the Path of Transformation together with all the participants in the performance.

We not only use Guiding to better construct a performance, we adopt the Law and Code of Ethics as a kind of code of conduct. Just like people who received tablets (runes, scrolls, knots) from God.

R: You just formulated the playbacker’s myth-making manifesto! Cool!

KaMa conclusions

So, we got to the conclusions. From this moment we decide to merge into a single voice (Kandibur + Mairovich = KaMa (Hindu deity of love)

We hope that everything that has been said before will inspire you to walk our path. And when you step on this path, it will become your own, because the world is great, and the world of myths is even larger, and the thread of Ariadne is in the heart of each of us. So you won’t be able to repeat it, but, perhaps, some of our tips will help you if you do playback or learn myths.

The most important thing is the towel; without it, the hitchhiker has nothing to do in the galaxy. But seriously, here are our major milestones/guide stones:

  • Myth-making is the gateway to the creative flow. When you begin to comprehend Playback Theater and the stories told in it through this prism, you will be able to connect to the common human experience (at least we succeeded). And it is immensely deep. Therefore, your vision of stories will become deeper and wider.
  • The Squaring of the Circle – in myth-making, the playback space is the temple, and the stage is the altar. Here stories are told and played, and thus myths are born. You can realize this through physical space – a square building, a round stage, but this also applies to the construction of any playback space. This realization will help you and your company (as we believe) prepare the temple and altar. The smoother the circle, the deeper the atmosphere and synergy within.
  • Ritual – the founders of playback also speak about ritual. And it acquires a new and important meaning if you look at it through myth-making. After all, our entire past is permeated with ritual, and it is not just a procedure for actions. Form gives meaning to everything.
  • Game – myths, ballads and fairy tales are cyclical, just like existence itself is cyclical. They are cyclical at both the macro and micro levels. If you use Game as an element of improvisation on stage, it will create a platform for stories to come to life.
  • Narrative Reticulation and the Functions of Mythology – For the two of us, one of the most important discoveries in this conversation is the phenomenological similarity between Fox’s Narrative Reticulation Theory and Campbell’s Functions of Mythology. Firstly, it’s fun (both laugh), and secondly, it gives Playback Theater substantiation on a human level and helps a deeper understanding of its aspects.
  • The Path of the Hero – we all go through the path of transformation, caused by our choice or circumstances. All participants in the performance pass the Monomyth individually and all together as one tribe. If we remember this, then we will be able to comprehend each ritual action as a stage of the Hero’s Path.
  • Healing and Teaching the Community — The act of service is at the very center of playbacker’s moral code. Therefore, entering the stage, the playbacker turns, as it were, into a clergyman (shaman, priest, druid), continuing the oral tradition of mankind. And just like our colleagues from the distant past, we bring the Myth to life to heal and unite the community. Our service is especially needed where there is pain, be it a natural disaster, war, or the struggle of minorities for their rights. Our service unfolds in all places where in response to the question “Who has a story?” someone will raise their hand…


Campbell, J. J. (1949) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New York, Pantheon

Campbell, J. J., Moyers, B., Flowers B.S., (ed.) (1988) The Power of Myth. New-York, Doubleday

Campbell, J. J. (2004) Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation.  Novato, CA, New World Library, pp 6-10

Csikszentmihályi, M. (1990) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row

Fox, J. (2019) The Theory of Narrative Reticulation: A Brief Description, New Paltz, NY., Tusitala Publishing

Fox, J. (2020) Listening Hour //

Harari, Y. N. (2011) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Israel, Dvir Publishing House Ltd.

Schechner, R. (2004) Performance Theory. Routledge.


Our original conversations were recorded in Russian. They were transcribed by Marina Zhuravskaya and translated by Maria Isakova.

About the authors

Marat Mairovich

Marat Mairovich is a musician and conductor from Jaffa, Israel. He has 26 years of experience in Playback Theater. Marat leads many Playback Theater groups in Israel: for the visually impaired, and for immigrants. He performs and trains in many countries including South Korea, Bulgaria, Turkey, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine he collaborated with Andrew Utenkov to hold ‘One and Half rooms at war’ – a weekly club on Zoom for Ukrainians (which they will continue to do till the end of this war). Marat professionally plays violin, piano, synthesizers, and guitar.

Roman Kandibur

Roman Kandibur is founder of the Playback Theater company “Neighbors” in Dnipro city, a certified Playback Theater Trainer (with the Centre for Playback Theater USA), and head of the board of the Ukrainian School of Playback Theater. Roman is co-founder of the Ethnodrive movement, a conductor of drum circles, a practicing psychotherapist, anthropologist and author. He performs, facilitates and conducts numerous projects, workshops and educational programs in Ukraine, Europe, China, and Israel.

Exploring Light for Playback Theatre
By R.B. Mickie Marie


In the fall of 2022, Mickie Marie, Associate Professor of Theatre and Lighting Designer at Ball State University Department of Theatre and Dance consulted with Spotlight Players, the local Playback Theatre troupe in Muncie, Idiana, to incorporate lighting elements into their repertoire. Over several rehearsals, the troupe learned fundamental aspects of lighting design, such as intensity, movement, visibility, and mood, and were able to integrate that knowledge into existing playback forms. The troupe finished the project with two invited rehearsals to solicit audience feedback on the work they had done.  The process has been summarized in this article. 


My aspirations for this exploratory project were to create a lighting design methodology for Playback Theatre performances; to develop a system incorporating lighting design techniques to support the playback forms with the community troupe Spotlight Players located in Muncie, Indiana (USA). Initially, I would create a system by which I would use specific lighting techniques to enhance specific short forms. For example, low-angle side lighting may be used during a short form (such as fluids) or use traditional front light during long form story. When I design lights for a traditional theatre performance, the story is contained within the script, and I analyze the story and apply my design aesthetic to the overall concept of the production. My goal is to enhance and support the story being told on stage. Lighting for Playback Theatre, the goal remains the same, but since the story is improvised, the lighting must be as flexible in its execution as the actors themselves.

The thought was to apply a lighting design aesthetic onto the troupe’s performance, but the more I learned about playback’s methodology, and engaged with Spotlight Players, it became clear my original approach needed to be modified. Instead, I focused on ways to integrate lighting into existing forms, and possibly create new forms that were lighting-centric, to further enhance the core purpose of Playback Theatre: validating an audience member’s story. My approach shifted from me creating a methodology to giving the actors the tools to create a methodology for themselves. I started by giving all the members of the troupe some fundamental lighting knowledge, such as what we can control within lighting, and then let them create techniques that used that knowledge to enhance the story being told. Much the way a playback actor uses a scarf, or a prop, or a musical instrument, they can also use a flashlight, or clip light, or a table lamp. This approach felt more in line with the spirit of Playback Theatre, where many performances exist in found spaces, with no traditional theatre technology available. It also places the power of design within the hands of the troupe and gives light an equal footing with music and props (Figure 1). Additionally, this approach does not require anyone in the troupe to have extensive training in lighting design techniques, nor does it require them to find someone who is trained to be a part of their process. Instead, it allows the troupe to use light to create the environment in the moment, based on how they feel the moment needs to look. Over the course of this project, I met with Spotlight Players (the local Playback Theatre Troupe) for seven rehearsals and explored fundamental aspects of lighting and playback. For the final two rehearsals we invited some audience members to observe the work and offer feedback on what they saw.  In this article, I have summarized much of the knowledge and techniques we explored throughout the rehearsal process in the Fall of 2022.


As I planned the early stages of the project, I wanted to make it as accessible as possible to as many different playback troupes as I could. My goal now was to document the process we went through so that others could build on what we had done without needing extensive knowledge of lighting design or technology. My first parameter I placed on myself was that I would only use lighting devices that were easily obtained from local hardware stores. I didn’t want the technology to be controllable using computers or lighting consoles. I wanted the technology to be accessible to a variety of people regardless of their comfort with technology. All of our fixtures were purchased at the local hardware store, but with the advances in LED technology, we were able to get some remote-control color changing lights to add a bit of spectacle. 

The other parameter I set for myself was that I wanted to ensure all the devices were able to be controlled by various members of the troupe in the moment and were not reliant on one member to sit at a “control console” to operate the lights. The majority of the devices we used were flashlights, clip lights, and decorative lights that could easily be moved around and reset during the setup phase of a form. (Figure 1) With these parameters in place, the troupe and I began to explore light.

Figure 1. Once the teller had finished, the actor stepped into the space and sat on the ground. She placed the flashlight between her knees pointing at her face, and the audience instantly recognized that this person was now on a computer, grading papers, just like the teller had indicated.  

The Fundamentals of Light

In our first rehearsal, I broke down the very basic fundamentals of lighting design which are the controllable qualities of light and the functions of stage lighting. I used Richard Dunham’s text Stage Lighting: The Fundamentals (Dunham, 2019) as a reference point for all the information given to the troupe. When discussing the controllable qualities of light, I generally refer to these as the “what” of lighting. What am I doing with this light? What am I changing or manipulating? The qualities of light according to Dunham are: Intensity, Angle, Movement, and Color. When applying the qualities of light, we ask “what is that light doing?”, but we do not ask “why?” the light has been designed that way. I consider the functions of stage lighting to be the “why?”. The more prominent functions according to Dunham are Visibility, Focus, Modeling, and Mood.

Qualities of Light

The first controllable quality we discussed was intensity, which refers to how bright the light is. In a live environment (one in which the audience is seeing the performance with their own eyes as opposed to on a screen), the intensity is relative to the rest of the environment. A flashlight will appear very bright in a pitch-black room compared to outside in the bright sunlight. We discussed how moving a flashlight closer to your face will make the light appear brighter on your face and moving it further away will decrease the brightness. We played with changing intensity just by adjusting the proximity of the light to the subject (Figure 2).

Figure 2

We then discussed angle of light which refers to where the light is coming from relative to the actor and the audience. Is the light directly above the actor or is it below the face of the actor? Is the light coming from the left side of the actor or maybe directly behind them creating a halo effect? Movement was the third quality we discussed and that refers to the physical movement of the light in the space or on the actor as well as the change in intensity such as dimming. In our early explorations with flashlights, movement was one quality that was very prominent for the actors because the very act of turning the flashlight on and off is part of the quality of movement. The troupe also explored the idea of shaking the light to simulate fear and moving the light above them to simulate flickering lights. The last quality we discussed was color, which in this case refers both to saturated colors like blue and red, but also to tones of neutral white light such as warm white or cool white. We discussed how color is also relative and a cool white light might look very warm in comparison to a deep blue environment. 

The Functions of Stage Lighting

The first (and in my opinion, the most important) function of light is visibility. Can I adequately see the things I’m supposed to see? Visibility ties in directly to intensity. If something is not visible, it is highly likely we need to change the intensity of some lights to achieve that visibility. The reason I consider this one the most important is because if we cannot adequately see the thing we are supposed to look at, then we become distracted by that inability to clearly see the subject. The second function we discussed was focus. Simply put, focus refers to the attention of the audience. Are they looking at the things they are supposed to look at? Focus is also tied to intensity and frequently the brightest thing on stage will command the most attention of the audience. A really good way to draw focus to something in particular is to make that thing brighter when we want the audience to look at it. We can either increase the light on the subject to make it brighter, or we can decrease the light on everything else to make it brighter by comparison. Modeling was the third function of lighting we discussed. In this case, modeling refers to how three-dimensional objects appear in space. Do they have lots of shadows and highlights or do they appear flat and two dimensional? Modeling is most closely tied to angle of light, as the angle of the light has the most impact on shadows and highlights of a subject. Many examples of light in real-life have at least one bright source, such as the sun, with at least one other dimmer source to create some fill light on the subject. If you are outside in the middle of the day, and it is a clear day, the sun would be the bright source and the sky itself would be filling in some shadows. The last function we discussed was mood. In this case, mood refers to whether the lighting supports the overall feeling or emotion of whatever is happening on stage. Color can play a large part in the mood of a composition, but angle and intensity can also impact the mood. All of the qualities must work together to create a particular mood, and mood is frequently one of the more difficult functions to achieve simply based on how many variables of lighting make up a stage composition. In Dunham’s text, he elaborates on a few other functions such as establishing a scene, composition, style, rhythm, and staging the story. For the purposes of this project and for simplicity with the troupe, I emphasized the four functions of visibility, focus, modeling, and mood as the main ones to focus on. 

After discussing these ideas with the troupe, the rest of the first rehearsal was spent with each member of the troupe experimenting with a flashlight on themselves. Many of the experiments that evolved from that rehearsal explored direction and movement, and how the actor could dynamically shift the direction of the light to emphasize a point they were trying to make. Modeling and mood were frequently discussed as they tried to achieve particular emotions or evoke certain feelings. We also looked at a couple different light bulbs that were purchased from the local hardware store that had different colors of white light. We discussed how the varying shades of white can evoke certain feelings such as how warm white and cool white light can make someone feel differently. I then asked the troupe to pay attention to their surroundings over the next week before we met again and to see if they could identify different qualities of light and how they may have impacted certain things like visibility, focus, modeling, and mood. 

Exploration of Light

As the troupe continued to meet and consider the integration of lighting into their forms, the exploration we did in that first rehearsal formed the basis of the warm up that happened at each rehearsal, and ultimately would evolve into the audience warm up we performed at our two invited rehearsals. The conductor of the troupe would provide a prompt for the troupe, and they would spend a minute or two exploring with their own flashlight before playing that prompt back to the troupe. Some of the earliest prompts were more of titles that the actor would recite back to the troupe, after deciding on an emotion, or movement to convey their feelings, such as “I found ten dollars”, or “I got a bad grade on my test”. Some of the exploration that evolved from these prompts included using the flashlight to represent the ten dollars as it shined on the face of the actor, or using the flashlight to imitate a cell phone as the actor pretended to text their friend that they got a bad grade on the test. In these cases, the flashlight was not only a source of light for the actor, but also became a representation of important information, as well as imitated everyday objects. In later rehearsals, we prompted the actors with an emotion only, and let them decide how to use the flashlight to help convey that emotion. Having the actors understand some of the fundamentals of lighting such as angle and intensity became integral in their understanding of how the light was playing on themselves. One evolution of this exercise saw the actors moving the lights frantically around to simulate energized intensity, or light themselves from different angles to convey subtle emotional shifts.  One of the key ideas that evolved from this exercise was that a flashlight can be used to represent something, it can be used as a traditional light source to direct the audience’s attention, and it can also be used simply as a prop flashlight.  

The exercises then evolved from having one actor use the flashlight on themselves, to partnered work in which one actor would shine the flashlight on the other. The parameter for this exercise was that they were not allowed to discuss their intentions with their partner, but rather were trying to listen and react to what the actor of the pair was doing. We then evolved that exercise to be a trio, one actor and two people with flashlights. These early explorations added varying levels of complexity to the warm ups and forced the troupe to develop a vocabulary and method for these different parts. When the troupe was in pairs or trios, the people with the flashlights who were more supportive of the actor were referred to as “auxiliaries”. When working as pairs or trios, one of the recurring complexities of these exercises was how to start and end the moment. Does the actor begin, and the auxiliaries follow? How do the auxiliaries know when the actor is finished with the moment? What do the auxiliaries do when the moment is over? All these questions occurred numerous times, and eventually the troupe evolved a methodology and a consistent “language” for the lighting. The evolution of this particular methodology saw the auxiliaries get into place first, then when the actor saw they were set, the actor would step into the space to begin the scene. The auxiliaries would use their flashlights to either light the actor in a traditional sense, or sometimes they would use the light more representationally. The actor would progress through their scene, and when they were done, there would be a moment of stillness. At the moment of stillness, the auxiliaries would know the scene was ending and would also still themselves. Then, on the lead of the actor, everyone would shift to a neutral body position and place their hand on their heart to acknowledge the teller of the story.  This language formed the basis for how the troupe began and ended several different forms while integrating lighting.

Integrating Color and Scarves

After three rehearsals of exploration with just flashlights, we started to incorporate area lights, scarves, and color-changing lights. I used another section of Dunham’s text to elaborate on the psychological effects of color. We discussed the difference between warm light (which has more red, yellow, or orange in the mix) and cool light (which has more blue, green, or lavender in the mix). Dunham describes how warmer light tends to evoke feelings of excitement or energy, while cooler light tends to evoke feelings of peacefulness or tranquility. We then talked about a few of the more prominent colors and what kinds of emotions they might evoke. Many of these colors have both a positive and negative association, depending on context:

  • Red – Passion, energy, excitement, lust, aggression, evil.
  • Pink – Femininity, sexuality, pleasing on skin tones.
  • Yellow – optimism, confidence, frustration, anger.
  • Orange – Warmth, passion, safety, fun, assurance.
  • Green – Balance, harmony, tranquility, boredom, stagnation, illness.
  • Blue – Calmness, serenity, reflection, distance.

When thinking of color, in a traditional process, I would order gel filters to put into the lights to change the colors. For this project and the self-imposed limitations, we decided to use scarves to change the colors of lights. We had two clip lights with warm white LED light bulbs, and we draped the scarf over the light to simulate a gel filter and change the color of the light. This was an interesting process of exploration because we had a number of scarves in different colors, but also in different levels of translucency. Additionally, several of the scarves were multicolored, which added a different wrinkle into this exploration. When using the scarves that were more sheer, the color of the light was changed in a more subtle way, mimicking more neutral warm/cool white light. When using the thicker scarves, the color of the light was changed more dramatically, but also reduced the brightness of the light, so the troupe was able to play with color as well as intensity during this exercise. During our first invited rehearsal, one of the audience members commented how the more sheer scarves seemed more effective because it changed the color in a way that was noticeable but did not diminish the light and make it too dark. One note regarding safety: we constantly checked the temperature of both the lights and the scarves to ensure they were never getting too hot. Since we were using LED lights, the bulbs never got hot enough so we couldn’t touch them with our bare hands, even after being on for two hours. It is very important to understand that this may not work for all lights because of how hot some light bulbs can get. 

Evolution of Basic Short Forms

Throughout the rehearsal process of this project, the exploration of the flashlights became a prominent component for the troupe. There were several existing Playback Theatre forms that we explored and experimented with using the flashlights and the scarves. Of these different forms, we chose three that we felt were sufficiently rehearsed to be able to play for an audience. For our first rehearsal with an invited audience, we started with the audience warm-up, moved into Pairs, then Narrative V, then Fluids.

When setting up the room, we had two wooden coat trees that had all the scarves hanging on them. Mounted on top of the coat trees were the two clip lights providing some area light to the stage area.  (Figure 3) Draped on the back wall behind the actors was a string of color changing LED’s with the remote control sitting near the actors. We also had a string of Christmas lights laid out on the floor to act as front of the stage boundary. 

Figure 3

For our first invited rehearsal, we ran through each form a couple times to give the audience some different perspectives. For the second invited rehearsal, we performed all the forms under a neutral “work-light” environment and did not use any flashlights or clip lights. Then we did the forms again, incorporating the lighting elements we had been exploring. The second rehearsal was designed to give the audience a view of the forms with and without the added lighting so they could see and compare the two styles. 

Audience Warm Up

As each performance began, the conductor asked the audience some general questions about how they were feeling as the year was coming to an end. Several of the answers were things like “excited”, “nervous”, “anxious”, “hopeful”. Each time a feeling was shared, the conductor would indicate an actor in the troupe who would play that feeling back. Under the “worklight” setup, they did not use flashlights, but under the other setups, they did use a flashlight and maybe a scarf. This audience warm-up mimicked the warm-ups we did in the early explorations and helped to warm up the actors, the conductor, and the audience.


After the audience warm-up, we continued in the spirit of using emotions as the basis for the forms as we moved into Pairs. During one of the rehearsals, one audience member was in town visiting her daughter, but her home was far away. She described how she felt lots of love being in town with her daughter, but she was much more comfortable at home. The troupe used the form to show the two different feelings of “love” and “comfort”. During the early exploration with flashlights and scarves, the troupe determined that this form was much more effective without the flashlights, as they felt the flashlights were more of a hindrance in this case. For each emotion described, one pair chose a scarf to change the color of the clip light to represent that emotion but did not use flashlights within the form. We also adapted the form a bit, and had each pair playing back the same emotion, rather than playing the different emotions, so that the color chosen on one side of the stage would represent the same emotion for both members of the pair. In this instance, the stage left pair chose a pink scarf and draped it over the clip light on stage left, and then they both played back “love”. The stage right pair chose an orange scarf to change the color of the light and played back “comfort”. (Figure 4)

Figure 4

This adaptation was highly effective because the color became the central lighting element that enhanced the emotion, and the pair was able to play into the color by shifting their proximity to the light. In another rehearsal, one audience described feelings of “excitement” but also “nervousness” about the new school year starting. In this moment, the actors chose an orange scarf to represent excitement, and a blue scarf to represent nervousness. The audience feedback of this was generally positive with several audience responses indicating they liked the use of the scarves to show the contrast of the emotions. As the troupe continues to explore lighting in the spring semester, they will continue to explore and discover which scarves are most effective in changing the color of the light. 

Narrative V

From Pairs we asked the audience to tell us a story about “one door closing and another opening”. One audience member described a situation in which she heard a noise under her porch. She went to investigate and found a kitten. The troupe used Narrative V to play this story back and the only adaptation we made to this form was that the troupe was able to use flashlights within the form if they felt it made sense. One actor used the flashlight to mimic a headlamp, while another used it as a flashlight pretending to look under the porch. The third actor batted the flashlight around on the ground pretending to be a kitten. This method of using the flashlight became a favorite of the troupe as it was highly effective seeing all the flashlights used in the same way, but then each time the actors rotated, they were able to come up with unique ways to use the flashlights and build off what the other had done before them. Another audience member told a story about growing in their relationship with their significant other and titled it “Unexpected Growth.” The troupe used the flashlight in a variety of ways to indicate growth. One actor shined the light on the ground and moved it up and down to literally make the circle of light grow. Another hid the light and slowly uncovered it to “grow” the illumination. Numerous symbolic and representational uses of the flashlights were discovered during Narrative V in the rehearsals.


The last form we explored for the audience was Fluids. This form was jokingly referred to as our “free-for-all” form because we didn’t put any limitations or parameters on the actors. If they wanted to use a flashlight, they could, but were not required to. They could change the color of the background lights, they could drape a scarf to change the color of the area lights, they could do whatever felt right in the moment. In one rehearsal, an audience member told a story of how they write out clues for a scavenger hunt for their kids for Christmas. One actor used the flashlight to represent the kid searching for the clues, while another changed the background lights to red to represent Christmas time. One actor chose not to use a flashlight at all and an audience member commented that the variety was really effective with the different uses of the scarves and lights. 


This project was an excellent first step for the troupe in regard to true integration of light into the forms. In just a few short weeks, they were able to absorb a tremendous amount of lighting information and were able to integrate and execute lighting fundamentals, while also retaining the spirit of the forms themselves. When I asked the troupe how they felt about the work they did, one of them responded: “…lighting seemed a natural progression to utilizing props, cloths, and music as theatrical elements in storytelling. Light helped us create mood and enhance the space we performed in. It had the capacity to transform the environment and therefore stimulate our imagination to envision different scenarios for the stories we told.” (Veronica Santoyo, Faculty member Ball State University, Department of Theatre and Dance).

As a final wrap up with the troupe, I asked if they would like to continue exploring with light as they meet in the future. They were all adamant about continuing with that exploration, so I will consult with them as long as they want my assistance. My hope is that other troupes will see the value of incorporating lighting into their repertoire and that this article can be a resource for others to use as they begin to explore the artistic medium of light.


Dunham, Richard (2019) Stage Lighting: The Fundamentals (2e). New York, NY. Routledge

About the author

R. B. “Mickie” Marie is an Associate Professor of Theatre for Ball State University. Since 2009, Mickie has been designing professionally for various companies in the Midwest and the east coast, including several nationally recognized theatres in the Chicago area. Some recent credits include Always: Patsy Cline, The Addams Family, All Shook up, and Sylvia with Williams Street Rep and Dead Man Walking with the Piven Theatre Workshop. He is passionate about design and is always looking for ways that light can be incorporated into art in ways that haven’t been explored.


Practitioner Updates and Resources
New Agreement Between the Centre for Playback Theatre and Affiliated Schools
By Deb Scott


In this brief article Deb Scott describes the development of a new response by the Centre for Playback Theatre, to the contract it shares with the 16 Affiliated Schools of Playback Theatre. This new Agreement will take the place of the traditional contract that has been in use since the early 2000s.

Setting the scene

This is the story of how this new Agreement was crafted by the Affiliated Schools Committee (Bea Somogyi, Élisabeth Couture, Shirly Legum, and Deb Scott) with input from the CPT Board and Schools personnel.

As of this moment in time, there are 16 Affiliated Schools of Playback Theatre[1]. They are all listed in table below, with a general timeline of their original affiliation:

TimelineSchools Affiliated
2001-2006Scuola Italiana di Playback Theatre,
Central European (now Hungarian) SPT,
Israel SPT,
Playback Theater Netzwerk/Playbacktheaterschule (German Speaking countries),
SPT United Kingdom
2007-2012SPT Hong Kong,
Russian Central SPT,
Skandinavisk Playbackteater Studio
2013-2018Arab SPT,
Drama for Life SPT (South Africa),
Escuela Iberica de Teatro Playback,
Korea SPT
2019 –Greek SPT,
École Affilié de Théatre Playback de Langue Francaise,
Ukrainian SPT,
New York SPT
Table 1. Schools of Playback Theatre that are Affiliated to the Centre for Playback Theatre

The need for change

The world changes. Playbackers have always had a finger up in the air, noting how the direction of the wind is shifting. We are in place to hear how our communities experience life—as it is, or as it might be. On stage and in our lives, we practice saying “Yes” to the next moment, and move into a new space, with new demands and insights.

The original Affiliate Schools contract had begun to feel to many of us that it did not fully represent the desired relationship between the CPT and the Schools. On occasion, over the years, different Schools had asked that parts of the contract be reworded, to better describe their idea of affiliation. The language was full of legal terms that felt alienating.

In thinking about a new approach, we were inspired by the metaphor of the mycelium. The mycelium is the complex, sometimes invisible, network that mushrooms send out for great distances under the ground. These mycelia connect whole ecosystems, exchanging life giving nutrients, information and energy through resilient pathways. The network is a sharing economy: what benefits the mushrooms in turn benefits the trees, and other rooting plants. We understand that our playback community similarly thrives when the pathways of communication, resources and wisdom are freely shared.

Foundations of the New Agreement

The vital contributions from both the CPT and the Schools were our starting point. The Centre offers a consistent structure, a deep history of the theory and guidance on the practice of playback, and the capacity to coordinate global exchanges. The Schools are in touch with their local initiatives, with innovations and discoveries of a living art form, and with new generations of playbackers coming up. Meeting future changes and challenges together will happen through our strong and intentional collaborations.

An enhanced, mutually beneficial exchange between the CPT and its various programs is at the heart of our proposed new Agreement. We see all the partner programs (Affiliated Schools, Accredited Trainers of PT, Leadership and the volunteer committees that keep the work of the CPT moving) essential in this exchange, each offering insight, creative problem solving, respect and enthusiasm for the work we believe in. This is not a new concept, of course. But as we worked on the Agreement, we wanted to call attention to this collaboration, and in the case of the Affiliated Schools, spell it out clearly in our revisions—our Re-Visions. 

This is not a new concept, of course. But as we worked on the Agreement, we wanted to call attention to this collaboration, and in the case of the Affiliated Schools, spell it out clearly in our revisions-our Re-Visions.  

Each Affiliate School has autonomy within the relationship with the CPT. No School is exactly like the next, and accessibility to local students, in a familiar social context, and teaching in the students’ mother tongue, is valued. And, in the Agreement, strong communication between Schools, and with the CPT, is encouraged.


Another change to the traditional contract: We propose a new financial relationship between CPT and SPTs. Schools are asked to pay an annual membership fee, at a level they choose; if this is not possible, they are invited to design a project or initiative that will benefit the community in place of the fee. And the CPT will be financially transparent to the Affiliates, sharing general income and expenses. Also, the CPT will share an estimation of the volunteer hours that are “paid into” the Centre, to keep it operational. The organizational design is horizontal, like the network of mycelium, with the CPT and each SPT offering the other energy and resources.

We are not changing the three-year renewal cycle carried over from the old contract. However the new financial/service exchange is a pilot program, and will be reviewed after a year, to be sure it meets everyone’s needs. In the course of this first year, if a School projects it will not be in a position to cover the membership payment by the end of the year, they are asked to propose a plan for their service project or initiative early in the contract year.

Review and reflection

As we worked on the new Agreement, we also began to think about our Committee. We are expanding our membership and our capacity to serve the network. And we realized it would be good to take time every year reflecting on our work together. Is there balance in our process? What new initiatives are appearing? What continues to work well? How do we best serve the needs of the wider community?Are we caring for the relationships at the heart of our work? And realistically what do we have the capacity to attempt? Regular times for reflection seem a good place to keep us active and grounded.

The world landscape changes, and our playback community grows, encountering challenges and finding new ways to support the sharing economy. Through these pandemic years, through unrest and war, we see the playback community’s networks of support and connection are already in place, creative, resourceful, loving. May we continue to tend these networks and deepen our work together…. and like the forest, grow and thrive.

The New Agreement is still being finalised at the time of going to print.


[1] In addition, there is the Japan School of Playback Theatre, which has the designated status of a sister School.

About the author

Deb Scott worked in more or less traditional theater in NYC for twenty years before encountering Playback Theatre in 1995. It was love at first sight. She co-directed Asheville Playback Theatre from 1997-2015, and continues to offer playback to the community in monthly workshops. She is an Accredited Trainer, currently serves on the CPT Board, and co-chairs the Affiliated Schools Committee.

Conferences, Performances and Events

New Scots Creative Arts Residency: Beautiful People with Beautiful Stories taking Beautiful Risks
By Karen McClain Kiefer

International Event Playback Theatre Camp 10th Anniversary Event
By Raz Balian, Joke Rood & Steve Nash
Figure 1. Tiyatro Medresesi, Şirince, Turkey


This is a review of the 10th International Playback Camp in Turkey in 2022, compiled from personal accounts from three of the participants: Raz Balian offers his perspective as a relative newcomer to playback; whilst Joke Rood shares her thoughts as a “seasoned campaigner“. IPTN Journal co-editor and camp regular Steve Nash summarises work that was done at this event, looking at ways that organisers can help everyone to feel safe, especially those from minoritised groups – despite the challenging social and political dynamics and conflicts that can and do impact on our gatherings.

Account from Raz Balian, Australia:

To mark the 10-year anniversary of the Playback Theatre Camp taking place, the incredible management and staff of Tiyatro Medresesi (see Figure 1) warmly opened their arms and four walls to cater for 61 attendees who came from far flung corners of the globe: a total of nineteen countries. (See Figure 2)

Of course, this resulted in a significant melting pot of various cultures and personalities mingling and integrating for the week-long event. Moreover, all individuals regardless of age and Playback Theatre experience levels came together in unison where deep and meaningful, if not powerful and emotionally charged, stories were shared, acts were carried out, and healthy relationships were harnessed.

When an event of this magnitude takes place there are always grey areas at play and sometimes not every person feels as included as everyone else. One participant departed early, leaving a heartfelt letter to the Camp’s “Orga“, management team. This letter had the potential to cause significant upheaval within the camp; however, the Orga team handled it with sensitivity and respect and as a community we did some constructive work on the issues and feelings that were raised. Again, to utter words already mentioned in this piece, this particular exercise was indeed deep and meaningful, if not powerful and emotionally charged.

Figure 2. Attendees gather in the Main Hall

Special praise is to be heaped on the Orga team which consisted of Anastasia Vorobyeva, Olga Sanachina, Nina Garbuzova and Olga Koltzova. Their tireless efforts, added on with cheery enthusiasm and the determination, to make this camp the best it possibly could be was no mean feat. As this was the 10th anniversary, they pulled out all the stops to make the event as extravagant and momentous as they possibly could. This is additionally considering that due to the worldwide pandemic there was no camp in 2020 and only a small event in 2021, in Ukraine. They were always available to listen to every participant and make each person’s experience as positive, joyous, and inclusive as they could. On a personal note, as this was my initial occasion of attending, I could see, from an “outsider’s lens”, how hard they were working both behind the scenes and on the coalface. In relation to the latter, debriefing the entire cohort of participants every morning as well as prescribing and overseeing the activities everybody undertook at all other times was carried out by them. On my end, I would personally like to thank them for this again.

As I just noted how it was the first camp I attended, I was not alone in this space. There was a mix of newbies as well as seasoned campaigners. In fact, various dynamics were at play. There was a father who attended with his two children, who stated in a Playback exercise on the final day of the camp that he attended to forge a healthier bond with his children. The father said, with great pride, that the healthier bond within the family had indeed materialised. This was by feeding off other people’s ideas and positive energy, a common theme echoed by other participants within the camp.

Now that a family story has been disclosed, let me shift my attention to the secret friend story. Of course, orchestrated by the Orga team, at the beginning of the camp each participant was randomly drawn a secret friend. On a regular basis across the seven days, it was requested that whichever person you were drawn you had to “pamper” and provide care for them in a secretive manner. Practical examples included getting another person to provide a hug to your secret friend. Another, for you to make tea and coffee and get somebody to deliver it to your friend. In essence, the rule of this exercise was for your secret friend to not know it is you who is “sharing the love” to them. I was spoilt by the beautiful human who drew my name for this activity: hugs by others on average twice per day every day, pleasing notices to read left behind in my accommodation room, and the list goes on. I think vanilla ice cream was provided once as well… Anyway, during the final evening of the camp, it was instructed that we approach our secret friend and spill the beans of who it was. As one could imagine, laughs, tears, shocked faces, hugs and stories were shared amongst respective pairs.

Figure 3. Image from ‘Apocalypse. Searching for an exit’ performance
Figure 4. Image from ‘Apocalypse. Searching for an exit’ performance

The underlining tone set by Anastasia for this camp was, “Only Care can change the future”. Care was provided across the various exercises and activities undertaken. These ranged from the countries’ speed-dating evening, performances from the international trainers’ team, and by a combined team of playbackers from Russia, Ukraine, and the occupied territories of Ukraine (Donetsk & Lugansk), the immersive white costume performance evening (organised predominantly via Zoom prior to the camp – see figures 3 and 4), and the various workshops conducted by the trainers. I would be remiss to not mention the trainers as valuable time and energy were put in by them to make their workshops as effective as possible. Thank you to them. In addition, thank you to the camp volunteers for being always on hand to ensure the smooth day to day flow of proceedings. Equally, many thanks to the Tiyatro Medresesi management and staff. They were additionally of tremendous help across the entire time of the camp taking place. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were prepared on a daily basis by them for us all to enjoy.

In closing, every morning the entire group of us would sing the camp song. The first two words were, “Come together”. Indeed, we all came together where profound healing, nurturing and care came to light and shone across the entire week. May long this continue.

Account from Joke Rood, The Netherlands:

As one of the “seasoned campaigners” that Raz mentions in his description of the Playback Camp in Turkey, I’d like to add some words. All of his nice words are more than true and recognizable as a newcomer in playback. We all may remember the thrills we had (and have) in telling stories, playing them back in the most respectful and creative way. Playback Theater as a gift to ourselves and the world!

But … what we face nowadays is that we must deal with difficulties, like politics, and very different opinions about what’s right and wrong. We have big elephants in the room! “Every story is worth sharing” is not always true (anymore?); and feeling safe is not always the case, even not in our holy moly community. We have secret friends as a nice ritual, as Raz mentioned, but do we also have secret enemies without telling? No gifts, no singing, no words? 

In the camp there was a great collaboration between the Russian and Ukrainian participants: in the moment, they overcame (and much more than that) the “enemy” question. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in another conflict that arose. A member of our Arabic Playback Theater community left the camp because she did not feel safe – no need to go into details here. We might all know the delicacy of this. The leaders of the Camp had a hard time with this issue, and they did a great job handling it at that.

But …

Long story short … 

Maybe our goal in future is to find out, (not if) but how … we in our Playback Theater community are capable of being (non)aware and honest to each other about secret friends … and enemies – and how to deal with them?

We have great tools, that’s for sure. So, I’m sure we can! We only have to have the guts to face that there is more we can bear and be aware of sometimes. To face and name the elephant is a step towards this goal. Let’s watch.

Epilogue from Steve Nash, UK:

I want to say more about the work that the Orga Team did to try and make the Camp a safe space, despite the painful realities of the external world. One example was that before the gathering, the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was considered, and efforts were made to try and make those affected feel welcomed. But another distressing issue arose in the here and now, and out of respect for the person who was not able to stay, and care for those who remained, a community intervention was put in place.

This took the form of a World Café session. Different topics were suggested by participants for consideration at different tables. At one table, Jutta Heppekausen facilitated a conversation about issues of inclusion, and the political and power dynamics that can exist at international playback events. There was a focus on trying to come up with practical steps that might make everyone, especially playbackers from minoritised groups, feel safer and better supported in the future. In the notes below I have summarised these ideas (including those that might not be so easy to implement).

Before the event:

  • Reach out to actively create more diversity – and not just amongst participants but also:
    • Organising team
    • Trainers’ team
    • Performers
  • Use registration forms for individuals to identify concerns or fears that they might want to share.
  • Organisers and trainers to be more proactive about identifying potential issues and conflicts and doing preparatory work about to how to respond.
  • Transparency about the makeup of the trainer team as early as possible.
  • Let participants know, as early as possible, who will be at the event.

At the start of the event:

  • Social mapping that emphasises countries and nationalities can reinforce existing and historical differences and conflicts. Consider different categories for connection, for example “who likes?”, or zodiac signs, or other ways for people see and share what they have in common.
  • Be open about the fact that some participants may be in large cultural or national groups – but others do not have this support. Encourage participants to be sensitive to their needs.
  • Reach out for ideas from the participants about how to create safety for everyone who is present.

During the event:

  • Enable free choice or movement between workshops/home groups.
  • Make separate, safe, spaces possible – e.g. for those in minoritised groups (perhaps time limited, as a step to hopeful encounters later on).
  • Be sensitive to power dynamics that can be created when trainers and organisers take the teller’s chair.
  • Offer an “awareness team” (perhaps with external experts) offering consultancy or supervision.
  • Provide well promoted access to therapeutic support – could be a dedicated room with staff presence – could be peer to peer.

More generally:

  • Create more opportunities in the Playback Theatre community (and at events) to look at theory and practice of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work (looking at labelling, stereotypes, racism, gender, class and body issues etc).
  • CPT to consider reviewing our Ethics statement.

This is a very initial piece of work, and it is included here in the hope that it will be of interest to others, and perhaps stimulate further development of the ideas that are suggested.

About the authors

Raz Balian

Raz is a social worker from Australia. He commenced participating in Playback Theatre towards the end of 2021, and sees the benefit of applying its various forms to the workplace as well as the outer world. These transferrable skills have been applied in other performing art realms he is involved in. Raz is always curious to “learn and train further”.

Joke Rood

Joke is co-founder of Wordt Vervolgd Playbacktheater group, existing almost 30 years, and an Accredited Trainer from the Centre for Playback Theatre. She has taught Playback Theater in Holland, India, Belgium, Nepal, Finland, Germany, Ukraine, Cuba, and she was organizer of EPTG in Amsterdam in 2014. Joke has led homegroups and workshops in several gatherings. Joke has now moved to Spain. From there she organized Zoom PBT with the international group ACT, which performed during COVID time.

Steve Nash

Steve has worked in mental health services in the North of England since 1980, in a variety of settings and roles. He has been active in Playback Theatre since 1991 when he became a founder member of Playback Theatre York. He has offered numerous workshops on playback and music, and has been part of the trainers’ team at the International Playback Camp on many occasions. He became co- editor of the Journal of the International Playback Theatre Network in 2021.


Book Reviews

An Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater: Hall of Mirrors on Stage. By Ronen Kowalsky, Nir Raz, Shoshi Keisari
Reviewed by Diane Adderley

Playback Theatre Around The Globe – Pocket Stories to Learn from by Anastasia (Nastya) Vorobyeva
Reviewed by Cornelia (Conny) Hartmann

Signpost: recent books and articles about Playback Theatre

Books (and chapters in books) about Playback Theatre

Other Sources of Writing (and talking) about Playback Theatre