Playback Nuevo – A Group Profile from Greece
Playback Nuevo group was founded in Athens – Greece, in September 2009 by Smaroula Pandelis (PHD) Psychologist, psychodramatist, sociodramatist and author.
The idea was to form a playback group of people interested in drama and community life that would not be professional actors but would train in playback theatre and bring their unique life experiences in the group life.
Initially, the group started to give private performances for friends and friends of friends, but soon they started to play in theatres and schools. In 2016 the group started to become well known and receive invitations from various NGOs and even companies from the private sector to perform for their audiences.
Playback Nuevo is a group that enjoys group life, loves to travel all around Greece and perform in various audiences. The fact that its members have different social and educational backgrounds makes the group’s life challenging and attractive which reflects to the way they perform.
The group’s experience on the island of Samos.
We are travellers! We love travelling with our group and perform for different audiences in small or big cities, on distant islands in the Aegean Sea, on crowded and touristic places and even in airports while waiting for a delayed flight! We love to play for adults or adolescents and yes, to our surprise, we loved to play for young children on this trip to Samos.
Samos is an island in the Aegean Sea very near to the Turkish shore. It has around 33,400 inhabitants and in the last years has welcomed thousands of refugees from the Turkish shores. The existing refugee camp is severely packed causing great tension among the people who live on the island.
Our group, Playback Nuevo was invited in January 2018 by the municipality of Samos and the Preventative Unit against Drug Addiction “FAROS”, to give a performance for the people of the island. To our surprise, a theatre of 350 seats was full! But the biggest surprise of all was that the theatre was mostly full with children from the age of 5 to the age of 15.
This was a great challenge for our group as we had never ever given a playback performance for children until that moment. We hoped that the grown-ups that were in the theatre would share their stories as we did not expect children to be open in front of parents and teachers to share stories. But it turned out to be exactly the opposite.
We listened to some beautiful stories from these children mostly about their social life and their school life. These children surprised us with their sensitivity and empathy. We heard stories about inviting and containing differences, about facing bullying issues with openness and strength, about love and flirting and how this changes the dynamics of the established friendships. We also listened to their worries for children who had to lose their country and make a new home, for children who had to forget their past life and create a new history, for the fear of being invisible if nobody knows you in a new environment!
It was a performance that touched our hearts and left us with a sweet feeling, the one you have when you really connect and feel united. This performance confirmed for us that hope lies with children.
Members of Playback Nuevo tell their stories…
The miracle of Playback
The miracle of Playback Theatre is born in the moment when a narration is transformed into a chorus, or a fluid, or any other playback form. It is like an apocalypse, as if a magic wand touches the bodies and the souls of the actors to create a spectacular moment even if it is in silence! This is the moment of Playback, the moment that the truth of the teller becomes a universal truth.
Member of Playback Nuevo
Playback Theatre nourishes our hearts… a personal story
I am a member of Playback Nuevo for the last three years, and still Playback Theatre is a mystery to me. After every performance we give, people ask “how do you do it”. I was so curious myself as part of the audience in the past, and that’s how I decided to explore this further and so I joined the group and trained to be an actor. The principles of this form of theatre, the way the actors connect with the teller, the way the teller is being affected when he sees his story reflected on stage, are some of the factors that keep fascinating me.
As I see it, Playback Theatre is an ongoing process in which the actors discover their potential, as well as various parts of themselves that may have been kept in shadow. When an actor has to let their personal beliefs and restrictions behind, in order to contain the story of the teller, he or she meets a part of themselves which looks like new to them. This new part has now an opportunity to gain life in itself and by doing so, gives a new perspective to the actor’s life, not only in the theatre but also in real life.
Meanwhile, the actors have to meet on stage in a creative and spontaneous way, in order to co-create the reflection of the teller’s story. During this process, the actors meet deeper parts of themselves while they are in the process of interconnecting.
While all this is happening, at another level, the actors relate to the mission of Playback Theatre with the community for which they perform. In this process, new understandings may take place for the actors as individuals and as community members.
As a member of Playback Nuevo, I have experienced all of the above and much more. I have found myself doing things that I could never imagine before meeting Playback Theatre. One thing I would like to share is my experience of a spontaneous performance in the International Athens Airport.
It is 11.00 am and we are ready to board in order to travel to the island of Astypalaia for a voluntary mission. We are joining the program of the NGO Axion Hellas, visiting distant islands and offering opportunities to their inhabitants for development and cultural connection. Among us, there are medical doctors, Olympic Games champions, actors, group facilitators, scuba divers, and representatives of important NGOs.Our Playback group is scheduled to perform for the people of Astypalaia.
It is 12.30 pm and we are still waiting to get on board but there are some rumors that the flight will be cancelled due to heavy weather conditions. We are told to remain calm and in good spirit, but people start to get anxious as some of them are afraid to fly in such bad weather conditions.
It is 1.30 pm and we still don’t know what is happening. Some rumors say that we will go to Piraeus Port in order to take the boat while others say that the flight will take place soon.
It is 2.45 pm, we are all starving and getting cross when I proposed to our group conductor to play a game in order for all of us to calm down. She looks at me with a big smile and suggests to have a performance right on the spot! And so we do! Our musician puts out his laptop and his mini portable loudspeaker, we –the actors– take our positions and we all think “Let’s watch”, and that’s how our performance begins. People passing by, are invited to share their stories together with all the Axion Hellas volunteers and we have a great time! We play fluid sculpture, chorus, episodes and then while our performance is still going on, we hear that our flight is finally cancelled, and we all go to the port of Piraeus to take the boat.
After this experience, it became very clear to me why I want to continue to join Playback Theatre. It is the mission of the Playback Theatre that inspires me, which is to bring people together in a spontaneous and original way. It is my heart that works better when I am connected to the here and now and to the truth of the moment. As a little girl from our audience in Astypalaia said, “you play with your heart”. It is our hearts that are nourished with Playback Theatre!
Actress Playback Nuevo
Learning & Development Professional
My way!Music in Playback Nuevo…
Ten years ago, I was invited to join the group Playback Nuevo. I was attracted and impressed by the frankness, the promptness, the interaction with the audience and the magic of it.
My music background was not based on any theory, nor did I know how to play a musical instrument, but I was an experienced DJ and producer of electronic music. So, I started to improvise as the actors did on stage and I created a system with which I could “dress up” the stories right on the spot!
I used the devices that I already knew how to work with, and I created a bank of hundreds of musical pieces which I divided in 17 different categories (e.g.: drama, nostalgic, romantic, optimistic…). The outcome was brilliant as every time I mixed different pieces and ended up with a new orchestral piece.
When I play music in a performance, I feel like I am on stage too! I am another kind of actor!
There are moments in a performance when magic happens with my music. It is when the right note or pause comes at the right minute and then the enactment dances with my music. Time goes still for me and I feel I am part of this magic!
This is how I live in a performance.
Musician of Playback Nuevo
Life as it should be
For me, Playback Theatre is life as it should be! I mean, that as in Playback we present pieces of someone’s life in a very simple and profound way, it is really this that should happen in real life. It is this simplicity and profoundness that we miss in our everyday communication that makes our relationships so difficult and at times so chaotic.
This is the most important offer to the tellers in a playback performance, that we give back to them a hint of how life should be, simple and profound. This is what brings to the tellers this kind of happiness when they see their stories. We give back to them the essence, the core elements of their truth.
And another very important thing is that in Playback Theatre we show respect to the other person’s truth. We do not argue as we do in real life. We just listen, get in their shoes and reflect back their truth.
When I am on stage, I feel I am in touch with a divine part of myself, the part that is far from egotistical thinking, far from who is right and who is wrong, far from the fear that I have to prove something. I am only a channel through which I allow the teller’s energy to get through and so we can connect in the truth of the moment.
I consider myself blessed for having come across Playback Theatre and be a member of this group, Playback Nuevo. The way we grow together in our group world and the way we influence the audiences we play for, gives a real purpose to my life.
Founding member of Playback Nuevo
My views on a playback performance
Fifteen years ago when I first attended a playback performance, it was hard for me to believe that the play I watched was not preconditioned. The outcome was appearing before me in an integral and automatic way as if everything had already been prepared.
The above disbelief and hesitancy vanished when I got the courage to tell my story. At once I saw in front of me, living and substantiated on stage, all that I was thinking and moreover, other aspects of my story that I hadn’t realized.
Four years ago, I decided to join the Playback Nuevo Group, trying to look at the theatre from a different viewpoint. By sharing my stories with the members of the group during the rehearsals and by listening to the stories of the other members, I experienced a gradual opening of myself. I started sharing my everyday reality with them and came close to them although I did not know them before joining the group. Gradually I started to feel very connected with the group members.
At the time when a teller, lets aside all other thoughts and shares his story in front of an audience, something magical happens; whilst the story initially concerns the teller, suddenly it touches everybody and indeed, you recognize a part of your own reality depicted and reflected in the shared story.
With Playback I learnt to be present with my heart and show empathy to the tellers and respect each story as each person’s story could be everyone’s story.
Member of Playback Nuevo
Employee at the National Bank of Greece
The first time I attended a playback performance, I shared a story to help break the ice; the audience was silent, and I could tell that my friend who was conducting for the first-time needed help. I no longer remember the story I shared, but I remember the feeling of seeing it played back. Playback magic had happened: on stage, an actor was me, and the box that was my mind was opened. My thoughts were brought to the fore, and suddenly they were clear, hitting me in the face, waking me up. A shiver… and I was hooked – as it turned out, for life. In time, I was let deeper into the secrets of playback and joined Playback Nuevo. The team has become a second caring family in my life. Together, we create new spaces where our stories are safe and where they are transformed into action. We embrace our feelings and the feelings of others. Through this process, I have also become more open and sensitized to the feelings, explicit or hidden, of the people surrounding me in every day life. Then, on stage, I have the privilege to look deeper into people’s souls, to share their feelings, take part in their joys and sorrows; I become them. There is so much we share in common. Feelings unite us, even though the details of our personal stories may be different. Nevertheless, the challenge is always there: to honour the story-tellers. And, to authentically, without prejudice, recite their story in a way that tells them and everyone in the audience: you are not alone!
Member of Playback Nuevo
Professor of Information Systems Management at the Athens University of Economics and Business