Playback Theatre: Bringing Groups to Life

A snapshot of Playback Theatre - Healing York and River Crossing  Playback.
A snapshot of Playback Theatre - Healing York and River Crossing Playback. Photo by John Pavoncello, York Dispatch.

Imagine your community telling honest, heartfelt stories of its members within an hour of gathering – and listening intently to each other.  And one by one, those stories come to life on an intimate stage!

That’s Playback Theatre, an interactive form of creating beautiful community dialogue that I have been practicing since 2004.  And it could be your group.  Because Playback Theatre is not just fun and good storytelling, it’s the activation of our common human empathy.  Across cultures and languages, it’s a potentially universal experience.  And it brings people together – whether strangers, colleagues or families – like very few other methods.  What makes Playback Theatre unique is:

  • It’s exciting and fun – the energy of improvisational theatre adds suspense, playfulness and surprise to gatherings;
  • It’s powerful – participants often report being deeply affected watching their own stories played back  – or seeing others’ stories enacted live;
  • It’s safe – people share responses and tell stories only when they’re ready – and in a format which respects every story and each teller;
  • It can be a performance with a trained ensemble or a workshop with untrained participants – adults or children, whether 5 or 500 people (ideally 15-150);
  • It is a perfect launch point for more pointed group discussion of common issues or goals when coordinated with the Playback conductor and a group’s leaders and facilitators;
  • It goes beyond “issues,” disarming us from pre-conceptions we have about each other and the questions raised.
Chris Fitz conducting a story at Your Stories, Yorks Stories, part  of the Healing York initiative in April 2008.
Chris Fitz conducting a story at Your Stories, York's Stories performance, part of the Healing York initiative in April 2008.

I specialize in thematic performances and workshops of Playback Theatre, helping audiences and groups to relate around often topics that are often tough to talk about like racism, gender roles or a history of divisiveness.  I conduct these events with a light touch; people can really talk about something when they are given space to do that.

Playback Theatre was developed in the 1970s in the United States amidst an explosion of revolutionary applied arts in which educators, activists, therapists and traditional artists found new and old ways of embodying story and crafting community conversation. Now thousands practice this form worldwide in hundreds of active companies.  I am the founder of one, River Crossing Playback based in the lower Susquehanna Valley of South Central Pennsylvania. I have also played with other groups in Germany, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, North Carolina and touring across the US.  In addition to training in those groups, I have trained at the Centre for Playback Theatre in New York since 2004, studying with the founders of the discipline, Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas.

Contact me to help develop a Playback Theatre event near you!