Your Story is my Story: Playback Theatre as a Tool for Empathy Building in the Classroom and in the Community

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Playback Theatre, created in 1975 by Jonathan Fox, is an improvisational form of theatre in which a team of actors and musicians enact audience members' true stories. With active companies in 50 countries across six continents, Playback Theatre is used in artistic, educational, corporate, community, and clinical settings. Both Playback practitioners and audience members alike report an increased awareness of the self and others as a result of this kind of work. In this session, we'll describe a Playback Theatre project done in the Department of Theatre Arts at California State University, San Bernardino. Students were trained in Playback Theatre technique and then performed for public audiences as well as for invited audiences in themed shows (gender issues and race and racism), for an audience at a forensic mental health facility, and for students in a Juvenile Hall school. We'll report upon the responses of performers and audience and consider Playback Theatre's power as an empathy-building tool. A team of student actors from Cal State will then present a short Playback Theatre performance, enacting stories they solicit from the workshop attendees. If time remains, workshop attendees will get to try their hand at a Playback Theatre short form.

Note: Although this session fits the Workshop presentation criteria, we request a 90-minute time slot.


Keywords: Playback Theatre, Playback, Theatre, Story, Stories, Education, Performance, Community
Stream: Art and Education
Presentation Type: Colloquium in English
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Michelle Ebert Freire

Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre Arts, California State University
San Bernardino, California, USA

Michelle Ebert Freire is an assistant professor in the Theatre Arts Department at California State University, San Bernardino, where she teaches theatre education and acting. She has a certificate from the Drama Therapy Institute of Los Angeles and is working toward earning the national title of Registered Drama Therapist. For the past four years, she has studied Playback Theatre at the School of Playback Theatre in New York’s Hudson Valley. She is a member of the National Association of Drama Therapy and the American Alliance for Theatre in Education. Her most recent publication, "A Different Kind of Community Theatre: Perfomance Projects with GLBT Adolescents," is appearing in the winter 2007 issue of Teaching Artist Journal. Michelle holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Drama and Theatre for Youth at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ref: A07P0011