True Stories of Kindness to be Enacted Around the World on Nov. 13 Using Playback Theatre

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Playback Theatre, improvisation based spontaneously on the personal stories of audience members, will be performed around the world on November 13, 2005 to celebrate World Kindness Day. This event will mark the first coordinated global Playback Theatre performances on a shared theme Â? Â?Acts of Kindness.Â?

On November 13, 2005 over 70 Playback Theatre companies on 6 continents will celebrate World Kindness Day with coordinated Playback Theatre productions, sharing the single theme of “Acts of Kindness”. Playback Theatre is improvisation based on the personal stories of audience members. This event will mark the first coordinated global playback performances on a shared theme.

“The title ‘Acts of Kindness’ invites stories of affirmation, to create hope and healing,” says Raphael Peter, a moving force behind the event, and founder of Asheville Playback Theatre in North Carolina, USA. “Hearing these stories and seeing them enacted will remind audiences of the power an act of kindness has to transform our lives, our communities and our world.”

The international network of Playback companies has been growing for 30 years and now circles the world. In addition to pure entertainment, Playback has been used to increase tolerance and understanding between people, and affirm our shared humanity. Palestinians and Israelis meet at a playback performance and come to a new appreciation of differing perspectives; villagers in Botswana teach about AIDS through personal stories; “untouchables” in India describe what it would take to overcome the stigma of their caste; young Germans are connected with the legacy of their grandparents from World War II. Around the world, playback is in schools to show children the effects of bullying, and in prisons to provide a forum for inmates to share their hopes and fears. Public performances often include a mix of humorous stories with those of challenge and transformation.

A playback performance is centered on the personal feelings and experiences shared by audience members. A typical performance begins with a simple question to warm-up the audience: What was your week like? Who has traveled a distance to be here tonight? A group of actors dramatizes what they hear in brief “fluid sculptures”, accompanied by live music. Then the “conductor” of the evening invites someone to tell a longer story. An audience member comes up to the stage and is interviewed. The only rule is that the story told must be the personal experience of the storyteller. The actors and musicians listen carefully, the conductor shapes the story, and the enactment follows without planning or discussion. At its best, the “playback” reaches into the story behind the story, serving the storyteller by adding insight and art to what has been shared.

Jonathan Fox, who founded Playback Theatre in 1975, is very enthusiastic about the potential of the global event. “Playback Theatre is based on the idea that everybody’s story has value. We come to the stage with nothing prepared – we have no script. We have only our ability to bring people’s real lives to the stage in the moment, our listening skills, and our humanity. November 13th is a day to look forward to. It will be a day of hope for a troubled world.” Fox’s comments can be seen in a short film on the group’s website.

Global Playback for Kindness is a project of EarthStage Productions, Inc. “We are thrilled to present this amazing event to people in so many countries,” said Mountaine Mort Jonas, Producing Director of EarthStage. “Having been involved in many scripted productions designed to raise consciousness about social and environmental issues, we are fascinated by the power of Playback to touch the hearts of audience members.”

“The potential for this global event to impact people around the world in a positive way is tremendously exciting,” says Deborah Scott, artistic director of Asheville (NC) Playback Theatre, and a member of the global playback planning team. “When people listen in a deep way to the stories of others, they can’t help but see beyond differences, to the underlying humanity that we all share.”

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Raphael Peter