Doing strong Playback Theatre on Zoom 

This library was created in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic pushed many Playback companies around the world into an unprecedented experiment: can our intimate and physical form of theater work on the virtual format of Zoom?

PNA dove into this challenge, and took the lead in encouraging Playback companies across the region to learn ways to perform on Zoom.  We created this video library by pulling clips from some of the first online shows.  The clips complemented the online workshops PNA held throughout 2020.

 Why keep doing Playback online?   

Playback on Zoom offers many benefits, even when performing in person is also available.  You can perform with and for people from anywhere in the world.  The number and types of groups you can perform for increases exponentially.  It’s logistically far easier for both company members and the groups hiring you:  you don’t need to line up a venue, or travel, or set up your performance space.  Your shows are more accessible to both performers and audience members who have physical challenges, including hearing loss (although yes, they need access to high-speed internet). You can easily record the performances, and use the recordings for troupe training and promotion.   You can give online Playback classes and draw a student base from around the world.

A subset of your troupe members–even just 3-4 performers– could chose to keep developing their skills at online Playback, and be a smaller yet potent performing group that opens opportunities for your company.

Can online Playback be artistically satisfying and emotionally powerful?

Absolutely–if you invest in it as its own art form, a close cousin to in-person Playback, but not identical.  Some artistic elements of traditional Playback are not possible online, such as the aesthetic physical delight of interwoven Fluid Sculptures, or the potent metaphor of performers holding each other’s weight.  Yet, online Playback offers other artistic elements from the film medium: actors’ faces viewed close up, showing nuanced expressions; the disorienting feel created by moving your computer camera around, new visual effects.  Similarly, online Playback provides fresh artistic opportunities for both the conductor and the musician, when given sustained practice and exploration.  

This initial library focuses on different online forms.  Each form has a folder, arranged alphabetically by the name of the form.  Remember that forms are not as important as the skills of strong empathetic listening, distilling the story to its essence, creating a safe and strong ritual container, and more.  Your company only needs to learn 2-3 forms to do a powerful Playback show.  Make sure one of your forms includes scenes where the performers interact.

We hope the video library might grow to include clips demonstrating other aspects of strong online Playback.  For technical info about performing online, please see PNA’s Guide to Playback Online.   Please remember that every Playback company does things in its own way, so learn what you like from this library and leave the rest behind. 

Help grow this library: please send video clips from your work!

Our launching examples are mostly from True Story Theater (Boston)–and we would love for this library to include clips from many PNA member companies.  You could share forms not yet included here, or different ways to do the forms shown, or just moments you thought were especially strong or moving.   If you might like to send examples of your company’s work, please contact

Only PNA members can view the video clips. 
If you are a member and have logged-in with your password, click on the link below to see the video library now.