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. Of course, Playback troupes around the world have learned a lot since then!
The library teaches several online forms. For each form there are two video clips, one of the intake (or a summary) and enactment, and one where a performer gives commentary about important points.
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. We encourage you to learn at least one form that includes interactive scenes.
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. Online Playback offersartistic 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.
Please send video clips from your work!
These launching examples are mostly from True Story Theater (Boston). In 2023-4, we are putting together a YouTube playlist from many different Playback companies of clips showing strong online Playback. If you might like to send examples of your company’s work, please contact Connect@PlaybackNorthAmerica.com.