A question I get asked a lot is ‘How do you rehearse Playback Theatre?’ So I thought I would write a bit about this..
Rehearsals are all about developing the skills needed to perform Playback Theatre stories, telling our own stories and developing our working relationships – this directly affects how we work as an ensemble. Some of the skills we work on are;
Improvisation – how to say YES and jump into WHATEVER scene is being created onstage and to make offers (add something new to the scene) and accept offers from other actors – and don’t forget the musical offers! Improv is an ongoing practice in being in the present, IN THE MOMENT, thinking on your feet and letting go of your own spectacular ideas. It’s great fun and exhilarating!
Physicality – actions speak louder than words – We try to use physical gesture and movement to add another layer to the narrative rather than just rely on words. This can be abstracted and impulsive, and you have to trust your impulses (this is interesting and worth talking about next time). Mostly physical impulses and relationships can be wild, erratic and marvellous. Music is a great help in this regard when you listen and let it move you it can carry you away from the safety of words. Don’t get me wrong I love words but they get an actor very static, stuck and literal in this theatre form, I think mainly because you’re your own scriptwriter/choreographer and director in any given moment-talking is safe!
Voice – voice is very emotional and very powerful. We are lucky enough to have a great voice coach (Judy) in the company so we have sessions working on our range, expanding our diaphragm…and there is more to do!
Story analysis – we spend time looking at stories and what they mean to the teller and to us, we look at what the essence of the story could be, we ask what is the heart of the story? Also what’s said and unsaid. Sometimes a teller will tell a story and not be aware of depths in the story and when put onstage these depths will be revealed. If it is something very deep and painful we try not to peel this open but given we are creating theatre we are looking for relationship and drama.
Reworking – because we want to reflect a tellers story as full as we can so we spend time in rehearsal reworking certain stories. What do I mean by full? – dramatic, colourful, moving – get it? We usually decide as a group which stories need to be reworked, maybe we didn’t feel like we built and developed a particular relationship fully enough or we rushed through a story or missed the essence or didn’t stage it as well as we could-it is impro after all!
Well I still could keep writing on other aspects of our rehearsal process particularly about our how we develop our working relationships. In fact next time I will write about this as I think it is one of the things that sets us apart from other creative groups. I hope you find this interesting.