Hello again, fellow Celebrationists, and welcome to week two of my blog!
I’ve decided to add another element to my writing each week, by beginning with three things I am grateful for – feel free to join me!
Today I am grateful for…
- My expedited passport, which is happily resting in my lap – no trouble at all with pick-up! I’m going to Japan for a week!
- Perfectly timed subway trains this morning, arriving just as I swipe my card and shimmy through the turnstile
- The many friends who assist me with all things related to technology…you are all so patient with me!
All right friends! Here we go…
Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to the kind-hearted, generous, and super-sparkly Lindsay Tanner – a member of Village Playback Theatre. I had the great privilege of seeing a riveting public performance a few months back and became obsessed with the Little Bit of Good this organization is doing. Combining theatre with unique service to the community, read on to learn about these amazing folks and the difference they are making!
Tell the nice folks out there – what is Village Playback Theatre?
LT: VPT has been serving the New York City community for the past 12 years in such diverse settings as psychiatric facilities, recovery centers, homeless shelters, schools, and mental health communities. Playback Theatre is a form of applied theatre that has existed since the 1970’s and has been performed worldwide. In Playback, audience members share personal stories with the performers, who use dramatic, musical, and movement improvisation to play that story back. VPT’s performance team consists of highly trained actors and musicians, and a facilitator who holds a Masters degree in Drama Therapy from NYU. The role of our facilitator is to guide the performance and the sharing by audience members. The results are cathartic and full of affirmation for the storytellers.]
When did you start working with this organization?
LT: I became a Village Playback Theatre company member in 2011. A close friend had been working with VPT for a couple of years at that time, and I’d seen one of the company’s public shows. I auditioned and went through a lengthy callback and interview process, full of improvisation and ensemble work. Getting to know the company and its style of working during that process made me even more eager to join.
What inspired you to begin/join the team?
LT: For me, acting has always been about service. I’m always looking for ways to use theatre to offer something to the world. I also feel most connected to my artistry when I’m creating theatre with an ensemble using impulse-based physical work. And Village Playback Theatre combines all of these elements! It’s a dream job.
We perform almost entirely for disenfranchised audiences – people who might never have seen a play before. We go to recovery centers, hospitals, psychiatric wards, homeless shelters, schools; people share their personal stories with us and we improvise them back using a combination of music (we have wonderful jazz musicians in our company!), movement, and improvised scenes. When we rehearse, we share our own stories with each other – so I can tell you from personal experience that having your story “played back” is cathartic and validating and profound.
What excites you most about the work you are doing?
LT: Through VPT, I’ve gotten to know people whose lives and experiences of the world differ greatly from my own. That’s my dream come true: using theatre to engage with the world and expand my understanding of humanity – creating theatre that honors both the individual and the community story.
Playback requires deep listening: in order to honor a story that someone is sharing, a playback performer must dedicate her whole being to the task of listening to that storyteller. That’s a big part of what makes playback theatre so wonderful: how often in life do people listen to us that fully? How often do we listen like that when someone else is speaking? The practice of playback theatre has enriched my life offstage. It’s certainly made me a better performer. And I think it’s made me a more understanding, empathetic human.
How can others support the organization?
LT: Like any non-profit arts organization, we are always in need of resources! You can visit http://villageplaybacktheatre.org/ to find out more information about the company and make a donation.
“Like” our Facebook page: Village Playback Theatre. You can follow all of our activities throughout the year on that page!
Lastly, if you know of an organization that could benefit from a playback performance, please put us in touch. We are always looking to bring our work to new communities!
What is another organization or individual you believe to be doing “Little Bits of Good?”
LT: I work as a teaching artist with The Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY). We make theatre with young people who stutter, and there’s nothing I find more inspiring than working with these kids and this group! SAY is a beautiful non-profit organization where everyone is empowered to say what they want to say and take as much time as they need to say it – a great philosophy for all people, I think, and one that fosters an environment of deep listening and respect. Check out the amazing work that they do – and come to one of the performances if you can! I guarantee that it will make your day. Here’s their website, which also has some great information about stuttering and tips for listening better when you’re communicating with a person who stutters: http://www.say.org/.
What is the best thing that happened to you today?
LT: My boyfriend and I got tickets to see King Lear at Shakespeare in the Park!
Thank you Lindsay, and thank you all for reading! Tune in next week for another Little Bit of Good – coming at you from Toyko!