Dear IPTN members, playbackers worldwide and everyone else,
I was elected as the new IPTN president in Budapest, and I am happy to serve. To me, being the president of IPTN is not a position of power. It is a position where I get to serve the community I love, do work to advance the form of art I love, build bridges where there are none yet and strengthen the bridges built by others before me. I thank the board for putting their trust in me, and I hope I will be a worthy successor to the amazing presidents before me.
I have been doing Playback Theatre for the past decade and it has changed my life, becoming a central part of it. It all began during my theatre studies. Päivi Rahmel did three days of playback with us students, and I began to crave for more. I wanted to hear stories, play stories and live other peoples’ lives, if just for a brief moment. One day I saw a call for male actors by a playback group consisting of theatre professionals called Acts, and they chose me as one of the new actors in the group. I was thrilled, and the more I did playback, the more I fell in love with it.
I continued acting, and in a few years I became interested in conducting and leading a group and attended the Finnish two-year long leadership course by Päivi Rahmel. These days I lead the group I began with and a few others, act in two groups, teach and train playback and help Päivi in training the future playback leaders in Finland. I have been in the Finnish playback network board for many years, the last two as the president. In IPTN, I have served the last two years as the vice president, and before that I was the regional representative of Finland.
Playback is the favorite part of my profession. In my non-playback life I teach drama methods and gamified education to teachers, coach unemployed people and I graduated as a psychodrama director one year ago, hoping to make that part of my profession, too. When I have time, I also try to write my doctoral dissertation in the field of game research.
The EPTG gathering in Budapest proved yet again that playback is done by people who want to understand people and who want to do some good in this world. I was amazed and touched deeply by the work of Hungarian playbackers in different projects. I personally got to meet the wonderful people of the Blackberry Tree project. That project works with people with people with cognitive and emotional disabilities, and many people working for that project have playback background and they use playback much in their work. At their farm, the Blackberry Tree project’s residents prepared us breakfast from the food they grow themselves, showed us around the farm where they grow their food, and they did a whole playback performance for us before showing us also the cozy, homey place they live in. The performance was excellent and heartwarming, as well as all the people participating in the Blackberry Tree project – instructors as well as the residents. Projects like this help me believe that when there is good will, there is a good way. Thank you, Hungary, Budapest and all the wonderful people I met during my stay there!
Tomas, one of the residents in the Blackberry Tree project. We became friends.
There will be more stories about the gathering in Budapest – stay tuned.
My love for playback is strong. I am still awestruck by the amount of understanding and empathy, the creativity and difficulty of playback. One can never be perfect. One can never be “ready”. I am still always excited to hear the next story, to learn more about stories, cultures and humanity. Playback is a form of art that creates understanding and empathy, a form of art that has the power to empower and build bridges. Building bridges seems to be more important than ever.
The world is changing rapidly, and this era pushes people into different camps. The challenges we face are huge, and I hope we as playbackers can help people understand each other as well as themselves better. Playback Theatre has the ability to build bridges, but less bridges are built if we do playback only for people who think like us. I hope we can see further. I hope we can create understanding with audiences we have not performed to before. I hope we find the courage to perform to audiences who do not share our views about the world. I believe in the magic of encounter, in the magic of experiencing being seen and heard and understood. If we can provide a platform for discussion that helps us understand each other better and hopefully empathize with people we have not empathized with before, maybe change is possible – change that benefits us all.
Playbackers around the world are doing great things. Let us continue the good work! And if you need the support of IPTN, let us know. We want to be there for you.