Dear Playbackers and other readers,
I hope you are well and that Playback Theatre still treats you well. The Asia Pacific Playback Theatre Conference finished earlier this month and I had the great honor of participating in it. Playback Theatre enthusiasts and new friends to it from all around Asia as well as some countries outside gathered for a few days in Mihara, Hiroshima District, Japan. The organization was wonderful and I truly was inspired by the Playback Theatre as well as the people participating in the conference, not to mention the beautiful city of Mihara.
It is always an eye-opener to participate in international gatherings and see how national and cultural differences, language barriers and misunderstandings are overcome by good will and – of course – Playback Theatre. Playback Theatre has the unique ability to create understanding for both the individual experience as well as the shared stories. Listening to other people’s stories open our eyes and help us see what we share as well as everyone’s uniqueness. Having your own story played back creates the feeling of being seen and heard, being understood and accepted. Playing back other people’s stories is also truly a privilege. For a few moments, you have the ability to see through someone else’s eyes, experience their life, worries, dreams, and after playing back you understand more of the world.
Bridges between people can be built. It is scary to face people who see not eye to eye with us, but this form is one of the tools we can use. In order to change, we will need to want to change. We need to feel safe enough. We need to feel accepted as we are, otherwise the change will come from the outside, not inside.
I was walking around in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. A friendly-looking Japanese man approached me, and started to talk to me. My first reaction was: “Is he trying to sell me something? Should I try to get away from this situation?” I chose to stay and see what this conversation was about. He was a partly retired man who just enjoyed talking to foreigners visiting Hiroshima. We talked for a long time about Finnish and Japanese cultures and he told me about a beautiful tradition of people going to the mountains in Autumn to look at the moon. In the end he said: “Finland does great work for peace around the world. Here in Hiroshima we appreciate that very much. You are always welcome here.” I fell silent for a while. I was thinking about things going on in my country, the rise of the extreme right wing, the division, and all that. I chose not to mention those. I thanked him for his kind words and we parted happily, having met a person we connected with. I thought to myself that even if that peace work does not tell the whole or even half the truth about Finland, I want to keep that image in my mind. It is something to aspire, something to grow towards. I was truly grateful that in the city which suffered unimaginable horrors during the second world war, rebuilt itself afterwards and is known now as the City of Peace, he thanked me for the work someone else had done. I want to be worth his words.
True horrors are going on in the world. Being in Hiroshima reminds me of those, and having heard the touching story of the government actions and how it affects people’s lives in the Philippines touched me deeply. The Playback Theatre activists are truly doing a wonderful job there working with the victims of the horrors the government has inflicted on them.
Sometimes the horrors seem too big to grasp, too great to have any idea what to do about them. Personnally I believe in two things we can do regarding these. I believe in changing my own perspective, learning from new people, watching in the mirror and seeing who I am and hopefully, who I want to be. I believe in hope. Hope for a better tomorrow is the first step of making it possible. I cannot change others, but I can change me. And if I act differently, maybe my surroundings will react, maybe people I meet will also connect with me and find the need in themselves to change.
With Playback Theatre, sometimes we can reach a connection. What happens after the connection, is up to us. Let us keep on sharing and connecting, keep on hoping and reaching out to people.
Thank you very much for doing Playback Theatre. Thank you for being interested in it. Thank you for doing what you do.
With much love,