The International Playback Theatre Network (IPTN) is pleased to announce that it has just awarded a total of $5,000 USD to Playback Theatre troupes in three cities around the world: Houston, Kathmandu, and Melbourne. These Pilot Grants are designed to fund the start-up phase of new Playback projects, whose learnings and results will be shared with our Playback community to further strengthen our practice in Playback Theatre and network. The projects include research into the use of Playback Theatre for Mental Health Recovery following trauma-induced anxiety and depression (Houston), providing a safe space for stories of underrepresented women in Nepal (Kathmandu), and enabling the wider community to hear the voices of people with disabilities, and foster inclusion (Melbourne).
The initiative, which was conceived by former IPTN president, Michele Chung (Hong Kong), was coordinated by IPTN Vice-President, Kerry Williams (Australia). Treasure, Don Crites (USA) served as Chair of the Selection Committee which included IPTN Board members; António Vicente (Portugal), Andrea Sandoval (Mexico), and Anastasia (Russia), Regional Reps Peter Hall (Australia) and Fhabi Fajardo (Philippines), together with Michele Chung.
The blind selection process assessed the strength of each proposal on the basis of the following criteria:
- The strength of the proposal to build community (15%)
- Does this project have the ability to be replicated in other parts of the world? (15%)
- Sustainability of project (Long-term potential, getting funding for more potential) (15%)
- Qualification of project-in-charge/facilitator (Not just Playback Theatre qualification but qualification to work with the target group) and relevant partnership (15%)
- Budget (reasonable and realistic) (15%)
- Ways of evaluation and documentation (10%)
- Innovativeness/ Creativity/ Originality (15%)
Conditions and Timeline:
- The pilot phase must be completed within 9 months of receipt of the Pilot Grant
- All data related to the pilot and updates shall be stored on the IPTN website for members’ references
- November 30, 2018 - A mid-project report is required during the project to demonstrate progress and will be uploaded to the website for IPTN members. Discussion can be made on the website for comments, suggestions and questions.
- May 31, 2019 - A written report with a detailed account of the project, evaluation / reflection and area of improvements along with videos and photos should be submitted to the Board within three months upon completion of the pilot for uploading to the IPTN website. These materials will be available for members of IPTN. The original proposal to the Board will be uploaded for members of IPTN to have a reference on how proposals can be written and what a realistic budget plan would look like.
- December 2019 - A presentation slot at international conference in Bangalore India for all the pilot projects and their progress thereafter will be made available.
The IPTN website will become a portal of support worldwide for Playback Theatre practice(s) and help with the promotion of the form as well as supporting members to get resources they need. It is like crowd-brainstorming/ crowd-funding (membership fees) site for Playbackers.
Summary of Proposals:
Houston Playback Theatre (HPT) for research into Mental Health Recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Building on previous work with Baylor College of Medicine, research will be conducted to determine if a series of Playback Theatre (PT) performances focused on Hurricane Harvey stories could have a positive effect on trauma-induced anxiety and depression. According to HPT, “This demonstration would in turn help not only with the sustainability of our Harvey-focused project, but also with the acceptance of PT as an adjuvant help in other recovery efforts in the future.” In addition to questionnaires, participants will undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain connectivity before and after a series of PT performances. A control group will also be collected for assessment before and after, but will not be exposed to PT.
This is personal for the HPT as half of their actors were displaced after the hurricane, due to flooding in their homes. HPT reports that performances centered around Hurricane Harvey have uncovered, “very raw, very traumatic experience, including two stories about water-related deaths, incredible heroism in the face of difficulties, anger, anxiety, and sadness.” In the wake of city-wide trauma, they believe that, “PT can be a rich tool to help community mental health by sharing stories in a positive, caring, and respectful way.”
The Nepali theatre collective, Katha Ghera, to provide a safe space for stories of underrepresented women in Nepal. Organizers, Gunjan Dixit and Akanchha Karki describe a culture of “entrenched patriarchy and unequal social norms” evidenced by a, “lack of decision making power and control over productive assets, and a system of arranged marriage.” This, they say, “. . . causes women and girls across Nepal to be significantly unequal.” These two women describe how the system is perpetuated by silencing the voices of women, especially in rural areas, “where women are shy and do not come forward.” Having witnessed the power of Playback Theatre among those affected by the civil war and insurgency, disabilities, homelessness, and sex trafficking, troupe members will now have the funding necessary to travel outside Kathmandu to the Dhading district. Here they will conduct performances for women-only audiences, offering a safe space, empathy, and self-exploration. They hope the collection of unheard personal stories will be added to the, “. . . larger narrative, with special care given to confidentiality and trauma.”
In order to build trust, understanding and connection, the Playback troupe members will stay in host homes during their time in this rural community. They plan to offer 3 performances and workshops exploring the themes of identity, gender related problems, and sexuality before and after each performance. By documenting their experience, they hope this venture will inspire a stronger feminist movement in Nepal.
The Melbourne Playback Theatre Company (MPTC) to enable the wider community to hear the voices of people in their community with disabilities, and foster inclusion. MPTC is concerned about the fact that, “Despite great progress toward accessibility and inclusion, people with disabilities are rarely supported to speak up as themselves, for themselves.” The focus of this project, called Amplified, is, “championing actors with disabilities to share their own stories and to have these stories heard by the community.” They cite research that supports the fact that, “Community arts can challenge negative perceptions and misunderstanding held by people both with and without disabilities.”
MPTC has chosen to collaborate with a new local group called Sky Theatre, made up of five talented performers with disabilities. Through a series of Playback training workshops Sky Theatre will, according to MPTC, “use these Playback skills to devise and create a performance based on their experiences – both their victories and setbacks.” A combined performance will comprise a new work-in-progress by Sky Theatre followed by a Playback show featuring MPTC performers and Sky Theatre actors performing together. As a result of the creative process and subsequent performance MPTC hopes to, “facilitate an experience that enables this community – both on stage and in the audience – to express their needs, aspirations, inspirations, identity and sense of place.”
The troupe is confident that this innovative approach is easily replicated internationally. Thy will evaluate the success of their project through anonymous surveys of all participants at the end of the project, and discussion with audience members. Positive outcomes will reveal whether or not Sky Theatre actors are supported to craft a new theatre work that represents their experience of the world.
The IPTN exists to enable Playbackers to connect as a global community, foster networking and deepen collective learning and wisdom. It provides an independent, inclusive and global platform that strengthens Playback Theatre Practice through connection and mutual influence. For years, through the newsletter, Journal, website and recently social media, IPTN has fostered networking and connected Playbackers from around the world.
Future Pilot Grants
The ability to fund future grants such as these is dependent upon the success of these projects and the support of IPTN members.
Copies of each proposal may be found on the IPTN website. Please contact Kerry Williams via email (email@example.com) or Skype to answer any questions you may have.