WHAT IS PLAYBACK
click here to see
one article of mine
based on excerpts from my “soon-to-be-published” book:
“Relational Playback Theatre in the PSP approach”.
The article was published at
“The Journal of practical psychologist” (Russia)
At the very last section of this page
there is my perspective on
PLAYBACK THEATRE AND PSYCHOTHERAPY
(which is also a part of my book)
The original Playback Theatre Company came together in 1975, by Jonathan Fox and other cooperators, and was part of the experimental theatre explorations of the 1970s. Playback has spread all over the world (there are more than 200 groups), and is now practiced in many different countries, languages and contexts.
In this kind of interactive and improvisational theatrical “praxis” there is no some pre-existing play or script that is to be presented. The performance is co-created by the audience, the actors (the musician is included), the conductor.
The performance raw material is provided by the audience: ﾠ
stories, dreams, moments, snapshots, expectations, feelings, important and “non-important” events of everyday life, issues which are familiar for anybody of us, yet always experienced only personally by each one of us.
Playback is a “Theatre – gift” aiming to create a ritual space where every voice and any story – however ordinary, extraordinary, hidden or emotionally difficult – might be heard and told: it is unique and uniquely valuable, and exactly this is why there is much meaning in being told and heard in the “community” context of the performance.
Such narrations are getting “alive” on the Playback stage as they are improvised by the actors. There is no discussion and preparation between the actors. The result is a deep and strong experience enriching the actors and the audience within and beyond the “stage” boundaries.
A Playback performing group consists of 5-7 actors trained in the special Playback stage demands and techniques, a musician, and the conductor, who is linking the audience with the actors, and is responsible for the performance flow.
The performance starts with a short introduction by the conductor,
about the Playback nature and about the group, as well the specific performance. Then the performance is structured in periods of sequential “events” of narrations and stage improvisation, and unfolds in a ritual atmosphere. In the beginning of such an event, someone from the audience expresses one’s wish to narrate some experience. The narration is “shaped” through a short conductor’s interview with the teller. The teller has the chance to give “roles” to the actors: persons, feelings, objects, whatever she/he wishes to see on stage.
Then the conductor turns and asks from the actors to improvise the narrated story. The teller watches his/her experience dramatized (“played-back”) on the spot. After the end of the improvisation, the conductor asks the narrator about her/his experience. The conductor turns to the audience, available for the next story, for the next Playback event to start.
As the narrator watches her/his experience to pulsate fully alive right there, on stage, in front of her/his eyes, he/she develops a here and now experience on the basis of the narrated event being now dramatized. The narrator’s story, on the Playback stage, is getting life as an actual present process, by the Playback team. It is no more a simple sequence of events and words lying asleep or selectively filtered in memory. It is not anymore a lifeless “dried” statement of facts, squeezed in a mental space.
The narration gets a multidimensional aspect as what has happened “then” gets an emotional basis in “now” through the actors. It becomes a live experiential figure, acquiring a new present meaning, because the narrator has the chance to attribute to his/her story the integrity that is at best meaningful for him/her right now. A “new” experience is emerging out of “old” material.
At the same time the rest of the audience may sense analogies to their own life-events. As they are all sharing a common aesthetic experience, springs up the common basis of existentially similar human issues underlying any individual life-event.
Playback may be functional in a variety of settings and with multiple goals. ﾠ
It may be just a special kind of a theatrical performance, as well as a professional service to several areas (the Organizational and educational ones, or to several other aspects of the broader social field).
Playback as practice is addressed and open to anybody. There are no ages or stage “skills” absolutely necessary. Of course, to practice Playback there is a lot of serious training required, and any pre-existing skills in any aspect of stage interaction consist a significant basis for the Playback actor and conductor. Still, it is important to note that anyone may be involved with Playback in one’s own way.
Suffice it to wish: to interact and share with Others, to open to them one’s inner personal reality, to respectfully relate it with the reality of the narrators and of the other actors, to “listen” in a special way to other people getting responsibly in contact with them, to “play” with a child’s like authenticity, earnestness and enthusiasm, to develop systematically one’s expressive tools and skills, to work one’s relational awareness along with one’s growth.
“Do you have a story to tell?
… … Meaning is at the core
of the creative process and of storytelling.
When it is our own life story we are telling
or a story from our lives,
we become aware that we are not
the victims of random and chaotic circumstances,
that we, too,
despite our grief or feelings of insignificance,
are living meaningfully in a meaningful universe.
And, again, the response to our own story,
as well to the stories of others, is
‘Yes. Yes, I have a story. Yes, I exist’ …”
(the quoted text is by Deena Metzger, “Writing for Your Life”, included in the book “Improvising Real Life”, by Jo Salas, 1993, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company)
THE COURSE OF MY PERSONAL “PRAXIS” IN PLAYBACK
I met PLAYBACK in March, 2003, in Budapest. At that period we established with others the “Hellenic PLAYBACK Theatre” group, in Thessaloniki, (Greece), and we were trained by Jozsef Paradi for 140 hours. In this group, we also worked in a seminar with J. Fox and J. Sallas, and later with A. Chesner. I left this group on March of 2006. Until then I participated regularly in its training cycles and performances as a founding member.
In the meantime, I was already, since 2005, developing my broader personal method “PSP -Process Stage Praxis” (regarding an integration of the fundamental principles of the Gestalt perspective with the embodied stage improvisation – you may visit the relevant PSP link from the home page menu).
Today, whatever I do in Playback Theatre, regarding its theory, praxis and training, happens through PSP.
I am underlining that some of the primary Playback elements ﾠ
had a very significant part in the PSP inspiration (like it also happened with the workshop “Poytechno” in which we are working since 2000 with the director-actress Tina Stefanopoulou).
On 2006 I founded and till today I am cooperating with the T!NG Playback group (Thessaloniki, Greece), which was trained on the PSP basis. On this general orientation, since 2006, I am lecturing and conducting workshops of various forms on Playback. In parallel, I am founding, training and supervising Playback groups, as well realizing cycles of workshops of different duration in Greece and abroad (Italy, Russia, Serbia, Hungary).
Since 2007, I am also systematically working to introduce Playback ﾠin the field of Gestalt and other process – awareness oriented psychotherapists.
And this, because I strongly believe out of my own experience, that for any therapist, Playback may become a unique way to further refine one’s already existing therapeutic skills.
In the 9th EAGT European Conference – September 2007, Athens (EAGT: European Association for Gestalt Therapists), there was included in the program a Playback workshop and a Playback performance (the performance was addressed to all the Conference participants). These Playback events, were the result of the constant cooperation between the Italian group “META Playback Theatre” and myself. And, between other similar activities in different frameworks, a similar event took place in the 10th EAGT Conference (September 2010, Berlin – without the prformance).
In the beginning of 2008, the “T.T. – Train the Trainers” idea functioned for the first time in PSP. “T.T.” is a flexible PSP training structure, addressed to people from Playback who wished to be trained in order to become themselves Playback trainers.
Four members of the T!NG group entered and accomplished the extra training levels of the “T.T.” program. With their support, we trained together for 3 years the new Playback group “AquNA This”.
Since 2014, members of “AquNA This” followed too the “T.T.” program. Together with the T!NG members who had concluded the program, they form the PSP training in Playback “team”. With this team, we design and realize training in Playback through PSP programs and other relevant activities, in Greece and abroad.
One of the most important such activities was the volunteering program “PLAYBACK JUNIOR”, addressed exclusively to adolescents.
At the same time, some of these co-operators are already training themselves NEW PLAYBACK THEATRE GROUPS. Thus,they started appearing groups of second, third and fourth “generation”, which see Playback through PSP.
MY PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE ON PLAYBACK THEATRE
I believe that what J. Fox and his cooperators did with Playback, is an astounding conception touching and stimulating profoundly the human nature. In Playback, I see two dynamic vectors functioning simultaneously, that create the fascinating and powerful Playback experience through their constant interaction.
On a vertical one, any person is respectfully seen truly as a “person”, in one’s individual depth and uniqueness, with the full responsibility of choices and of attributing personal meaning to one’s personal universe. On the horizontal one, the “person” is seen in the complexity of one’s relational web with other “persons”, a web developing along with the process flow of the performance.
So, in Playback, two basic inherent human needs of extreme existential importance, are both met. ﾠ
One of them is to feel “seen”, acknowledged, respected, honored as a person. The other need is a two-faced one. It is transcending our individual limits and get in contact with the Other, yet without losing our personal shape by fusing “into” the Other.
I think that the Playback performance provides an excellent functional frame for these needs to be actually, ritually, experientially met. And since these needs have to do with relational processes, I believe that the primary Playback’s feature is its inherent relational nature.
Sharing stories, respecting the narrator, the improvisation technique and style while enacting the stories, all these, are not goals by themselves; they are partial parameters that get immediately clarified if we see Playback as a relational event. And depending on what we believe supports the processes in this relational event, we define theoretically and practically such parameters.
Speaking about PSP, we see the relation through the philosophical ideas of the existentialism, phenomenology and the way of thinking of field theory. Such ways to see things and our relational processes make up the backbones of the Gestalt perspective, which is the “filter” through which we see whatever has to do with Playback.
Today, even if I work much less in the Playback Theatre field, I work with enthusiasm with PSP in all its aspects (training, practicing, conducting, supervising). I attempt to gently and respectfully enrich and frame further Playback, by contributing in my way to the development of its theory, philosophy, practice as well training development.
Moreover, I do hope that the relational, phenomenological, field theory, existential, process and dialogical perspectives that are emerging in Playback through PSP, are enhancing further its solid fundaments, adding in parallel to them even more structural elements that are compact and coherent.
Playback, “therapy”, “psychotherapy”
In PSP, the first thing that we may note is that Playback, on its own it does not constitute an autonomous psychotherapy (since art also, autonomous, without being combined with some psychotherapeutic approach, is not “psychotherapy”, despite the potential “therapeutic” effects of any aesthetic experience).
Any serious approach in psychotherapy has concrete philosophy, aims, structure, methodology and practice; and art by itself cannot fulfill these requirements, no matter how therapeutic may be its effects (“therapeutic” meant in a very general sense, that we defined in a previous chapter of this study).
Thus, I would say that Playback, as art, does potentially have amazing “therapeutic” (and NOT “psychotherapeutic”) effects.
And so it can be used not as psychotherapy itself but as a way, like so many other ways, to support or stir the psychotherapeutic process, on a group level (as a warm-up, in supervision, as a closing process after a period of group life, etc).
In Thessaloniki, with the groups TING and AquNa This, we experimented many times in various ways, regarding the simple complementary co-operation of Playback with the psychotherapeutic group process. Playback supplemented the psychotherapeutic process functionally with excellent results, in specially arranged meetings with many closed psychotherapeutic and supervision groups.
We played with material emerging from personal issues of members of such groups, as well as issues that had to do with the groups’ dynamics or some specific stage in their life. The Playback events were accompanied, either by every or every two or three, with short psychotherapeutic processing of the enactment experience.
Furthermore, there was also great interest in the necessary co-operation of the psychotherapist – conductor of the group for which we were playing, with the conductor of the Playback group. And, it was also very challenging to create the particular structure of the “performance”, which we designed each time with great care, depending on the individual conditions and needs.
It is not possible to remain here more on this topic, on the potential of Playback to function as a complementary tool in psychotherapeutic or also any other interventions.
Clearly indicatively, and without wanting to be unfair to all the others who are involved systematically with this direction, I know that they already work with its various aspects: E. Zadryazhskaya (2010; 2011-’13, personal contact), J. Paradi (2012, personal contact), the Italian group Meta Playback Theatre (and especially F. Radaelli – 2009; 2010-’13, personal contact), O. Sanachina (2012, personal contact), L. Giotis (2009-’13, personal contact), some members of the Greek group Hellenic Playback Theatre (2005, personal contact).
“Opportunity – authenticity”, as the two general and basic
therapeutic (not “psychotherapeutic”) aspects of Playback.
In this section we will deal with two general and invaluable therapeutic possibilities of Playback, always considering that Playback itself doesn’t constitute psychotherapy nor any form of “therapy through art”. Personally, I believe that these two aspects of Playback form a diptych in which any other individual therapeutic function of Playback has its roots.
(a) Playback – opportunity for encounter.
One of these aspects is the unique opportunity for an intersubjective co-operation that Playback provides. We meet, and by building the “between” space of the performance, we produce a common intersubjective consciousness, through which we share and expand our explicit and mainly implicit knowledge about life (what we know about the world and is not consciously conveyed with words and logical patterns).
In the general consumer hypocrisy and technocratic sterility of our times, I find that the opportunity for an intersubjective encounter that offers the dialogically safe and caring context of Playback, is literally a priceless gift. And indeed, especially if we think of the simplicity, the depth and the power in which the experience of this encounter may reach.
In each step of the improvisational development of the performance, the present state of its intersubjective field is “challenged”. What is happening now, in some way is “shaken”, as it becomes ground for the next step, which is unplanned and happens exclusively through the developing dynamics of the performance. The “order” of the performance is continuously restructured, alternating with moments of doubt and uncertainty. And as the performance evolves, the more the relational web of the performance becomes more compact and more coherent.
Playback functions therapeutically by definition, because building the intersubjective field of the Playback performance has by itself important effects (developing intersubjectivity is nowadays recognized as a basic human need). Spectators and actors learn that they can work together and to explicitly and implicitly create the “between” space of their encounter, exploring ways to actively coexist in the context that Playback defines for this purpose.
Of course in every performance, there are definitely moments that seem like this co-operation “stumbles”. That actor didn’t seize the great opportunity that the other two gave him. That narrator, despite the efforts of the conductor, insists on not bringing something personal. Or, it seems that the entire group is not able to tune with the pulse of the spectators, etc. However, these moments are simply some of the natural states of the intersubjective field of the performance. They are part of the course of the performance; a course that has been engraved between all the other potentially possible ones, and is only “good” or “bad” according to the meaning we each give to it.
(b) Playback – “game”: spontaneity and authenticity.
Now, as far as the second more general therapeutic aspect of Playback is concerned, I see it in the way with which Playback offers us the opportunity of meeting: in Playback we meet the Other through the pleasure of the authentic non-programmed “game”.
Not only in the sense of fun (of having “good time”), but also in this sense of the joyful surrendering in the process of the “game” which is the spontaneous encounter with the Other (much similar to the authentic and deep pleasure of children who meet to play, fully present in the process of their game).
In Playback, actors and spectators are called to enjoy “playing” with each other. We simply don’t have dolls, little houses and cars. We “play” by co-creating personal experience on a collective level, whereas our game takes place in the relational space of our contact and communication.
Regarding the explicit material of our game, I would say that it is our macro-stories; and its implicit material is the invisible micro-stories of our interaction.
Some distinct therapeutic (not psychotherapeutic) aspects of Playback
For PSP, as we have already noted, any distinct therapeutic functions of Playback we can imagine, emanate from the above more general core that constitutes the diptych “opportunity – authenticity”. Here, I am noting indicatively such distinct functions that I find important.
(1) Playback and the importance of the micro-scale of our meetings.
I see a therapeutic function of Playback in how it brings us a deep sense of life through simple processes. It reminds us that this sense is probably found in the authenticity with which we participate in the events of our life, instead of the contents of these events. It reminds us to honor the economy, the importance and the truth of the micro-scale of our encounters in the direct present time.
The Playback performance, in its authenticity, is minimal, it is not grandiose; it does not construct theories about life, it does not attempt to philosophically label any big truth, it does not draw conclusions; it only touches the processes of life experientially. And this is therapeutic because it takes us out from our mental labyrinths and our complex concerns, reminding us of the importance of just sensing alive, of simply “living”.
The Playback performance evolves with simplicity, but through the many small performance events, we taste that distinct bitter-sweet sense of flowing life, irrelevant of how life manifests to each one of us, irrelevant of how we occasionally color it with our eyes.
(2) Playback and the need for universal meanings
The life events of a human existence are a drop in the ocean, a grain of sand in the unlimited size of other universal events. And yet, by honoring in Playback this unique drop, its glow sometimes touches more inclusive and universal meanings. However, this does not mean that Playback reveals meanings common to all of us. It means that it probably touches upon our shared need in all of us to somehow personally color, in our individual reality, meanings that are important and ontological in nature that concern all humans – this is why such meanings may be characterized as “universal”.
Thus, this therapeutic function of Playback involves a beneficial sense resulting from our encounter; a sense produced as we experientially ascertain that it is not just us that seek shape, a purpose in life. At the same time, the space that Playback provides to all the “voices” of the performance, shows us that our common point is not the kind of shape we see together in life, but rather our mutual need for each of us to discover it for oneself.
(3) Playback and trust in the processes of life.
In Playback, the human encounter doesn’t follow any preexisting plan. And as we are mutually “moving along”, we collaborate in the building of our contact channel itself. In Playback, with the improvisational – sequential character of each enactment and of the entire performance, something similar happens: we create our destination together until we exit the hall.
Thus, in the framework of the performance, we have the chance to experience the improvisational patterns of all the small and large processes of life naturally, on another scale, and probably in a symbolic way.
And all of these need a basic catalyst to become fertile elements of our course: our trust in the evolvement of things. I’m not speaking about the faith in their “positive” aspects or about the naive faith in some parental universe that will offer to me something just because Ι very strongly desire to have it. This is simply the trust in the fact that things in any case change. Perhaps not always and immediately for the better, but they do change. Even if the scenarios of my life seem in my mind unchanged (a chronic illness, a “stuck” situation, etc), the way I experience them, moment by moment, changes.
So, even if the events seem bogged down, my total experience of these events always evolves, proceeds, even if this happens implicitly, on its non-conscious levels. In Playback we have the chance to directly experience the preciousness of the trust in this type of non cognitive processes, to see how things move, precisely when we allow them to proceed without control.
One more reason that Playback functions therapeutically is because it teaches us this deep existential trust in the process of change itself. And at the same time, we remember the fundamental vitality, the psychically nourishing discomfort and intensity of the spontaneous participation in the events of our life.
(4) Acceptance, confirmation, differentiation: the “partial” and the whole; the story is carried by the person.
From its conception, Playback is clearly characterized by the dialogic element of acceptance (what I am) and the confirmation (acceptance of what I can potentially become). From this “hospitality” offered by Playback, there are always disappointed and pleased spectators and actors.
However, Playback is not to superficially ”entertain” the spectators or to make them agree with each other. In PSP, Playback is designed by nature to primarily hold and contain the multiple phenomenological (personal) experiences in the collectively created unified field of the performance; however, these experiences do not at all have to agree with each other, exactly because they are unique.
And this feeling, that I am unconditionally accepted in a space larger than my individuality, is a rare luxury in our days, an extremely therapeutic caress that our being accepts with relief during the performance.
This function makes Playback unique and special among other similar approaches to the Playback stage. Approaches that on one hand are also primarily interested in rediscovering the importance of the personal story, but on the other hand, while they emphasize the personal story, neglect the person, the carrier of the story.
Conversely, Playback underlines not only the story but also the person expressing it, seeing each narrator as a unique, differentiated and changing organic component of the field.
(5) Playback’s horizontal dimension and broader “social” therapeutic function.
Jonathan Fox notes that today where human rights are all the more acceptable, it is especially important to listen to one another, to listen to the daily experiences of violence, oppression, sexism, racism, prejudice, especially those of us that can not imagine that they exist.
Especially since, Fox continues, if we consider that our story is written altered, as it is “rinsed” in accordance with the interests of the powerful. And even more, for Fox, Playback courageously opens the widely untold “secrets” of the collective historic past, which are well kept in each country, coloring its present and limiting its future.
So it is very important for some space to exist that provides the chance also for the “unofficial story” to be written, especially of all those that are powerless and without the ability to be heard (in other words, a space to be created so that even the powers of the field that remain constrained in the background become figural).
From this perspective, we see the horizontal dimension of Playback (in which each person is considered dynamically interrelated with the other persons of the performance), extending beyond the boundaries of the performance, reaching the broader collective reality.
So we could say that Playback acquires one more therapeutic function: as a space in which the individual mirrors and explores his identity towards several social variables.
(6) Playback and the renewal of the Self’s aspects.
Playback, if we are not afraid of authenticity (to insert personal elements in our experience), various aspects of our Self converse and are rearranged, as our stories speak to each other. A thematic motif of a story that I hear, stimulates a life motif of mine that was set aside. This forgotten motif of my life corresponds to a potential aspect of Self, which was just beyond the edge of awareness. Now this aspect of me enters a more central part of my awareness, in a manner dependent on how I participate in the performance (if I am a spectator, narrator, member of the group).
The experience flows live, and the Self reorganizes itself as it spontaneously participates in the narrative process. As a spectator, I am flooded with senses and feelings that touch my being in a variety of ways. In our normal daily life we don’t often have this chance, and especially in such a large scale and in a protected, safe, framework such as that which Playback offers.
So, Playback is therapeutic also because “we become”, we are refreshed and revived by the performance process itself. Not so much because we learn something from the Others’ stories; but because we place their narrations side by side with our own stories. Thus, our being gets stirred and we we get in contact with even “distant” aspects of our own Self – aspects that are unknown to us or neglected.
In any case, however we see the stories being bridged together as we co-create the performance, however we may consider them dancing in us and between us weaving their red thread, and whatever it is that flows in their intersecting channels, it revitalizes us, it pushes us to go beyond the usual, daily sense of our Self.
This central, for me, therapeutic function of Playback may not happen with the structured methodology and the framework of psychotherapy; it is however, a critical energetic contribution in personal development, in the renewal of our awareness, in the deeper hearing of our own precious and unique story as we write our journeys in life.
(7) Playback and the “solutions”.
Occasionally, some support that Playback is therapeutic because the narrator, by watching his story, sees sides of it he has never thought about. And it is a fact that sometimes the spectator states: “that has never crossed my mind…”. Indeed, some narrators also request for proposals – “solutions” to dead ends in the events of their narrations. And after the enactment, they frequently thank the actors because they saw a way out that they had not imagined.
However, all of these, in my opinion, although do occur, don’t constitute a therapeutic function of Playback – and of course, under no circumstance does it turn Playback into psychotherapy, or even counseling. The emergence of a sudden revealing perspective of one “dead end” through Playback (or from a friendly conversation) is something undoubtedly important. But not because the content of this new revealing perspective is on its own therapeutic.
What is important (and therapeutic) is the interest, the care we receive. And mainly, the event itself of such a genuine encounter is important: our mind in some way “opens” since it is not just us in the between space of the encounter. And as we move “with” the Other in the enhanced field of our mutual intersubjective consciousness, we “see” the new possibilities.
In field theory of the Gestalt perspective, everything is part of the field. Everything is involved in the field’s structure, therefore “in” the field, exist also the “solutions” to what seems to be a dead end. Each problem, each difficulty, corresponds to some re-organization of my life-field; what happens is that this re-organized field structure eludes my individual perspective because of my belief system and my personal values. But through the enlarged intersubjective consciousness of the meeting with the Other, I actually implicitly sense another horizon in the possible structures of the field. And so, a way out from where I thought I was trapped is now becoming visible.
This means that before, it was my view of the world and my choices that blocked the free flow of developments of the field changes, creating my subjective feeling of a dead end. “I’m desperate… I don’t know what to do…” (the dead-end). “I’m tired of taking care of my brother, but again… What can you say?… It’s my brother… How can I abandon him…” (my personal belief system, preventing me from discerning any solution, any other possibility of organizing the field).
The enlarged intersubjective consciousness in Playback works especially intensely due to the Playback dialogical framework, which protects the between space of the meetings during the performance.
However, in Playback no solutions and no advice is given. Essentially, Playback is therapeutic not because it “shows” anything, but just because it offers someone the possibility to see how he himself possibly restricts his perspective regarding that which concerns him.We would say that Playback “allows”, encourages the change, does not direct it. Playback therefore, does not point out truths, but is a space, a chance for processes to be created that at some moment may lead to personal and collective truths.
(8) Playback and the healing “rewriting” of the experience
In addition, it is often supported that Playback is raised to a healing – therapeutic intervention when the narrator sees or requests another end to his story. But generally, a new experience, when it is brief and when it is limited to the cognitive level can not “delete” previous experiences. Our experiences are holistic phenomena. Only some cognitive rewriting is not able to change the emotional part of the old experience.
Furthermore, today, we know that for new neural pathways to be created and for the present to reframe the past, continuous and holistic rewritings of the experience are needed for a very long time. We also know that new current experiences around problematic issues as well as structured psychotherapeutic work with the awareness of these experiences are needed.
“But Playback functions intensely on the direct experience beyond the cognitive dimension…” someone may claim. Granted, this intense experiential dimension of Playback involves only something limited: the brief experience of the enactment. This experience is not psychotherapeutic, because it is only a very short acquaintance of the spectator with what is threatening or traumatic for him. And above all it is not long term and structured work with his basic and conscious awareness.
Even if we make the tragic assumption that all the on stage actors are experienced psychotherapists with the noble aim of “treating” the narrator, the on stage construction of a “healing scenario” would be totally useless and potentially abusive.
Any psychotherapeutic result is not just in the contents of only one session; it is not in something that the psychotherapist “recommends”; but it is based on all that happens during the development of the whole therapeutic relationship. Thus, any “on stage healing scenario” by the conductor/actor – “psychotherapist” would depend on interpretative assumptions and fortune telling as to what a till now unknown person, the narrator, “truly” needs to see, or even worse, on assumptions as to what is better for him to see. This immediately downgrades the narrator to a child that gets advice, objectifying and directing him.
For all the above reasons, I strongly believe that any consideration of the alternative scenarios in Playback as psychotherapy is by axiom unfounded, and dramatically diverts Playback from its dialogical framework, its vision and its mission.
When a story is replayed with a change to its events, something healing or therapeutic does not happen because the narrator “corrects” or emotionally discharges something. Besides, today, catharsis is not believed to offer anything essential alone, without being part of a larger psychotherapeutic framework – conversely, it may be extremely dangerous.
However, what definitely functions therapeutically in Playback in such cases of “changing” the story’s scenario, is the relational event of the repeated enactment itself – irrelevant of any catharsis, or the changing of the events in their new stage version.
The narrator, first of all receives the availability and presence of the conductor, the actors and the entire hall. He feels the performance’s intersubjective space “holding” him, accepting his need. He feels visible, important, respected by the Others. Even more, he feels that yes, in fact, there is the possibility to sometimes rewrite his experience, to give it another meaning from his present. And of course, he senses that in doing so, the appropriate relational framework is of extreme importance.
And so, yes, indeed, Playback functions therapeutically through its relational nature and not because something is corrected in the script of the enactments.
even if someone does not accept any of the above therapeutic functions of Playback, one can not deny the fact that for many, when the Playback performance evolves in its natural flow, after its end, sometimes a sense of wholeness comes.
I believe that this beneficial sense of wholeness originates from the feeling of “belonging” to something larger, a “womb” that does not judge, but simply provides safety and space, while simultaneously holding and containing; it is actually a sense of dynamic harmony, that everything is differently explicit and “in” place (not necessarily “good – pleasant” or peaceful); it is a snapshot of the entire picture of being in the field, of the Self that is “grounded” in what happens here and now.
On the scale of the unified “multi-bodied” performance-organism (consisting of all the present persons in the hall), perhaps this sense is an echo of their co-created intersubjective consciousness. Or, an echo of the pulse, the glow of the overall potential of all the people that gathered and “conversed” with their mind and heart through the stories that were narrated, heard, enacted, and watched.
And at the same time, on the scale of each one person’s aspects of Self, something from what Yontef (1993) defines as “core”, “The True Self, ”that it gives each person a deep sense of identity, is probably tuned and resonates after the performance.
Or, perhaps, in the feeling that rests after the performance in each person, resonates an echo of what is deeply true for the person himself – if we see him as a potentially integral whole in the vastness of ”everything”.