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You are the voice. We are the echo.
The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo
A group acts out the story of an audience member

Playback Theatre makes a comeback at Taylor

Alumni pass on a legacy of improv to students

Taylor theatre is rediscovering a unique way to create community.

A Playback Theatre workshop was held Sept. 6 and 7. Five alumni returned to campus to teach students an improvisational method of storytelling. 

Playback Theatre is a type of improv based around acting out stories shared by audience members. A conductor interacts with the audience and directs the small group of actors and musicians on what narrative forms to use in response to the stories.

“A lot of our favorite memories, or at least my favorite memories, are seeing how people in the audience interact with each other after they see a story played or while they're telling each other stories,” Alexis Colón (‘17) said. “People just get really into it because it's their community and their stories.”

Colón was one of ten members of the first Playback Theatre Troupe at Taylor in 2014. The group performed about once a month, traveling everywhere from local schools in Indiana to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015 and 2016. 

The group died out after many of its members graduated in 2017, but now former troupe member Conner Reagan (‘17) is hoping to bring it back. 

“Well, I am working full time as the technical director of theater and over the summer I was having a conversation with Tracy (Manning) about how I'd love to, if there was interest, to restart the playback troupe,” Reagan said.

Manning, assistant professor of theatre arts and managing and artistic director of theatre, gave her blessing, and the workshop was Reagan’s first step at restarting the troupe. 

About 20 students attended over the course of the two-day workshop. Many were theatre majors, but a few came from other places.

“I didn't know much about it, but I love theatre and I love acting and figured it would be a good experience,” junior Hannah-Kate Fox, an english creative writing major, said. “Also as a writer, telling stories is what I do.”

Reagan encourages students from all majors to participate in the upcoming troupe. Auditions will be held near the end of September, and he plans to have a working troupe by October. 

Those who attended felt that Playback Theatre was an intimate experience for both actors and audience.

“Theatre is already all about human connection and just getting to show different sides of the human experience,” junior Victoria Koro, a participant in the workshop, said. “So I think this pushes that kind of even further, because it's such a direct connection and it's all about showing like you felt these things and there's other people there with you, they can feel them too.”