Apprentice Membership Procedure
To move from Apprentice to full membership the following conditions are to be met:
Trial member will:
- Undertake to commit to attending 6 consecutive rehearsals that make up the trial time.
- be allocated and encouraged to use their mentor.
- be introduced to all other PB members ASAP.
On completion of apprenticeship
- All full members have to unanimously agree on inviting apprentice member to become a full PB member.
- When accepted, the apprentice member will become a full member with voting rights at the next General meeting or AGM. ( Process as agreed Tuesday 24th of June 2014)
- The obligations on a full member are to participate in group health and teamwork; promote the aims and vision of Playback Theatre and work towards the business plan for sustainability of Perth Playback Theatre.
- Full members are entitled, although members are not obligated, to take part in paid workshops and performances, and nominate for a position on the Committee of Management.
- Full members offer their participation in training workshops and public pro bono performances that promote the aims of Perth Playback Theatre.
Sabbatical time is permitted and when on a sabbatical the member relinquishes any voting rights.
Reference Perth Playback Theatre Constitution (2015) in Dropbox
Basic Perth Playback Forms
- Fluid (or Fluid Sculpture),
- Pair (or Conflict),
- Comic Strip (or Statue Story),
- Transformation – Fluid to Fluid, Fluid to Chorus, or Chorus to Fluid.
Below is a simple explanation of some of the basic forms used in Playback and the context in which they may be used. Not everything is covered here so as not to overload with too much information, so please ask for clarification if you are not sure. Most things become clearer in the doing.
These are general guidelines, not rules. The exception here being the rule that at the end of every playback form you must face the teller – acknowledging them and confirming the conclusion of their playback moment.
Usually used when there is a clear beginning, middle and end to the Teller’s story. When the conductor lets the performers know that a story form will be enacted, be seated on your box. If you are cast as a character by the Teller, stand up. When the conductor says “let’s watch and listen” that is the cue to exit with your box to one side of the stage for a brief huddle with the actors while the musician plays an introduction for about a minute. Very little is spoken in the huddle. It is primarily an opportunity to connect with your fellow actors and ‘take a breath’ before performing. Don’t take too long – the musician has not had this moment. Enter the stage space to form an initial tableaux that might reflect the starting point of the story, or its heart. When the music changes or stops, that is the actors’ cue to begin the narrative of the story. The form is like a through-composed piece of music, following its own logic, or the logic or chronology of the Teller. It is like a short play and may also include elements of fluid, chorus forms or other abstract techniques. 5-10mins
Notes on the music
The music for the introduction aligns with the emotional heart of the story. Equivalents of the mood, pace, and dynamic of the story may follow the action thereafter, providing an underscore. Alternative strategies include an embedded approach where music is part of the action, where the music is ‘in converstaion’ with the characters on stage, or where the morphology of the music emigrates to the realm of ‘sound design’, providing a sense of place; additional approaches, such as contrast – playing a nursery rhyme for a scene that is full of foreboding – can highlight and ‘make strange’ the impact of the scene. These musical/sound strategies may apply throughout all forms – ‘Heart’, Underscore, Texture, 5th Actor ‘In Conversation’, Environment.
A fluid is used to enact a short moment from the Teller. It reflects multiple facets of the teller’s experience. You work individually, but gradually forming a tight-knit group ‘sculpture’ to enact the moment. We utilise differences: levels, sounds, voice/text, fabrics, body, boxes, to express various ideas held within the moment. On the conductor’s cue – “Let’s watch and listen” – one actor at a time steps forward to present their offer, each one building on the material offered by the previous actor, and each attempting to cover an aspect of the moment to be represented.
A chorus is suited to stories with only one character, but lots of physical and/or emotional narrative. It is characterised by a lot of imitation. An offer – usually movement, text and sound – is made by the lead actor and then echoed, often with a little variation, by everyone else before the next offer is taken up. Offers continue until the teller’s ‘story’ has been enacted. On the conductor’s cue – “Let’s watch and listen” – the group begin in a diamond shape and try to move as one to perform the story, changing leads as the diamond changes direction, or as another offer takes precedence. In this way, the chorus moves through the narrative sequence, and/or emotional journey. 2-4mins
Pair (or Conflict)
Working in pairs is useful when the teller´s story involves conflicting/contrasting feelings.
To avoid misunderstandings regarding the emotions to be played back the conductor reiterates the conflicting feelings in question. When the conductor indicates that a pair is to be enacted, form two side-by-side pairs with one actor standing in front of the other in each pair. The conductor will indicate which pair is to begin.
Either the actor at the front or the back may make the first offer. However, that offer must be very clear as to which of the two sides of the teller’s feelings is being represented. The paired actor then echoes the first, but in a ‘dark mirror’ fashion so that the other feeling is expressed.
Expressed verbally, this may be represented by examples such as:
I’m going to nail it/they will crucify me
It’s hopeless/It’s got great potential
I’m putting my best foot forward/I’m out of step
There’s nothing there/It’s so full & rich
I’m in the driver’s seat/I’m just along for the ride
I can’t go on/I’m going forward
I’ve got all the time in the world/I’m running out of time
and, just as important, are the representation of dynamically contrasting gestures and movement, vocal volume and so on. The musician accompanies each pair with one, then the other side of the pair in musical terms. (Sometimes, when two musicians are present, a pair may be represented separately as a purely sonic exchange as a third pair of pairs). 2-3mins
Comic Strip (or Statue Story)
A comic strip is a series of frozen tableaux, that when strung together, tell a story, like a picture book. One person may be cast as the “teller” for all tableaux and, generally, the others will shape the scene around them. Sometimes other characters may be cast. The conductor will summarise each scene for the actors and will instruct the audience to close their eyes while you set up each scene and to open them when the scene is ready to see. The musician will make a brief musical gesture relating to the scene to be enacted, then stop on the conductor’s ‘eyes open’ instruction. 3-4min
Transformation – Fluid to Fluid, Fluid to Chorus, or Chorus to Fluid
Used when there is a clear transition in the Teller’s story from one moment to another. The conductor will indicate which of the 3 options will be enacted and summarise the two main phases.
As implied, Fluid to Fluid involves the transformation from one set of multiple facets to another set (see Fluid Sculpture above). To effect a sense of unity from one set to another, the actors try to transform the material they offer in the first Fluid, using it differently in the second, a bit like a musical variation. The cue to transform will be a (strong) change in the music, followed by the first actor, then others.
Fluid to Chorus is used when there is a strong sense of unity of action and emotion in the Teller’s transformed state. The process is much the same as in Fluid to Fluid, but the actors follow the the lead actor for the first offering in the chorus state, chorussing as usual after that (see chorus above).
The chorussing in this form is generally singular in that there is a sense of unity of action and emotion throughout the chorus, rather than one thing after another in a normal chorus.
Chorus to Fluid is used where the Teller’s story tends to fracture from a unitary (emotional) state to one that is more varied. The process begins exactly the same as in a normal chorus (see Chorus above) and at the musical cue, begins to fracture into the independent facets of a Fluid. 2-3mins
There are a whole bunch of other forms that we do from time to time and some more regularly than others. There will be forms that we try out in rehearsals from other parts of the world and other parts of Australia. Mosaic Chorus is one form that has become a standard in Perth Playback in the past few years. Flares crop up occasionally. Really, there is no end to the possibilities – possible forms – and your creativity in this will always be welcomed. Have some fun. Give it a go and Bring it on!
Essential Skill Areas
Read the River
Notes Towards A Playback Practice
Learning To Read The River
Mark Twain, at one point in his life, worked as a pilot on Mississippi riverboats. He wentthrough a long apprenticeship. He would stand by an experienced pilot and learn how toread the river. How to identify changes in current, spot snags and obstacles, calculate the deepest channel. Over time he became familiar with the river’s moods, and where the going was easy and where it was tough. But most importantly he learned how to see the river afresh each time he travelled on it. For the river was constantly changing and what he had learned on the previous run was only a guide to how the river ran now. A new sandbar might have formed where a deep channel had run; trees felled in a storm might block what had been a long clear reach. As a pilot, he had to be vigilant and develop a deep feeling for the river. There were rules and regulations to be learned, but the only way he could be trained was by standing on the deck with another showing him the way.
Mark Twain apprenticed himself, first, to Master Pilots, and then to the river itself. He learned, over time, to read the river as he rode it. Playback Theatre follows this model. Whether you go through the courses at the Centre for Playback Theatre, or join a company, or attend a weekend workshop you learn from experienced Practitioners. You learn something of the history; you learn the structures and forms and rituals; you experience the different roles of Conductor, Actor, Musician and Teller. You develop your sense of story and your ability to improvise. You learn about group dynamics and how to bring stories forth. You watch a performance and see how the different elements fit together, the shape that is there. This is the river of Playback that you will travel on and learn to navigate.
There will be a point where you undertake your first performance, standing with others who have stood there before you, getting a feel for the ebbs and flows. There will be discussion and reflection and guidance after. As you integrate the forms and get a handle on how a performance works, get some experience under your belt, you will move to the stage of being apprenticed to the form itself. Each performance will bring something new, will offer terrain you haven’t traversed before. It will teach you.
It’s important, at this stage, that along with the guidance of trainers, teachers and mentors you develop your own capacity to reflect on, and learn from, your experience. It is deceptively easy to teach a basic understanding of the forms and structures of Playback Theatre. It is a profoundly subtle and challenging path to embark on the journey towards any sort of mastery. Every time you present yourself to the work it is different and calls forth something different from you. And it takes years to develop the experience to be able to work with depth and sureness.
We can only learn the river by travelling it over and over again. As a Conductor, how do you engage with and warm up this particular audience? What’s your purpose? What’s their purpose? How will you deal with this setting (a small state of the art theatre, or a noisy community hall)? What’s the make-up of the audience and how might that affect who does and doesn’t tell? As you get underway can you stay connected to your own self and respond to the emerging life of the audience and to the tellers who put themselves forward? Can you be aware of who is and isn’t telling? How might you intervene to hear from those who are silent? What do you think, shall we have more Fluids now, or move to Stories? Why? How will you introduce stories? Sitting next to the Teller will you find the right balance between empathy and authority to elicit the story with clarity and economy? How will you respond to a Teller who is deeply moved, or one who is showing off and garrulous? What about the audience and managing the range of their responses? You could be standing in the midst of distress, anger, discord, laughter, silence. As the flow of stories unfolds can you be aware of the emerging themes or threads. How do the stories link to each other? How do they link to the purpose of the performance? How do they link to what is at large in the world? What will you say at the end of the show to draw things together and continue to hold the space and deepen the warm up? Can you find the form of words that will mean something to this audience in this moment?
As actors and musicians we also have to be able to respond to the purpose and setting. What is required of us in this space, from this audience? Can we hold ourselves in a state of open listening to receive the teller’s story? Can we hear the details and sequences and turning points, who the main roles are, something of what the story is about? As we step out to begin the enactment can we remember something of all this and work with the other performers to improvise a satisfactory staging? This takes both skill and courage – to improvise is to be brave; to improvise a personal story takes a particular willingness to stand in someone else’s shoes and speak their truth out to the world. And it’s a complex dance. At any one time you are actor, director, script editor, choreographer, dancer, storyteller, musical director, and more – all in the moment as the scene unfolds, with the other performers contributing their own ideas. And as the enactment unfolds can you hold the thread of what is emerging, just as the Conductor must, and develop a feel for how the stories are speaking to each other? Are you aware of how the stories sit in the current wider social and political context and how that context might resonate with the Teller’s world? And can you find the way to artfully reference that in the re-enactment? In all this, of course, we are serving the Teller, we are serving their story, and we are serving the form and its ethos of honouring who we are in all our complexity.
There’s an incredibly complex set of skills we need to develop to be able to stand in the midst of the Playback stage – as Conductors, Actors or Musicians – and hold the roles necessary to respond to the range of challenges that emerge. This is a necessarily long journey and can only be realised in the doing. We learn, first, from our teachers; we learn from those more experienced than ourselves; we learn from our peers; we learn through our own practice and reflection. And it’s a journey measured in years.
As Practitioners, this challenge and invitation to serve is also a challenge and invitation to continue a practice of open learning and development. Reflection, peer review, training, teleconferences…and doing the work. Perhaps, for Playback, the apprenticeship is a lifelong one.
Peter Hall February 2016
Open rehearsals – go here
Closed rehearsals 2021 – Tuesdays 6:30-9pm – 20 July, 17 Aug, 14 Sep, 5 Oct, 9 Nov.
Communication & Admin
Fundamental to day to day organisation. Performance call outs, notice of stuff & changes to stuff. Saves paper.
Good stuff happens when your stuff lives here! Or so they say. A shared file management repository for the Committee of management and anyone else heading up a SMAUG.
The bane of any organisation in the C21st, but apparently necessary for the sustenance of life. Hey – you’re here aren’t you?
OMG! We’ve got friends!
Buy the ticket here for our show
Business Meeting (ordinary)
Happens when we need it to. Sometimes it’s planned, scheduled, postponed, re-scheduled, gets stuff done. Things get eaten, drunk, talked over, argued, decided, written up for posterity and forgotten about 🙂 – or not.
Happens once a year – usually at the beginning of each year. We get together for pretty much a whole day and get super energised and fired up for all the great stuff we are going to do for … oh, the next century! And more eating and playing and connecting and crying and laughing and getting angry at stuff that didn’t happen last year like we said it would – kidding! it all happens.
Annual General Meeting
Where we elect our Committee of Management and fulfill our obligations as a regd Not-for-Profit – Yay!
– download word document link below