Crossing the Threshold by Rea Dennis

Welcome to PLAYBACK THEATRE REFLECTS, a new blog for thoughtful writing on Playback Theatre, both recent and from the past. The first post, “Crossing the Threshold” by the Australian Playback practitioner and researcher Rea Dennis, was originally presented at the symposium on Playback Theatre at Arizona State University in 2005 and later published in the Journal of Interactive Drama. Rea’s idea of the “tensions of participation” will be recognizable to anyone involved in Playback Theatre. And it has an echo right here, where you’re invited to participate in PLAYBACK THEATRE REFLECTS as a reader, subscriber, commenter and contributor. (see comment button on the left)

Next month: Jonathan Fox’s recent article about Playback Theatre in Nepal. Subscribe to receive an email when it’s published!

Link to Russian translation by Irina Krustaleva: 


Tensions of Participation in Community-Based Playback Theatre Performance

Rea Dennis, Deakin University, Australia

First published in Journal of Interactive Drama, Vol. 2.1, January, 2007


Contained by a simple accessible ritual structure playback theatre offers a unique audience experience with the possibility of participation. The opportunity to participate introduces a challenge for some. This can be further compounded by the central place of personal storytelling. It is the repeated invitation to tell a story that drives the ritual momentum in the playback theatre performance. Audience members sit with the constant possibility of volunteering, while some are preoccupied with a persistent reluctance to tell. This ‘tension of participation’ could be considered the more potent tension underpinning audience members’ experiences in the playback theatre event – perhaps more than the dramatic tensions emerging from the performative acts of storytelling and enacting. Continue reading “Crossing the Threshold by Rea Dennis”