Keep the Circle by Audun Mollan Kristoffersen

Using the lens of John Dewey’s philosophy, Audun Mollan Kristoffersen’s article shines a light on something that Playback Theatre practitioners are familiar with in  practice and training: the circle, a physical embodiment of Playback Theatre’s commitment to inclusiveness and equality.

Keep the circle

By Audun Mollan Kristoffersen

“Keep the circle.”

“Is this a circle?”

“This looks like the shape of an egg.”

These quotes are from my teachers Jonathan Fox, Veronica Needa and Aviva Apel-Rosenthal at a Playback Theatre Leadership workshop in Hungary in 2013. The ritual of starting and ending in a circle is well known for us who do Playback Theatre. It is easy to think, “Why stress so much to get the circle round, isn’t this egg shape good enough?” or “Could we just start with the exercise instead of working on getting this circle right!” I have probably had those thoughts myself at some point. In this article I will look at why getting the circle right is important in Playback Theatre, and what this could tell about its essential character. The question I am investigating here is this: Can the circle as symbol say something essential about Playback Theatre, through the optics of John Dewey’s theoretical experience perspective and through the term inclusion?  Continue reading “Keep the Circle by Audun Mollan Kristoffersen”

Conducting playback theatre with older adults—A therapist’s perspective by Shoshi Keisari, Dani Yaniv, Yuval Palgi, and Anat Gesser-Edelsburg

This time I’m posting a link to a recently published article, rather than the full article itself. “Conducting playback theatre with older adults—A therapist’s perspective” by Shoshi Keisari, Dani Yaniv, Yuval Palgi, and Anat Gesser-Edelsburg is a very readable and valuable contribution to research about Playback Theatre. It was published in September in The Arts in Psychotherapy. The link is published here by permission, and gives access to the article until October 8, 2018.


  • Life-stories of older adults are revealed in Playback Theatre (PT) groups.
  • Playfulness within PT can enhance flexibility and self-development in older age.
  • The PT shared group experience can promote belonging and social engagement.

Please read and comment!

The Shamanic Actor: Playback Theatre Acting as Shamanism

The Shamanic Actor is a fascinating discussion of parallels between acting in Playback Theatre and the spiritual tradition of shamanism, written by someone who is deeply versed in both. Simon’s article, originally written for the Playback Theatre Leadership course, appeared in the Russian-published, English-language anthology Playback Theatre Practice: Selected Articles (2015). It is republished here (with minor changes) by permission of the editor. To order the anthology, please email Elizaveta Zagryazhskaya at


Playback Theatre Acting as Shamanism

By Simon Floodgate



…it is true that we sometimes see Playback actors…who are remarkably effective in finding and playing the metaphor, as if they have an intuitive understanding of the necessity of metaphor.

I think these are the shamanistic actors: they ‘feel and know’ things and are able to communicate them to the audience in a riveting way… (Robb, 2002, p. 2)

Let me begin with a story.

It is November, 2001 and the day after I have split up with my then girlfriend (a significant fact, I believe). I am involved in a Playback Theatre workshop and performance in Devon, UK with the company in which I was then a member, Four Winds and Fire. The performance took place in the afternoon and one of the stories was from a young man about his difficulty to be creative in his life and his desire to turn to writing.

We had chosen to playback the story in Chorus. We were a company of only three with no musician and Chorus was a form we regularly rehearsed with and one that we felt intuitively drawn to in order to produce good Playback.

In the midst of the enactment a whole section of story emerged concerned with the teller going to Africa and the use of feet became a strong feature. The use of feet continued as a strong motif throughout the enactment. As we were performing I could hear his very vocal reaction as we performed this section. He was reacting to the fact that we were playing back, metaphorically, something that had actually occurred but which he had not consciously verbally expressed. It was clear that we had hit upon truth. Following the enactment and in closure, the young man explained how a trip to Africa and living barefoot with indigenous peoples had somehow been instrumental in helping him to turn to a career of writing.

At the end of the performance we were going around the circle of participants, witnessing each person’s response to the work before we ate food together. I sat in peace knowing that we had served this small community. As the participants talked about their feeling of having been fed by the work I, myself, sat quietly feeling fully nourished by the stories that they had so generously shared. This was in distinct contrast to the utterly low feeling I had arrived with following the break-up from the previous evening. I was feeling devastated, alone and extremely vulnerable. Only a few hours later I felt that I had done some of my best performance work in Playback and was feeling whole and at peace.

I tell this story for two specific reasons. Firstly, because of the significance of the emotional place I was in when I entered into this particular performance: one of intense vulnerability. Secondly, because of the appearance of part of the young man’s story which he had not told but that appeared during the enactment. This was a physical metaphor which came not expressly from the Teller or from the PT actors’ conscious minds. So a question arises as to where it did come from…

It is a Performer’s job to transport an audience to another dimension of experience, just as the shaman’s role is to act as a bridge between the worlds. (Saaille, 1997, p.23)

In this paper I intend to explore the connection between the role of the Shaman and that of the Playback actor. My contention is that the PT actor serves a similar function to that of the Shaman though this role, it could be argued, is divided between the conductor, the actor and the musician. My focus in this essay, however, is to argue that the Shaman is the natural ancestor of the Playback actor and that the actor in Playback Theatre is truly the shamanic actor. Continue reading “The Shamanic Actor: Playback Theatre Acting as Shamanism”