Navigate / search

What is Playback Theatre?


What is Playback Theatre?

Interactive and spontaneous, playback theatre bases its material on the stories of the community. In theatres, workshops, and a wide range of educational and organizational settings, Playback Theatre draws people together and allows fresh perspectives.

Performances are carried out by a team of actors, emcee (called the conductor), and musician. As the show begins, audience members respond to questions from the conductor, then watch as actors and musician create brief theatre pieces on the spot. Later, volunteers from the audience come to the stage to tell longer stories, choosing actors to play the main roles. Although performances often focus on a theme of interest or concern, the performers follow no narrative agenda, but bring their dramatic skills and their humanity to embodying on the stage the concerns and experiences of audience members..

Playback theatre is practiced in over 50 countries.

(retrieved from

The first Playback Theatre company was founded in 1975 by Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas. Fox was a student of improvisational theatreoral traditionalstorytellingJacob Moreno‘s psychodrama method and the work of Paulo Freire.

The original Playback Theatre Company made its home just north of New York City. This group, while developing the basis of the Playback form, took it to schools, prisons, centers for the elderly, conferences, and festivals in an effort to encourage individuals from all walks of society to let their stories be heard. They also performed monthly for the public-at-large.

The International Playback Theatre Network was founded in 1990 to support Playback activity throughout the world. As of 2010, the IPTN has 100 company and 300 individual members from 40 countries.

To meet the demand for training which this level of growth has created, in 1993 Jonathan Fox founded the School of Playback Theatre to provide beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of training in Playback Theatre. The School was renamed the Centre for Playback Theatre in 2006, expanding its focus to worldwide development of Playback Theatre. Sarah Urech is now the executive director.