Enhancing Playback Theatre for Underserved Youth
The story of this project begins in 2010, when Cassidy Phillips and I collaborated with a group of homeless youth to create “Alice in the Underground: a play about youth homelessness.” It raised community awareness about the issue and inspired us to start Breadcrumbs Theatre Company to create more such plays based on stories from our community that often go unheard. In 2016, one of the youth who was pivotal in the creation of “Alice” passed away. His death strengthened our resolve to create more theatre for and about the “unheard.” We were excited to learn about Playback Theatre, a method in which a group of performers asks audience members for true stories from their lives, and then uses improvisation, music, and minimal props to re-play those stories back to the audience. In 2016, two of our company took a class in Playback in Port Townsend, Washington. This spring, we held our first Playback performance at the Fairbanks Youth Facility (FYF). During our hour-long visit, we spent the first half playing theatre games with the youth, and second half performing playback, always inviting them to join us as performers or musicians. In this short hour, we found ourselves connecting with the youth in powerful and validating ways. We returned twice more, and were excited to find that each time, the youth were more engaged. Nicole Stellon-O’Donnell, a teacher at FYF, saw the positive impact of our program and wrote a Fulbright Alumni grant to provide a small stipend to company members who volunteer their time and also help offset other costs. We are talking to the Nenana School District about hosting us for a similar series of interactions with their students. We would like to expand our reach to other underserved Alaska populations in other communities. To deepen our impact, we need to improve our skills with further training, and to purchase better materials so we can create a more polished, professional presentation of the important stories that are shared with us.
Funded by Alaska (August 2017)