For board member Leigh Mansberg, the potency of Playback Memphis comes from its belief in story. The Playback process recognizes that every person and every community has a story and if it is honest and told in a safe space, that story becomes a natural tool for healing and connection.
“Playback takes this elemental fact about humanity and connects to it as an art form,” said Leigh Mansberg.
Founded in 2008 by Virginia Murphy, Playback Memphis’ mission is to bring stories to life in a safe space to unlock healing, transformation and joy. But their mission expands further into building beloved community in spaces where this type of work has been unimaginable.
Playback Memphis serves and connects a wide cross section of Memphians through dynamic and empathetic storytelling, unifying and strengthening community. Playback theatre is not simply a performance art; it’s an innovative tool that nourishes communities and relationships.
Playback does this important work through five core programs – Memphis Matters, Community Matters, Be the Peace, Performing the Peace, and the Cultural Awareness Training for Memphis Police Department (MPD) New Recruits.
Memphis Matters: Through a unique combination of improvisational theatre, personal narrative, and community dialogue, Memphis Matters provides audiences a wonderful opportunity to connect with the ‘heart’ of Memphis. These quarterly events are open to the public and a great way for anyone to experience Playback. The next public performances will be held June 2, at First Congo Church in Cooper Young. Tickets and info can be found at playbackmemphis.org.
Community Matters: Each year, Playback Memphis chooses six non-profit organizations from a pool of applicants for a Playback performance or workshop at a deeply discounted price. These experiences can integrate key public health messaging and focus on vital community concerns such as bullying, domestic violence, substance abuse, suicide awareness, and teenage pregnancy.
Be the Peace: Playback Memphis facilitates Be the Peace anti-bullying workshops among school children across the city and provides comprehensive Be the Peace programming within a few Frayser elementary schools. By partnering with schools in Frayser, Playback Memphis is helping to strengthen social-emotional learning and positive school culture – one in which students can excel academically and socially.
Performing the Peace (PTP): Playback Memphis seeks to create social change through Performing the Peace, a train the trainer model that brings police and individuals who have been incarcerated together in a safe and open setting. Participants examine and explore the barriers and the solutions to positive community-police relations.
Cultural Awareness Training for MPD New Recruits: Developed by Performing the Peace officers and Playback Memphis staff, in alignment with a national movement to provide support for officers, while making them more effective protectors of the community, this program continues to inspire and break down barriers of racism, poverty, and injustice.
“We are growing together in awareness and compassion,” said Playback Memphis Executive Director Virginia Murphy. “We are trying to build a legacy of safety, kinship, and hope for future generations.”
Board member Leigh Mansberg was drawn to Playback’s unique form of artistic and therapeutic performance, where actor and engaged listener combine to create human-to-human breakthroughs in compassion and empathy.
“At their core, Playback company members engage with their audience by letting them know, ‘I hear you,’” explained Leigh. “When they bring individual stories to life on the stage, the audience connects immediately. It is really the simplest generous act of our humanity that we can offer – to validate the story of the other without judgment. Playback essentially reduces our stories to their most essential emotional elements and then we in the audience just connect.”
Playback Memphis is celebrating their 10-year anniversary, and they need your help. If you are interested in volunteering or making a donation, you can visit www.playbackmemphis.org.
“Playback offers tangible results that are best seen, in my opinion, in the smiles and confidence of the children they empower,” said Leigh. “By investing in Playback you become a part of a greater story for the individuals that define our city and for the collective whole that is our amazing, complicated and beautiful Memphis.”
For performance schedules, visit www.playbackmemphis.org.