Playback was the perfect union for J. Fox as it combined the influence of his early exposure to Quakerism with
his desire to create a
The telling of stories has been a favorite pastime throughout the world. Through anecdotes, tales, and legends,
storytellers assumed responsibility for teaching communities. Playback has taken on the role of the storyteller
and story listener. Playback performances are intimate and inclusive: a forum where human experience is pre-
sented and heard in its natural state. Australian Playback practitioner Rea Dennis said, "Playback is a theater of
listening more than a theater of telling." According to Baltimore Yearly Meeting, "Listening to the Spirit, as ad-
vised by the Quakers, enables one to hear where the words come from when others speak." Not unlike ministry
in Quaker meeting for worship, a story shared in a Playback performance generates synergy at a deep level
within the community. Playback and Quaker meeting for worship make space available for people to express
and deeply listen to real life stories-from the mundane to the magnificent. When a person is moved by the spir-
it to speak during meeting for worship, all listen in the spirit of seeking to hear the Word of God from the mouth
of the speaker. Similarly, in Playback, when one shares a story, all listen in a communal act of affirmation. Spir-
itual empowerment is visible in both paradigms.
Arts researcher Peter London posited that the spirit is the core of one's beliefs, anything a person holds to be
of ultimate value, and that the arts are "spiritually informed language." J. Fox publicly reveals and validates this
spiritually informed language in community, as audience members share personal stories within the safety of
the container of a Playback performance.
Many Playback alumni are actively involved with the seventh grade orientation program at Sidwell. Each fall,
before the start of the school year, rising tenth graders return to the middle school to listen to and reenact per-
sonal stories told by the school's newest cohort. The performance also provides some preparation for these sev-
enth graders, as they will all learn the technique of Playback in Quakerism and the Arts for 10-12 weeks during
the school year.
I'm now working with Vertical Voices alumni in the upper school to begin to create a Playback troupe of their
own. They have their eyes set on reaching beyond the walls of our school community so that they can perform
in more challenging venues. That group will also join forces with Vertical Voices Playback when Sidwell Friends
School hosts the North American Playback Theatre Network Festival October 5-8, 2012 (1). One major compo-
nent of the festival will
George Fox instructed Quakers to "be patterns, be examples in all countries, islands, nations, wherever you
come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people." J. Fox founded Playback to validate
personal experience and advocate for social justice. In my experience, the incredible Misters Fox seemed to
have achieved their goals. My students and I are doing our part as we cross social barriers, develop empathic
listening skills, and allow people to turn inwards to access, share, and listen to personal stories using the magic
of the Playback Theatre experience.
Note This event has already happened.
The Incredible Misters Fox, was first published in Friends Journal, in August 2012.
Tim Reagan is a drama therapist and theatre educator. A e received his di- ploma in Playback in 2008 and is currently working on a PhD in expressive therapies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mas- sachusetts.