By Terry Weber
Many of you know that for the last couple of years, The WordPlayers has been training and performing in Playback Theatre. Playback is an improvisational form designed to build empathy and to draw people together by basing its material on stories from individuals present in the room. Collective stories are embodied in a creative way on the stage, creating not only enjoyable theatre, but also a healthy integration of different voices and perspectives.
Recently, The WordPlayers experienced one of its most effective and satisfying Playback events to date.
We were invited to the ladies Bible study at the Lighthouse in the Austin Homes neighborhood. For those unfamiliar with Austin Homes, it is a “Section 8” housing development, mostly serving people on the lowest level of the economic spectrum. It is sometimes a violent neighborhood and one plagued by various addictions. The Lighthouse is a Christian ministry serving to empower and uplift women and children.
There were about ten women, plus three of the Lighthouse leaders, present in the small space. Each of the women had a powerful and moving story to tell and most of them did. The stories came from a prompt of what the study group has meant to them.
We heard about how the “circle of sisters” had become so important in their lives.
We heard about lives of alcoholism and drug addiction being turned and redeemed by the Holy Spirit.
We heard about the heart-breaking loss of children and grandchildren.
We heard about how the study had enabled some of the women to learn to read and comprehend more effectively.
One woman was close to earning her GED after 30 years.
Fortunately, by God’s grace and our own experience with Playback, we were able to honor their stories by interpreting them through one of the forms. At times, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable. Praise be to God.
It’s experiences like this one that validate our commitment to Playback. Our time at the Lighthouse was something way beyond a simple theatre experience.