Mumbai Playbackers: Celebrating World Theatre Day

One of the most significant dates in the global cultural calendar is March 27 – World Theatre Day. Goregaon Highway Pulse celebrates it with a profile of Preeti Birla Nair, who is the founder of Mumbai Playbackers, a Playback Theatre collective .

When I say the neighbourhood of Goregaon east never stops to amaze me with its hidden gems, I really do mean it. In my quest to discover and share interesting people, activities and events from within the vicinity that is 400063, the zip code keeps throwing up fascinating subjects.

Preeti Birla Nair

Preeti Birla Nair, a resident of Oberoi Woods,  is a theatre aficionado and is the founder of a very unique theatre group called Mumbai Playbackers.  A post-graduate in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Preeti is also a certified Life Coach and team facilitator.

She moved on from a corporate HR role to pursue her interest in using expressive art forms like theater, dance and visual arts for “self”  and “group work”.

What is playback theatre? It is a genre in which the actors get real-life stories from their audience and enact them on the spot without scripts or discussions – an original IMPROV. Not only does this create a very enjoyable staging but also promotes dialogue between different voices, as many people have the opportunity to speak and see their stories enacted on stage. This act of telling and seeing is often an integrating experience.

‘We discover who we are by telling our stories’, says Preeti. As others bear witness and tell theirs in response, a deep empathy-building exercise is conducted via collective stories. Founded in 1975 in New York by Jonathan Fox, Playback Theatre has reached hundreds of settings and locations. It is now practiced in over 60 countries.

Preeti completed her core training from the Center of Playback Theatre New York in 2015 and continues her learning journey with mentors in India and abroad.

With Mumbai Playbackers, which includes five more actors, Preeti also conducts corporate and open workshops in Playback Theatre. Her troupe or team shares her passion for this art form, as it is used in varied contexts. From bringing closure to a conference, to ‘Learning Hours’ in organisations; to adding lightness to celebratory event and giving voice to the thoughts and emotions of people – the possibilities are endless.

Mumbai Playbackers in action

Playback Theatre stagings can be held in a corporate environment, at schools and NGOs, or in a community and even your home!  Workshops (customised and open formats) are used as team-building events and as part of larger interventions. It’s for anyone willing to experiment with something new!  Participants are encouraged to be spontaneous, creative, collaborate, ‘let go’ and be present. The end of both these sessions culminate into a Playback Theatre performance by the participants for a real audience of friends and family.

Preeti is driven to work with this form of theatre as she sees it as a medium towards creating and connecting communities.

Having done workshops with organisations like Glenmark, TISS, Future Generali and more, Preeti and Mumbai Playbackers recently also performed at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival this year.

Mumbai Playbackers will be organising a workshop on Playback Theatre in May. Keep watching the GHP space for more updates!

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