Spilling the beans with strangers

Spilling the beans with strangers

The irony of the social media age is that we are unstinting over-sharers online, documenting every mundane detail of our lives for friends and strangers alike, but we hold back from doing the same offline.

Tapestry Playback Theatre, however, hopes to help people overcome this inertia through the form of theatre it practises and experience the cathartic joy it brings. It will be doing so this weekend with a playback theatre performance at the Toa Payoh Central Community Club Theatrette.

Playback theatre is a form of improvisational theatre where personal stories shared by the audience are re-enacted on stage by performers. The belief that underpins this form of theatre is that everyone has a worthwhile story to share.

Tapestry Playback Theatre’s performance will invite audiences to share about happenings in their lives and the frequency at which they take place, from never and rarely to sometimes and often. The shows will include live captioning as well as sign language interpretation.

The non-profit community theatre company’s artistic director Michael Cheng acknowledges that it can be unnerving for people to bare their souls to a room full of strangers, but he believes this is outweighed by the profound experience of being heard, of having others – the audience and performers, listen and connect deeply with one’s story.

He also believes that the act of listening, in addition to sharing, demands vulnerability. “We cannot listen deeply to a story if we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable,” he says.

And being vulnerable together fosters camaraderie among strangers. “It brings people together, and even if they have different viewpoints they often go away feeling connected, heard, and part of a bigger whole.”

To help audiences get comfortable with being vulnerable and sharing their stories, the performers focus on a creating a safe, communal space. The audience are invited to join in a quick warmup activity to loosen their “sharing” muscle and the performers are the first to share their stories.

But the audience always has a choice, says Cheng. “The invitation to share is there, but it is also impactful just to listen, and watch.”

When asked about his “never rarely, sometimes often” story, Cheng speaks unabashedly about his love for toys. He says: “For me, I love toys, particularly Star Wars and Transformers toys. I know I don’t have that much space to display them, and that money is best saved, but from time to time, I go on buying binges.”

Details on Never Rarely Sometimes Often here.

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