Playback Theatre depicts emotive stories through improv show

A guitar hummed threateningly in the background, as a student clad in black stood center-stage, deeply breathing in and out. Playback Theatre was enacting a student’s story of the insecurity she felt not being cast in any theatre show.

Each member of the theatre played a different role — some served as the girl’s conscience, some contributed to the background noise and others acted as her inner emotions as the girl looked through callback list after callback list.

Comprised of 13 USC students, Playback Theatre recreates audience members’ stories through improvisational acting. By incorporating music and dance into their acts, Playback Theatre aims to recognize the various human emotions people experience.

The group acted out five stories on Tuesday night, beginning its performances at 8:30 p.m. Beyond its portrayal of a girl’s theatre casting rejections, the group also played out several other stories, ranging its emotions from humor to insecurity to even fear.

One of the stories the group took on revolved around a girl’s Tinder experience, in which she went on a dinner date expecting to have only one date. However, she was met by two men who made a ruckus at the restaurant by trying to order expensive wine. Upon realizing the wine’s price, the two men left in the middle of the dinner, asking her to drive them to a grocery store so that they could buy cheap wine.

The story continued until the girl found out that one of the men had actually spent a night in jail, and subsequently began to question her poor decisions in choosing to go on a Tinder date. Her lack of clear judgment led to her choice in other men as well, including her ex-boyfriend, who ended up having a drug problem.

The show then focused less on the plot details and more on the girl’s tumultuous emotional experience throughout her encounters with the two men and with her ex-boyfriend.

The members reenacted her feeling of anxiety, exhilaration, disappointment and her ultimate feeling of hope as she recovered from her negative experiences and looked forward.

The use of music and rhythm added to the emotion and allowed Playback Theatre to give each of their stories a cinematic mood, dramatizing emotions to make the stories more accessible to the audience members.

The improv troupe’s members also used their physical bodies to imitate mental thoughts and decisions, often acting as consciences and personality traits to bring each story to life.

The effect was a night of silence, shock and laughter, keeping the audience at the edge of their seats as they felt personally immersed in each student’s story. Through the power of improvisation, Playback is able to depict an emotional narrative of students’ personal experiences that
fully captures the observer’s