Brushing eyes, combing toenails, flossing knees, and buying butts at the supermarket.
BROADWAY STARS @ LINCOLN CENTER WITH VILLAGE PLAYBACK THEATRE
On Friday May 31, 2013, Village Playback Theatre hosted its Spring Gala at Lincoln Center to honor its patrons, actors, colleagues, and clients with cocktails, a live auction, and an improvisational show.
Randy Mulder co-founded Village Playback Theatre in 2012. Mulder specialized in Drama Therapy as an undergraduate and graduate and he is now the Artistic Director of the company.
Mulder’s focus has always been marginalized communities whose voices and identities are often not represented. His first career exposure was with AIDS patients in hospices. In his first few years as an educator, he also worked in prisons to promote storytelling and acceptance: “The thing about prison is, everyone [I work with] gets out.” Mulder feels the act of performing, sharing, and listening can be a therapeutic experience for people in difficult circumstances.
Six months after September 11, 2001, Mulder and co-founder created Village Playback Theatre. “The city motivated us to take action and do what we could to heal,” Mulder explained.
VPT is part of the International Theatre Movement founded by Jonathan Fox in 1975. Fox has similar experiences as Mulder and also extensive writing and publishing experience.
Mulder and Fox are very careful about how they identify themselves: “We don’t call it therapy, we call it applied theatre.”
All of the actors have professional training in theatre or social work. They are all required to be comfortable working in clinical environments, which allows them to create a safe space for the participants.
VPT utilizes many different forms of performance including storytelling and improvisations, but Mulder feels improvisation is more powerful because “with improv, you can’t hide.” The actors are trained to respond to their audience and adjust their actions accordingly.
The goal of the performances is not to “wow” the crowd; Mulder teaches the importance of listening and feels the most successful performances are those where audience members are “focused on every single word that is being said.”
Mulder’s commitment to helping others and empowering communities allows his theatre group not only to touch the lives of many, but inspires others to create their own version of VPT in their cities.
The rationals for Mulder’s commitment is simple. “Everyone can offer something, what can I offer?,” he asks.
What can you?
To learn more about Randy Mulder’s work at VPT, please visit http://vptnyc.wix.com/village-playback-theatre.
By Sarah Granetz
Photographs by Roman Yee