The Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble uses improv to tell the stories of immigrants.

East Bay Express Article by Zaineb Mohammed, June 11, 2014

“These days, there’s no shortage of pundits and politicians espousing their views on immigration. But drama therapist and director Armand Volkas sees something missing from the conversation — the stories of immigrants themselves. In order to humanize the often-polarizing topic, Volkas’ company, The Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble, will stage improvisational plays based on the immigration-related stories of audience members at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) on Saturday, June 14.

The ensemble uses an improvisational technique in which they “play back” narratives shared by audience members. As the “conductor,” Volkas interviews the subjects, after which the actors perform their stories using words, sound, movement, and dance. Afterward, the storyteller is asked for his or her impression of the performances. “I believe that immigration is a trauma and there is no place in our culture where these stories can be told in this way,” said Volkas. “We let TV and film tell stories for us, and people’s personal stories are sometimes discounted, so it’s very validating to see your story enacted.” read more