Many members of the Palestinian and Lebanese communities have negative images of one another. This, over the years, has lead to hatred, misunderstanding, fear and discrimination amongst the communities. These attitudes have been long standing and are being passed from parents to children. Negative images exist not only at an individual level but also at a community level.read more
When the sold-out show began, people scrambled to find a place to sit. More quotes came through the speakers. The audience was silent, but not for long.
Musician Melanie DeMore and the McPherson Neighborhood Leadership Academy Children and Youth came out, wielding colorful pounding sticks, and encouraging the audience to clap along, sing along and even stand up. The kids wore black T-shirts with the words “everybody has a story…” printed on them. The message of the music was to be there for one another and not to give up on the ones you love.
“The most precious thing we can do for each other is to be there,” DeMore said.
Then it was time for Living Arts Playback Theatre, a drama therapy group based in Emeryville. Through music and drama, director Armand Volkas’ actors portrayed their own stories – one would tell his or her story, then the others would act it out – literally and emotionally.
Then it was the audience’s turn to share individual stories and see them spontaneously acted out on stage by members of the Playback Theatre.read more
A young Kosovar Serbian actress sinks to her knees and, stricken with grief, expresses her longing for an uncle who is still “missing” 16 years after Kosovo’s ethnic conflict ended in 1999. The Kosovar Albanian man sitting to her left on stage watches mesmerized. It is his story that the actress is telling, and though he is unable to understand her words, spoken in Serbian, he tells the audience after the performance that she has captured the essence of his grief and pain. Through theater, the actors are retelling the history of violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo in a new way that encourages empathy and healing. At the end of the evening, which is full of audience stories re-enacted, another audience member stands up and asks the interethnic theater group in front of her, “Where have you been for the last 16 years?”read more
An adjunct professor of expressive arts therapy at San Francisco’s California Institute of Integral Studies, Volkas is the founder of workshops for people who share collective trauma stemming from a historical event. For the last 30 years he has taken the workshops to troubled regions all over the world.
As the son of Holocaust survivors and a therapist, Volkas said his early interest was more personal: He wanted to study how the legacy of trauma handed down in Jewish families also affects generations of Germans. It was not work he necessarily chose, Volkas said, but rather was something he could not turn away from — nor erase inside himself.read more
It is a well-known adage that experimentation is an active science. But from his home base at the Living Arts Counseling Center in the tree-nestled, bustling community of Berkeley to the four corners of the world, internationally renowned drama therapist, educator, and theatre director Armand Volkas has proven that is it also a profoundly active art. An ‘experiential’ therapist, Volkas transcends the marginalized, fringe perception such a title often evokes.read more
the sumter ITEM “MONTREAL – On the stage, actors depict flirtatious Israeli soldiers delaying a Palestinian woman named Rania at a checkpoint. Try again, says the real Rania, sitting in the audience. The humiliation and tedium of the checkpoint is not there. Show more rage. The actors now moan and crawl about, faces twisted in agony. That, Rania says, shows what she feels. The scene is from a drama program that is part of the “Peace and Conflict Resolution Series,” Concordia University’s attempt to cool tensions on its...read more
“I see the festive lights and the joy on children’s faces, but I feel loss,” she says. “I miss you, I miss you.” She stands frozen in place, and, one by one, four other actors, all dressed in black, join her. One lights imagined candles for loved ones who are gone; another kneels, asking, “Is it okay to feel so sad this time of year?” Each actor freezes after speaking, their bodies connected to one another like branches on a tree. A violinist and a keyboard player add mood and texture. The scene ends in silence, the five bodies entwined in a living sculpture. This two-minute improvisation takes place at Berkeley’s Live Oak Theatre at a December performance of the Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble.read more
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...read more
Ensemble commemorates the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki By Michelle Maitre “THERE ARE some stories that words fail in the telling. Aya Kasai knows that. It’s a lesson she’s learned again and again in trying to collect the memories of those who survived the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago….. Because words have failed, Kasai has turned to the Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble and Healing the Wounds of History, Oakland-based nonprofits that specialize in conflict resolution among groups...read more
By Phil Couvrette the Associated Press “MONTREAL – On the stage, actors depict flirtatious Israeli soldiers delaying a Palestinian woman named Rania at a checkpoint. Try again, says the real Rania, sitting in the audience. The humiliation and tedium of the checkpoint is not there. Show more rage. The actors now moan and crawl about, faces twisted in agony. That, Rania says, shows what she feels. The scene is from a drama program that is part of the “Peace and Conflict Resolution Series,” Concordia University’s attempt to cool...read more