Psychoplayback Ritual

The psychoplayback ritual is based on playback ritual; the sequential phases of psychoplayback are similar to those of playback theatre although at different phases there are slight changes and expansions. Before the interview stage there is the phase of “choosing the protagonist”, a phase similar to that of psychodrama, a phase that strengthens the dynamic connection of the stories by expanding the range of choice. The interview itself is closer to a psychodramatic interview than to a playback interview. After the “bringing it back to the protagonist” phase which is taken from playback theatre (bringing it back to the teller), an additional phase is added, the phase of ’psychoplayback’. The process ends with the sharing and closure phase, taken from psychodrama.


Warm up phase

The warm up phase is the phase where the group pulse is felt. At this phase, hints are gathered as to the central issue the group is bringing. Each person comes to the group from an inner subjective place and is required to bring the issues concerning him or her into the group, thus contributing to the central issue and to the collective unconscious of the group as a whole.


Protagonist Selection

Through the central issue that arises in the “here and now” from out of the inter-subjective space, stories of group participants bubble forth. Participants choose to be the protagonist in accordance to their desire to work and in accordance to the proximity of their story to the group issue. Participants choose to work through self declaration, are chosen by the group by means of sociometric processes, or sometimes are directly invited by the conductor to give their story a place through the group.


The Interview phase

The interview phase begins like in playback theatre; the viewer who chose or was chosen to be the protagonist sits in the teller’s chair, between the conductor and the audience, separated from the audience. The first question he or she is asked is: “what’s the title of your story?” thus indicating the story’s starting point; the frame for the central issue.


While the protagonist tells his story, the conductor looks for the central theme, trying to clarify it for the group while trying to help the protagonist explore and understand the issue concerning him. The psychoplayback interview differs from the psychoanalytical interview in that it does not try to be pure and objective with minimal engagement of the analyst (Moreno, 1977 p. b) yet on the other hand the conductor is not demanded maximal engagement as required in the psychodramatic interview (Moreno, 1977 p. b).


During the interview the conductor serves as a psychodramatic double for the protagonist, enabling him to express his feelings and thoughts in broader fashion. The interview doesn’t have to happen through verbal questioning like a therapist and client who sit facing each other. It can be conducted by means of an “active interview” such as a warm-up exercise that triggers spontaneity and raises contents from the protagonist’s unconscious. In this way the enactment begins already at the interview phase.


The protagonist is asked to choose the participant who will play him on-stage, taking on the role of proactor. He is also asked to choose the group members who will play the counter role; the antagonist. In situations where the protagonist finds it difficult to choose, the difficulty of making a choice can in itself be related to the protagonist’s story and the issues expressed in the story. It is possible that in the actual case portrayed in the story, the protagonist had no choice and therefore when the conductor allows him to choose he is also enabling him the opportunity for change and healing (Apel, 9.2011, personal communication).


Upon finishing the interview, the conductor will ask the protagonist to give his story an additional title, examining with him the new title that follows the directions the story took during the interview. The protagonist is reframing his initial story title, coming closer to the issue he is raising. The story he tells is a means for bringing forth the issue he is presently dealing with.


The phase of Playback / Story Enactment

Similarly to playback theatre, in the story enactment phase, the actors perform short scenes in context of the story told, drawing upon their own creativity. In the last enactment the protagonist observes the on-stage encounter of himself with his counter role, performed by the proactor and the antagonist he chose.


The phase of Back to the Protagonist

Similarly to playback, the conductor checks with the protagonist to see if the enactment was loyal to his or her personal story. The protagonist has the opportunity to respond to the dramatic events and to complete or sharpen additional points in the issue she bought up. Also here, similarly to playback theatre, there is possibility for correction; the protagonist can make the reflections more precise. As in psychodrama the same scene can be performed many times so as to get a result that is as accurate as possible to the protagonist’s needs.


As opposed to playback, the protagonist can leave her passive position, rise from her chair and become an active part of the dramatic enactment. As in psychodrama there is continuous movement between the “Story Enactment” phase and the “bringing it back to the protagonist” phase. The interview phase actually continues throughout the whole psychoplayback process.


Psychoplayback / Psychodramatic Enactment phase

The psychoplayback phase is a transitional phase in which the protagonist moves from being a passive teller observing the stage enactments, to taking an active part in her psychodrama. She gets on stage to replace the proactor and enters the therapeutic space, thus expressing her inner world by means of the psychodramatic tools.


The psychoplayback phase does not come as a default and does not take place in every situation or with every participant. According to the conductor’s suggestion the participant is given the choice of entering the potential space, getting on stage and taking part in her psychodrama, or staying outside, within the theatrical playback space. The conductor must identify situations where getting on stage will benefit the participant, and accompany her by means of psychoplayback technique.


Sharing and Closure phase

After entering the therapeutic space and directly coping with the complex issues expressed in the protagonist’s story, it’s time for the sharing and closure phase, a phase that enables the protagonist to return to the group and the group to ‘de-roll’, bringing the protagonist back to its midst. The whole group, protagonist included, leaves the therapeutic stage which served the protagonist’s personal world, and returns to the social space, the group’s collective space; a space that enables the other group participants a place to share the issues they are dealing with in the present. The new issues usually arise from the issue the psychoplayback dealt with.



  • Cohen, O. (2011). PsychoPlayback: The Space Extended Between Playback Theatre and Psychodrama, on the Axle between a Theatrical Artistic Experience and Psychotherapy. (Lesley University).

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