Oh, Valentine’s Day. For some it’s a holiday of romance and overpriced chocolate mousse at a dimly lit restaurant. For others, it’s a reminder of an ever-impending single status. On Saturday, in honor of Cupid’s day, Boulder’s Red Thread Playback Theatre will be performing an improvisational 90-minute show inspired by real life stories of love. Audience members will come prepared to share tales of dizzying infatuation or perhaps accounts of relationship mishaps. Anecdotes described by attendees will become fodder for company members to act out, with wild abandon, on the spot.
“Audience members could likely share stories about the romantic love they’ve experienced or have been disappointed by,” said Ira Liss, cofounder and assistant director of Red Thread Playback Theatre. “And, we might hear stories about love for a friend, a child or pet. Who knows? We could have unexpected stories about love for a career, or a favorite part of the world, or a sports activity, or even a car.”
Fueled by spontaneity, Red Thread’s shows allow attendees to dictate what plots will unfold.
“We warm up audiences with a few of our own stories to spark memories and shared feelings,” Liss said. “And then, audiences are invited to share. The show unfolds in interesting and unexpected ways, like a conversation with a new friend.”
While anyone can come to the table with a personal story, plenty of fun can be had just by being a quiet spectator.
“There is something very dynamic about this not-knowing, this unpredictable quality of Playback,” said Rosey Waters, co-founder and director of Red Thread Playback .“It continues to be exciting for both the actors and audience members who come back again and again. This understanding that each show will be completely different from any show that was done before can be very exciting.”
Unlike improv, the audience knows the general premise of what will occur on stage. Yet, Red Thread actors imaginatively incorporate other elements to make these vignettes truly shine and to keep folks guessing.
“Red Thread Playback shows include the use of musical instruments, singing, dancing and even rhythmic poetry,” said Waters. “You won’t see literal retellings of someone’s story, because that could feel redundant or unnecessary. The audience has just heard the full story from the teller. We look for the essence, or deeper layers of the story, and convey it using the words, feelings and images from the telling.”
Founded in 2019, Red Thread Playback has already started to build a fan base and leave a unique mark on Boulder’s art scene.
“Something we love about Playback is the way it builds community,” Waters said. “After our shows, people are welcome to stay and talk, meet and share with one another. Sometimes conversations may be about how people identified with that night’s stories and storytellers. Or perhaps, the memories that came to mind, sparked by the stories shown onstage, that were not told.”
Feedback from attendees ranges from belly laughs to deep epiphanies. In a sense, the experience of having a personal story acted on stage under spotlights can be cathartic. Folks can find humor in situations they may have once deemed painful.
“By turning stories into theater, both tellers and audience members often discover fresh, new perspectives about themselves,” Waters said. “At our last show, someone told us that an issue she struggled with for years felt transformed by what Playback helped her to see. At our December show, an audience member told us it was one of the most moving experiences they ever had at a performance.”
On Saturday March 14, Red Thread will explore what it means to be a buddy in “Friendship” and on April 11, the company’s production theme will be “Spring Has Sprung.” May 2020 marks the theater company’s one-year anniversary, which members will celebrate with a performance, followed by complimentary tea and cake.
“In a time of great divisiveness, Playback demonstrates, story by story, that we have more in common than we might realize – that we are more the same than different,” Liss said.
If you go
What: “Love” by Red Thread Payback Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Theatre O, 5311 Western Ave., Suite 120, Boulder
Cost: $14-$18 (Tickets purchased at the door the day of show will be cash only)
More info: redthreadplayback.com