Playback Memphis to host virtual theater show for BIPOC audience June 12, honoring Juneteenth

Playback Memphis is hosting a special virtual Memphis Matters theater event for audience members who identify as Black, indigenous, or a person of color in honor of Juneteenth

"There is levity, laughter, tears, beauty, cultural richness, shared understanding, and feelings of home that people of color experience when they come together," the organization said in this short video describing the BIPOC Memphis Matters event. 

Playback theater is a form of spontaneous, improv theater where audience members tell stories from their lives and professional actors "play them back" through movement, words, song, and music. 

The topics can range from hilarious to heavy. Playback Memphis staff member and ensemble actor Ann Wallace said their mission is to share stories in a safe space to unlock healing, transformation, and joy.

BIPOC Memphis Matters will take place virtually on Saturday, June 12, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students, teachers, and retirees and $15 for all others. Click here to register.

Wallace co-organized BIPOC Memphis Matters alongside ensemble and staff member Leslie Jones and will co-conduct the show with ensemble member Gio López. Like the audience, all of the show's players will be BIPOC. 

Wallace said this special event was inspired by the co-organizers' experiences in various BIPOC virtual spaces that popped up when the pandemic shut down opportunities to gather in person. 

"Just the idea of these spaces seemed to spark joy. And then sitting in these spaces, I experienced what felt like a collective sigh of relief. There's something magical, transformative, spiritual about feeling like you just ran in from the cold to a warm, safe space," she said.

López said that people of color in the United States can lead vastly different lives but still share common threads of experience.

"As a group, as a collective, we usually are put in the side of the ‘others,’ and that creates a similar experience. So, the importance of doing this by and for BIPOC is to [not] have our experiences dismissed," said López.

López said the audience can expect "to feel love, solidarity, to be listened to, to be outspoken of their truth and be ok with it, to be unapologetic, to have a safe space to be, and to have fun during all this."

"They can expect to be honored and given a voice to what they carry without anyone explaining it away, making excuses or expressing time limits on their feelings," added Wallace. "They can expect a deep sense of community with people who 'get' them."

Lopez said she hopes audience members walk away with lighter hearts full of love, while Wallace said she hopes they leave feeling joy, levity, healing, community, and much more. 

"We know each other like no one else knows us," said Wallace. "Simply, when people of color caucus there is a thread that binds us and an intimacy and freedom that is not experienced elsewhere."
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Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.