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UCF Playback Theatre troupe works with sex crimes unit of Orange County State Attorney’s Office

At the sex crimes unit of the Orange County State Attorney’s Office, prosecutors, investigators, and victim advocates work every day with profoundly emotional and disturbing cases. In the process, they are often required to suppress their own feelings to effectively assist victims and prosecute criminals. Bureau Chief Jenny Rossman felt determined to bring self-care methods into the workplace through the performing arts and built a relationship with UCF faculty member Sybil St. Claire. St. Claire, M.F.A. is a Theatre for Social Change practitioner at UCF and regularly utilizes Playback Theatre for difficult topics. In Playback, audience members are free to share their stories and feelings with the improv troupe, who then “play them back” in ways intended to honor the teller and their story.

“Allowing employees to share and express their own joys and frustrations through Playback Theatre was an amazing and heartwarming experience,” shared Chief Rossman. “Being able to experience our stories ‘played back’ provided us with opportunities to share, laugh, cry, reflect and in the process become a more tightly bonded and effective team.”

Angel Taylor, Orlando Police Sex Crimes Investigator and troupe member, agrees. “Through the gift of Playback, we were able to mourn, celebrate and renew both as individuals and as a team.”

The basic tenants behind Playback include deep listening, honoring other, finding the medicine in stories and community building. St. Claire feels these are particularly important and powerful to share in these political times. The story prompt the troupe chose for this experience was, “What called you to serve?”

“Playback is always a beautiful experience, but to be able to give that gift to a group of advocates, investigators and prosecutors was an exceptional feeling,” says Ann Kinnebrew. Kinnebrew, a Theatre for Young Audiences M.F.A. graduate, has gone on to found her own Playback Troupe called Ignite Theatre in Gainesville, Florida.

The troupe consists of undergraduate students Kent Collins, Sarah Schreck and Stelson Telfort, graduate students in Theatre for Young Audiences M.F.A Maria Katsadouros, Ralph Krumins, Leah Thomas and Julie Woods-Robinson, in addition to alumna Anne Kinnebrew and Investigator Angel Taylor. Under the direction of St. Claire, the group is one of only a handful of University Playback Theatres in the nation.

The newly formed Troupe has already been invited back.

Learn more about the Theatre for Young Audiences M.F.A.