Playback Memphis adds another stage for kinship, hope in Frayser

Will Golden, a participant in the ex-offender re-entry program Lifeline to Success, once harbored negative thoughts about law enforcement based upon some negative experiences. Playback Memphis, a local theatre company, helped him let go.

Playbook Memphis Founder Virginia Reed Murphy said the improvisational theatre company is out to support good work already being done in Frayser.

Playbook Memphis Founder Virginia Reed Murphy said the improvisational theatre company is out to support good work already being done in Frayser.

Will Golden wears an armband in remembrance of slain Memphis Police Department Officer Verdell Smith.

Will Golden wears an armband in remembrance of slain Memphis Police Department Officer Verdell Smith.

Vinessa Brown, Lifeline to Success director of development, speaks to Playback Memphis’ transformative influence.

Vinessa Brown, Lifeline to Success director of development, speaks to Playback Memphis’ transformative influence.

“I never thought I’d have a friend that had a badge,” said Golden, who was arrested for burglary when he was younger. “I strongly disliked them (police) since I was a little kid, but when we started telling stories and having conversations, all that stuff just went out the window.”

Playback Memphis is an improvisational theatre company. During performances, audience members tell stories and then watch them acted on the spot. The company has a partnership with the Frayser-based program Lifeline to Success. Through the Frayser Apprentice Ensemble participants and police officers participate in exercises that promote non-violent communication, self-awareness and listening skills. Lifeline to Success participants also participate in different Playback Memphis performances.

Golden said he was able to form friendships with officers such as the late Verdell Smith, who was killed this year when he was struck by a car driven by a suspect a fleeing a Downtown shooting spree.

“When I was little, my mom told me, ‘Your best conversations will come from somebody you never expect, so listen to the conversations,’” Golden said. “So, that’s what I did. He (Smith) told me his story and I told him mine.”

Golden wears a blue and white armband in remembrance of Smith.

Playback Memphis hopes to expand its Frayser reach by engaging the community’s youth and non-profits through programs such as Performing the Peace, which brings ex-offenders, police and youth together in a safe and open setting to explore the barriers and solutions to positive community-police relations.

Virginia Reed Murphy, Playback Memphis founder, along with Golden and Vinessa Brown, the Lifeline to Success director of development, spoke at the Frayser Exchange Club meeting on August 11. Brown talked about Playback Memphis’ transformative influence.

“We’re (Lifeline to Success) partnered with them because they do a lot of healing,” Brown said. “The majority of our gentlemen have a lot of issues that are deeply embedded. Ms. Virginia is a wonderful, caring person and she’s got this troupe of actors that can really bring something out in you. Playback Memphis is all about internal healing.”

Murphy said, “We want to use this medium to build safety, kinship and hope in Frayser. We plan to continue to be a presence, and we want to use Playback for the greatest good. We appreciate the work that you’re already doing, and we want to support that.”

Brittney Gathen, Special to The New Tri-State Defender | 8/18/2016, 12:20 p.m.
Tennessee Arts Commission
Tennessee Arts Commission
First TN Foundation
Hyde Family Foundation

Playback Memphis is proud to be supported by Arts Memphis, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the First Tennessee Foundation and the Hyde Family Foundations.
© 2015 Playback Memphis | 901-264-0841 | info@playbackmemphis.org //// Website by thatsbrianwithaneye