Sunday, 29 March 2020

“I’m Fine” The Tell Us Project

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
e.e. cummings

With the epidemic of anxiety and depression on campuses across Canada, the University of Manitoba is no exemption.  With this in mind, Telus funded a student-initiated project endorsed by the PERKS Council of Kinesiology and Recreation Management to explore using the arts for mental health and peer support.  

A project team led by students Ava Glesby, Gabby Desroches, Elly Coodin, senior instructor Colleen Plumton and Red Threads founder Dana Rungay was formed.  As word of the project spread, a Masters student from the Faculty of Social Work, Lauren Barker, joined the team.  A two day training in Playback Theatre skills was held February 29-March 1, 2020.  It was a challenge for students overwhelmed with demands on their time for assignments, tests, jobs plus all the other commitments in their lives to find the time just for themselves and their own well being.  Thankfully, Tim Horton’s generously donated coffee for all the training days and performances.

Through laughter and tears, students shared their stories of  stresses, anxieties, nervousness, grief and anger that they were carrying.  It became apparent over our two days together that the creative and constructive expression of significant emotions in a safe place is still a rare opportunity these days.

A public performances was held on March 2.  After watching the performance of “I’m Fine”, one of the participants said smiling, “its amazing how seeing your feelings played  back lets them move on.”   A second performance for the Community Service Learning class was held on March 3.  Even with this sensitive and stigma-ridden theme students courageously spoke up to speak of their life experiences of being touched by mental health issues.

Thank you so much for bringing this incredible initiative to our school. I have heard so many positive things about it!! We did something amazing, and it will only continue to grow and change/impact more lives :) 

The deep listening and unconditional positive regard of Red Threads facilitators and performers created a space of safety for the students at the University of Manitoba to let who they are and what they are coping come out and play.  The laughter and tears of sharing honest moments from lived experience is truly a gift to us all.

“Whenever you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.”
 e.e. cummings

Friday, 17 May 2019

An Evening in May…..

If laughter is the best medicine…we had lots of good medicine and a few tears at the May 9th public performance sponsored by the Manitoba Government program Healthy Together Now. Engaging in the arts is a traditional way to grow relationships, understanding, support and community health.

Over 70 people, many of whom had seen previous Red Threads playback performances, enjoyed “A Slice of Life” experiences from audience members improvisationally performed by Claude Bellefeuille, Bequie Lake, Dawn Lavand,Tanissa Martindale, Dana Rungay and Robin Shugart.

Stories from childhood to great grand-motherhood were told and held in the warmth of the audience then played back with empathy, honesty and humor by the troupe.  We heard stories about unconditional love from dogs (both the needed and the unsolicited!), family longings and tensions, unforgotten bullying, long-lost and regained connections, transitions and the joys of the generations.

It was an uplifting evening of re-connecting with friends and colleagues as well as inviting new friends into the playback circle of story and community. One audience member said, “more people need to be part of this".  Thanks again to all who made it possible.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Watch 'Theatre of Neighbours' Online!

We're so delighted to share that Brad Leitch's documentary, Theatre of Neighbours, is now online!  Starting May 1st you can stream this documentary at 

Filmmaker Brad Leitch made this project as his first independent feature film, and poured a lot of love into the film over a years long process.  We're honoured to have our work documented in this way, and share our deep gratitude with Brad for this film.  

If you're able, please consider making a donation to Brad to help with production costs and the costs of making the film available online.  There is a donate button on the film's website.  

And, we all stand on the shoulders of giants, so thanks to all of the playback trainers (especially Sarah Halley, Armand Volkas, and Sheila Donio) who have come to Winnipeg to help us build our company, all of the remarkable local theatre artists who've shared their skills (too many to name!), and the playback community around the world.  This is a lifelong journey of learning, and in many ways, we're still beginning.  

Monday, 22 April 2019


In Playback Theatre performances we have found our bodies often speak louder than our words.  Our hope was that the generous grant from Assiniboine Credit Union would give us access to the local talent to develop our capacity and to connect with our audiences through the power of physical expression.  

Tanja did just what we needed! 

Movement specialist Tanja Woloshen inspired the Red Threads ensemble with exercises to tap into our bodies and spontaneous physical expression in a one day workshop at the Gas Station Arts Centre. Tanja guided us to find more ways to use our bodies to communicate to our audience. Here are some comments from the troupe about our workshop:

The group was strengthen because of the (sometimes awkward but deepening) exercises.

Individually, I also grew and learned as an artist.  This training forges a better all round musician/artist.  

I particularly appreciated her skill at offering personal explorations in movement first; then holding our troupe’s improvisational forms as focus, the group work seemed much more solid, still exploratory, and filled with options.

… options... I feel we were left with a sense of new possibilities of expression, new options, which feel deep and subtle at the same time. Thanks.

I don't know if you're still buzzing from yesterday like I am, with so many juicy tidbits to digest and integrate. I am especially grateful for the insight and courage gained from witnessing my story which allowed me to reach out authentically and reconnect with ……. despite my vulnerabilities. THANK YOU for the ongoing gift of your presence, sharing, and honouring of stories in our little playback realm. It is an honour and a joy to work alongside all of you in this craft. 

I really feel like Tanja intuited and understood very well the essence of Playback even without having a full understanding of the practice and forms. Incorporating the senses and different aspects of expression was especially useful; I appreciated familiar-ish exercises with a twist as well as the explorations I've never done before. I believe working non-verbally with fellow troupe members deepens our trust and group mind abilities, as well as moves the practice to a deeper level. Very grateful for the time with Tanja and the extended time together as a group.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Premiere of Theatre of Neighbours on TUES, FEB 12!!

Film Director, Brad Leitch, is excited to present the documentary, Theatre of Neighbours, a film about the work of Winnipeg’s Red Threads of Peace Playback Theatre troupe. 

In this film, we follow a group of actors who listen to the stories of their audience and perform them back live on the spot. While practicing and developing skills in listening and acting in order to honour another person’s real life story, the troupe come face to face with their own stories including difficult experiences of loss, fear, and loneliness. This dedicated group of neighbours take part in a unique form of improv that has been described as both a powerful art form and personally meaningful for actors and audience alike. By connecting to and performing the stories of others they are brought closer to their own experiences and because of that encounter all kinds of opportunities, insights
and life lessons. 

This modest film production presents an unassuming but remarkable story of the power of human connection through local storytelling and theatre and reveals the art of what it takes to deeply see, hear and play back the story of your neighbour.

We hope you will join us at Eckhardt-Grammate Hall (3rd floor) at the University of Winnipeg (515 Portage Ave.) for the world premiere of Theatre of Neighbours on Tuesday, February 12th!

$10 ticket or VIP supporter pass

Doors Open - 6:00PM
Screening - 6:30PM - 7:30PM
Panel - 7:30PM

Doors Open - 8:00PM
Screening - 8:30-9:30PM
Panel - 9:30PM

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Playback Theatre: Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master

Red Threads of Peace Playback troupe members gather every Wednesday to refresh and hone their performing skills. Physicality, musicality, spontaneity, authenticity, volume, presence, storytelling, emotional expression, creativity and more! Playback offers a rich playing field for learning an art form, learning about ourselves, and connecting with others.

This year Bequie Lake, Briony Haig, Tanissa Martindale and I participated in one week of training on the Suzuki Method and Viewpoints with Thom Morgan Jones, new Artistic Director of Prairie Theatre Exchange. In a word - intense! The training touched me at the core of my being – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Thom's ability to be present speaks to the method he clearly knows intimately.His level of articulation of skills and direction is luminous. Thom demonstrated capacity to safely guide, respect and support his students through the growth in their artistic skill is welcomed and appreciated. Winnipeg is lucky to have him!

Late in the Fall, Tanissa and Bequie went to Boston for a workshop with Christopher and Anne Ellinger from True Story Theatre. They enjoyed the lovely hospitality and opportunity to connect with other  troupes from across the continent doing what we do; sharing and using the joy and love of Playback in our home communities. Learning playback exercises, forms and performance styles unique to the Boston company and others, pollinates and expands our practice! A special thank you to True Story member Amber Espar, who hosted Tanissa and Bequie at her home, for her generosity of spirit, as a host, teacher and performer.


Training also reconnects us with our appreciation of the specific flair, cohesion and multi-faceted strengths of our troupe. The gifts from these trainings are generously shared with the rest of the troupe at our regular playdates. We are hoping to do more training for the full Red Threads company in the New Year!

- Dana Rungay, Founder of Red Threads of Peace Playback

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Dialogue and Gratitude at St. Kateri

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Catholic Parish has been the home for many Red Threads rehearsals over the past several years.  To thank the church for their generosity in sharing their space with us, our troupe offered to do a volunteer performance.

St. Kateri has been working on a dialogue project focusing on reconciliation among indigenous peoples and settlers with St. Ignatius Parish.  Members of both congregations have been meeting regularly for dialogue and community building, and we had the gift of joining them for a closing dialogue on October 18th, 2018.

Over the evening, we heard stories from community members about experiences - some long ago and some recent - that shaped their understandings of themselves and others.

We heard stories of cultural assumptions, of confronting bullying, and of peace-builders who had touched the lives of those present.

After joining the community for the evening, our company now has even more reason to be grateful.  Thank you St. Kateri for providing us a home for our weekly practice - such a fundamental ingredient in what we do.  And thank you for your openness to trying something new and the great risk of sharing your stories.

"Thank you very much for working with our Kateri-St. Ignatius reconciliation group.  Your depth of understanding and interpreting built a community in the room and called us all to embrace our own humaness, realizing we are all one." - Sr. Margaret Hughes

"I never expected it to move me as it did" - Winn Leslie, Parishioner, St. Ignatius