A talkback is an opportunity for the community to literally "talk back" in response to the art. Ideally, both the artists involved and the audience are able to engage in the conversation. This can be programmed as an add-on event to a performance/exhibition, or you may choose to schedule it separately from your showing times.
The following are some things to consider when planning your talkback:
Before you decide to have a talkback, think about what purpose you want it to serve. Ask yourself: What is the conversation about?
Here are some, but certainly not all, reasons to have a talkback:
- to reveal more about the creative and artistic process
- to address sensitive or challenging content in the work; making space for people to ask questions or express their reactions
- to engage an expert or "real-life" point of view; exploring a deeper line of inquiry into a theme or perspective represented in the work
- to collect feedback or responses from the audience
Some questions to ask yourself as you plan:
- Who are the participants?
- Do you want members of the creative/production team to be there? Do you want to invite representative(s) from specific communities to be there? You will want to ask them well in advance to confirm their attendance. This information will also be useful for promoting your upcoming talkback.
- Are you asking your team or invited guest(s) to volunteer their time for the talkback? Will they need to prepare in advance in order to participate? Do you have budget for an honorarium or a fee?
- You may want to assign someone to be responsible for keeping the conversation going, depending on the format you choose.
- How will your audience find out about the talkback? Knowing when your talkbacks are scheduled may help them plan when they want to attend your work. Do they need to have experienced the work in order to participate? Knowing what you want the conversation to be about can also help you identify the target audience you should outreach to for your talk back.
- Where and when are you holding the talkback?
- Will the talkback take place following the show in the venue? In-venue means negotiating tech time in advance.
- Is the talkback more beneficial in a different location to serve a particular community?
Have someone not in the conversation keeping time. If you're having post-show talkback - remind your audience that there will be a talkback following the performance before the show starts.
Ask yourself: What format will be most fruitful for this conversation to happen?
A simple way to hold a talkback is to use a Question & Answer format, taking questions in a freeform manner from the audience that is answered by a "panel" of team members and/or invited guests. You could have more of a Facilitated Conversation, where topics and questions are prepared in advance for responses from either the panel or the audience. Some other formats to consider are the Long Table, and Dance Response.
Do you need support in the room (ex. Therapist? Community worker?)
Remember that the talk back is an event in of itself, and should be marketed like its own event. Post on your social media, let the subscribers of your newsletter know, and consider including information about the talkback date and subject in your program.
Another way to facilitate a conversation that occurs outside of the room or beyond the performance is to create a post-show zine that the audience can take with them. A Zine is an independently or self-published booklet, often created by physically cutting and gluing text and images together onto a master flat for photocopying, but it is also common to produce the master by typing and formatting pages on a computer. The publication is usually folded and stapled. That being said, this type of publication is nonconformist, just like their authors – there are a lot of ways to create a zine and there are no written rules.
A zine can contain resources, essays from audience members, visual responses, anything you want. It exists outside of the program, as a living, changing document (you can always add more if the piece changes and/or more people want to respond).
Sometimes a show really needs a talkback, but there isn't time to deliver one (festival timing, venue contraints, etc). While a zine isn't the perfect solution for an audience that needs a debrief, it's a helpful way to share other points of view about the work and start a conversation that the audience may need.
If you're creating a zine, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to collect your materials and put it all together. A zine is made by photocopying cutout images and text onto a blank page, and can be time consuming (more info on how to make a zine here) Set an early deadline for your contributers (maybe ask them to come to a dress rehearsal of the show) so that you aren't scrambling before opening night. It's also good to factor this into your budget early on.
Consider the following - How many responses do you want? How many pages will your zine be? How much will that cost (more info about logistics on the program page). It's important to pay contributors for their thoughts, especially if they're representing more marginalized communities than the voices represented in your show.
Pandemic Theatre writes about their touring show Daughter : "Due to the show's abrasive subject matter, our touring company can also include additional members to facilitate post-show disucssions with members of your community who work in the field of social justice, specifically the realm of violence against women. We also offer a free "zine" (which is punk rock for "magazine") as a way to help contexualize the performance. It inlcudes writing from the creative team, a list of resources and responses to the piece from various artists."
Dance Response Talkback: This talkback format was built as a Dance Response talkback session.