Jo Salas

Writing and Playback Theatre


When it happened

(I wrote this reflection in September, 2012. Now it is September, 2016)

For a while after September 11th we didn’t know how to refer to the cataclysm we spoke of day and night. “The bombing” wasn’t accurate. “The attacks on the World Trade Center” was too much of a mouthful and left out the Pentagon and the plane that fell in the Pennsylvania countryside. What we usually said was “when it happened” or “since it happened.” There was no need to say what “it” was. After a while—weeks? longer?—it acquired a name: “September 11th” or “9/11.” Now that date is here again. read more

The link is story

There is a link, of course, between my fiction-writing life and my Playback Theatre life. The link is story. In Playback performances, workshops, and rehearsals, I listen to stories about real life, all kinds of stories, from all kinds of people. Sometimes the teller tells something that immediately sounds like a story: it begins with a “once upon a time,” a “platform,” in Keith Johnstone’s terms, and goes on to some kind of turning–a surprise, a disaster, a revelation. And eventually there is a resolution, or at least a considered place to stop.  read more

Changing the picture

I like discovering books that change my vision. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman was one of those books. I would consider it essential reading for anyone involved with or concerned about autism. Silberman does a brilliant job of reframing this huge topic by telling the little-known story of how autism was discovered more or less simultaneously in the US, by Leo Kanner, and in Germany–Nazi Germany–by Hans Asperger. Kanner pathologized the condition and concluded it was very rare: Asperger thought it was a fascinating, often enriching, and common human condition. read more


“A literary vision of Playback beyond theatre”

A man in Germany sent me this email recently after reading Dancing with Diana:

“I sat down, took your book, reading – tears coming – continue reading. I was kind of surprised how tense and how painful you was [were] willing (and able) to depict those scenes at school, and also their reverberations in later life. I also appreciate – and share – your empathy with Diana in her last days.

The reader grasps the possibility of change, at least in our mind and in what we remember, when Alex returns to his former school and speaks frankly. I think this is a literary vision of Playback beyond theatre, of a single – yet connected human being who is acting as a citizen.”

Alex and Michele’s experience with bullying is firmly based on Playback work in schools but I had not thought of this further connection. This reader is a filmmaker who is familiar with Playback Theatre. His comment illuminated something for me—the parallels between this story and Playback’s role in society of bearing witness.

DwD on disability rights website

Happy to see that someone posted Dancing with Diana on the Facebook page for Women With Disabilities Australia. “WWDA is a human rights organisation representing 2 million disabled Australian women and girls. We are run by and for women with disabilities.”

People ask me…

…why on earth did I write a novel about Diana? This is what I wrote at Codhill Press’s blog:

While painting my kitchen a few years ago I listened to CDs of Tina Brown reading her book The Diana Chronicles. Amidst the mostly familiar saga of ill-fated romance, pomp, glory, and rebellion, she recounted the story of Princess Diana’s schoolgirl visits to an institution for people with disabilities. There, while her schoolmates hung back in embarrassment, 15-year-old Diana was perfectly at ease. She would dance with the patients in wheelchairs, grasping the arms of the chair and moving backwards with her dancer’s grace.

I was struck by this story. It seemed to show that Diana’s extraordinary ability to connect with all kinds of people, particularly those dealing with illness or hardship, was present long before she was in the public eye.  read more

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